Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Trekking Through Rice and Steep Mountains in Northern Laos

A Japanese nurse unable to identify a prominent leg infection, a woman from South Dakota (where??!) who grew up speaking to the U.S. Presidents on Mount Rushmore (literally), and a tiny, nearly deaf Laotian guide who couldn’t hear thunder if he was struck by lightning, were lucky enough to have me as a last second addition to their trekking group to anchor down the crazy.
Florence Nightagale, Rushmore, and Bellview on the hillside
If you were to choose a crack team to head out into the jungle with, we would not be that team.

 The Rice Fields of Asia
A twenty minute boat ride down the river takes us to a trail head. We meander through some trees and enter into a large clearing, a rice paddy that has displaced acres of what was once forested land.
We remove our shoes and begin walking through the muddy water which rises to just below my knees, my feet sinking deep into the sediment at the bottom. I am unable to see below the surface, so I pray there are no water snakes, aqua-spiders, or evil spirits who might become aggravated if stepped on.

Check out the rice paddy, and the big $$ you make working them

We start back through the jungle. Forested land outside the national parks (and sometimes in) are often cultivated, and not just via rice paddies. Blending into the forest are often small teak plantations, generally owned by the country’s wealthier citizens. Teak reaches harvesting maturity at fifteen, the current going price for a tree of this age is an entire $24. Obviously it costs less to transport the trees by car than carrying them out of the forests, which is why the “progress“ of roads will be the death of the few remaining wild lands left on earth.
Lindsey "Rushmore" Pooka amidst the emerald foliage. note the huge leaves
The forest re-grows as the incline of the surrounding mountains steepens; removing the hardwoods  becoming unprofitable. Appreciating the surrounding beauty becomes a dicey affair as your entire focus must be your next step, lest you slip and fall on the slick rocks. I’m carrying a heavy backpack, our team’s mule, and my climb becomes especially arduous. I stop and wipe the sweat off my brow in the humidity, gaining a new appreciation for US Marines climbing for days with seventy pound packs.

My shoes offer little grip, the lowlands are no easier as I slip and slide through the mud, my concentration solely on keeping my balance. We come to an impenetrable bamboo forest, thicker only in mosquitoes. There is no choice but to keep moving, as offering them a sedentary target is an invitation for malaria.

Check out the difficult and muddy trek we had!

There is little if any wildlife here, most of it having been hunted out out of existence, just a few birds and a whole lot of bugs. My dream of seeing a wild tiger has worse odds than winning the lottery. Suddenly, a large rustling in the underbrush. We all freeze except for our deaf guide who plods ahead. "Dude, what was that? A tiger?" I shout hopefully after him, but he walks on, the sound waves not recognized by his ear drums.
"So much for seeing a tiger," I lament to my team as the animal hurries away.

Air Rich crosses a stream
The sun is starting to go down, our guide implores us to hurry so we make it to the village before nightfall. My leg above my knee is becoming swollen and hard, an open cut in the jungle having invited in bacteria, my body the host. Florence Nightangale of Japan assures me it’s not an infection. Either she's horrible at her job or she's doing triage, and considers Crazy Lindsey the bigger threat, who's mumbling something about missing her Presidential friends back on Mount Rushmore.
Our guide. This is how we traversed some parts of the jungle
Tired and haggard, we eventually we make it to the village where we’re spending the night. Seventeen and a half kilometers through mountainous jungle, with me carrying a thirty pound pack. I’m exhausted, the only thing I need to sleep comfortably is a mosquito net; fortunately that’s the one thing they have. Darkness falls quickly, there are no lights, and the sounds of the jungle slowly melt together as I drift off into a heavy, and much needed sleep …

Tiger Trails if you want a guide through Northern Laos these guys were ours.


  1. This Laos trekking adventure is amazing. I have seen nature that is untouched. I hope to go there somewhere.
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  2. I'll definitely book a trip going there, those landscapes are simply amazing. Thank you for sharing your story.
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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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