I said Farewell to J who was now heading north to Thailand and Chang Mai. I had arranged a 2 day trek to a remote area in the north with Phone Travel. We were driven in a smart Hyundai minivan for an hour to the start of the walk. One thing tat did surprise me was the driver actually pulled in to the side of the road and stopped to take a phone call. That would not usually happen in Cambodia!
The group of 7 included two Belgians' Tom and his wife/girlfriend. They had been on the same route . I met them at first on the Victory monument in Vientiane and seen them a few other times. Matthias and Natalie were from Holland on an extended trip. Virgini from France, was doing some travel before volunteer teaching in Luang Prabang. Baht our guide introduced himself as Baht Money He must get a of jokes about his name!
I t didn't take long before I was explaining about Cambodia and handing out flyers. There was a genuine interest as the Belgians and Dutch were planning to visit in October. The hour drive soon passed and we stopped at a roadside where We met Lucas a German student who was travelling with a friend who was unwell and not able to join the tour. He had come up in a separate vehicle.
The Walk started quickly up a track past a thatched house. We were soon paddling across our first river. Baht told us we would have 4 river crossings; but the first didn't count as it was only a small one. Matthias Expressed surprise that I was wearing Trekking sandals. My trainers were still saturated from my previous trek. I'd bought some new sandals the evening before; anticipating a few river crossings. This proved well worthwhile as there were plenty of places to get ones feet wet.
Half an hour later we were passing idyllic landscape of rice fields with a backdrop of hazy blue green peaks. The Terrain was moderately steep and thankfully had dried out. The rivers were easy to cross. Many had small cascades close by. The scenery was among the best I'd seen on trek in South East Asia. Constantly varying and ascending with sweeping views between areas of new teak plantations, light bamboo forest and steep Rice meadows.
We came to our first hill village of Mok Chong. It was a Kamu Tribal village of thatched huts around a dusty sloping common area. The villagers, were reserved and were not that used to tourists. The kids were a little shy and some of the smaller ones looked a little in awe as we passed. We moved on to the upper Village which was similar but inhabited by Hmong of Chinese descent.
We assembled at a house; used as a shop where a blue tiled table was provided. We were to reat for 20 minutes before lunch. So Som the Local Hmong Guide Led us around the village.Nan ad Bath supervised the cooking.
The fish lunch was very good; with drinks on sale from the shop. Of course with no electric or fridge; the drinks weren't exactly cold. The Asian style of ultra sweet Pepsi or Miranda are not to my taste; water even solar heated my black pack was far more refreshing. The Conversation as a mix of Dutch. Belgian. English and French with a little German thrown in to make the gathering seem like a European Union Convention. Matthias rightly punted out that we had forgotten the Eastern Europeans. My thoughts about EU regulations were best suppressed in this company!
After lunch, we walked up to the upper village where Some showed us the school. It was a basic thatched two roomed hut with simple rough hewn tables and benches. Some took us to the house of a friend where he explained about village life here. There were two villages of the same name. the lower villagers were descended from Khmer, the upper villages where of Chinese origin .
We had a lot of fun photographing the kids and I promised to get some prints don for them. It seemed like a busman's holiday for me, doing much the same I as I would on tours. Of course steep mountain walking was not something that is easily done at home. The walking here was fabulous and certainly the best trekking experience I have done for quite a few years. The pleasant weather ; not too hot made it a lot more comfortable.
At times I was reminded of the foothills of the Nepalese Himalayas. Matthias told me that he had just come from Everest Base Camp. That may have explained his brisk walking pace. Natalie .told me later that they didn't trek to Base camp as a road now takes people there.
At 5 pm we arrived ar Na Savvang a Kamou village where we were to stay the night. The simple thatched bunk house was Alpine style, with two sleeping platforms. Mattresses and Mosquito nets were provided. There was some confusion over bathing facilities. I was expecting a bucket shower. Even though I'd joked earlier about having an en suite Jacuzzi . There was an earth latrine which I scored 7 on a smelly scale of 10. It dropped to around 3 later that evening with nose peg required!
The bating faciliees were iethere the village pump or a short walk doen to the river. The river looked to be the best option as the sight of me bathing in the centre of the village might be too much for some villager to take! The river was cool and refreshing I certainly needed freshening up after all the exertion of the day. I returned to the Village for a rest .
I dozed for a while until Baht woke me up calling for David Beckham! Oh I hate being named after that brainless Football star. Trouble is out here If you are English and have the name David . the reference to Beckham is almost inevitable! I forgave Baht for that; as he had a bottle of Lao Beer waiting for me. Baht (or anyone else for that matter) can call me Beckham as many times as they like if they will supply me with a beer. I might even accept Heineken if I'm in a really good mood!
We ate a well cooked meal of chicken and rice. The village children came over to our table to sing songs for us. Later on Some /asked us if we wanted to hear a story.
Well the story was about the boy d girl from the willage who went to school together. The boy de girl fell in love and de boy de girl were in love and de girl missed de boy who went to Australia. And de boy missed de girl and wanted to go back to de willage
Twenty minutes later .................and de boy de girl a were married
Thirty five minutes later
we were all asleep and missed the ending!