In one day, I watched the sun both rise and set. It’s fair to say, it’s been a fairly jam-packed last couple of days. It all started at 5.30am yesterday morning with a sunrise tour. We were driven to an incredible hidden viewing point to watch the sun emerge from the mist-covered valleys. Every second was one not to be missed.
Once back at the Lodge, we didn’t stay long. After packing up our bags, we bundled aboard a truck and met our tour guides, Pat and Jackar, and some new fellow travellers, David and Paul – all of whom we would, whether we liked it or not, get to know fairly intimately over the following 48 hours. The drive up the first mountain was by no way an accurate introduction to the two-day trek ahead of us. While strenuous at the best of times, it was an incredible trek that took us through rural farms, streams, back roads, and just the middle of absolutely nowhere.
The most amazing place it took us however, was hands down, the rural Lahu hill tribe, where we slept the night. It emerged on a hilltop through the parting trees as if the opening scene to a fairytale. And getting closer made it no more believable. The seventeen huts in total that made up the village were made solely of bamboo (apart from the large, ill-fitting satellite dishes, evidence of a Western influence). Pigs, dogs, cows, chickens, and buffalo wandered around freely, as did the many curious children. At first, honestly, it was a bit awkward. The locals didn’t seem to make eye contact, making us feel incredibly imposing on their cultural way of life. But, just as was the case with my previous cross-cultural experience in an Aboriginal community, it was the children that broke the awkwardness, confirming my belief that all children, though worlds part, speak the same language of love and laugh and play.
One of the greatest things I learnt on this trek was the millions of uses of bamboo. From hiking poles to houses, toy guns to boats. One use, however that it fails at fulfilling is providing a comfortable bed. Apart from the drafts (and smells) coming through from the herd of buffalos gathering underneath us, it is rather a hard surface to comfortably doze upon.
All in all, it was an amazing thing to do, and I’m glad we found time to fit it into our trip. For any who are interested in travelling – the Cave Lodge is absolutely fantastic. The range of activities available, the people and the place itself are outstanding. If I had time to stay for weeks, I would.
A few long days of traveling planned to get to Laos.
Until then, ciao amigos.