Last blog ended at the ‘UXO Lao visitor center’. That morning while we were packing our things I noticed I wasn’t feeling very well and Q had a stomach ache. We briefly commented that it might be smart to stay, but we quickly waved that away. We’ve stayed in one place long enough. So when we have collected our laundry and visited the visitor center we leave Luang Prabang.
It’s hot and we’re quickly hungry so when we’re out of town we quickly start looking for a place to eat. When we sit there I notice how empty I feel. No energy and slowly I feel muscle pain coming on and my head, ears and throat start to hurt. We cycle on but go slowly. We stop early that day and ask at a restaurant next to the Nam Ou river if we can set up our tent there that evening. They don’t think it’s a problem which is a relief. We don’t have to go anywhere anymore.
After a bad night due to the trucks tearing past, we pack everything and continue cycling. Today we have some more altitude meters to do. I clear my mind and we continue cycling. Also today we don’t get very far and decide to go to a guesthouse. In the end, it takes us four days to cycle to Nong Khiao, where we think we can recover well because you have all the facilities close together. Normally we could have cycled this in a day and a half.
Once in Nong Khiao I completely drained. I’m shivering, cold, tired and my whole body hurts. But we have a nice bamboo hut, with the best bed yet and a restaurant where Q can pick up food while wearing a face mask.
After a few days in bed I am slowly getting better but then becomes ill so I could take care of him. We stay in Nong Khiao for a whole week, and spend the last two days exploring the area. We put ourselves to the test with a walk to a beautiful viewpoint of which I have a lot of muscle pain in my legs the next day, but nevertheless we leave by bike towards Muang Khua.
We don’t know in advance what will come our way. We had seen that we are going to follow a road that is not paved. In the end it turns out to be the hardest road we have taken in our journey so far. So no time to feel weak after a week in bed, but persevere and use all the energy we have. It is 80 km on unpaved road and it takes us three days. With little break and giving everything we do 30 km in one day. We reach the most remote villages, we cycle on the steepest paths of sand and stone, we cycle through rivers and are rewarded with the most beautiful views.
One evening we are invited by a family. They had already spoken to us when they drove past on the scooter. The man speaks a few words of English but has the idea that he can have a conversation with us. It is difficult to understand what he means, but nevertheless nice to be there and to take a look at the life of someone in a small village. They live in the largest and most luxurious house in the village. Everything is made of wood except their house. This one is made of stone. In the evening we eat together on the floor, we sit around a silver tray that is slightly off the floor. We eat sticky rice, boiled vegetables and rat stew. It’s flavorful but the meat is tough. The little boy explains that they catch the rats in the mountains and show them a rat catcher made of bamboo. That night we sleep in the tent next to the house.
Sometimes when we stop somewhere, children come and sit with us with their English textbooks and show what they already know. Then we check everything with them and speak words to them if they don’t know how.
We cannot always find food, but when we ask in a village where we can find food, a man immediately takes us to his house and we are served food.
When we arrive at a village where there is almost nothing and we hardly have any water left, we ask if we can fill a bottle. They take a jerry can from their house that they fill themselves somewhere and bring it here with the scooter and fill our bottle. With a feeling of guilt we thank them and cycle on again.
It were three very special days. Moments where the tears were in the eyes because you mentally couldn’t do it anymore. Thoughts like “how are we ever going to get to the other side” come into our heads when we have to walk long stretches while struggling to push the bike up. But it is also such a victory when you are further along and see the beautiful views and can cycle again. It was such an experience to see the remote villages. And nice to see the reactions of the people when they see a “Falang” (foreigner). The children who run after us become shy and very sometimes scared with tears in their eyes. Yes, that’s part of it unfortunately. With a comforting smile and a wave we quickly continue.
We have reached the asphalt and have gained so much more respect for paved roads. They make our lives so much easier. Even though it was nice not to encounter any cars for a few days. We are back in civilization and go to a guesthouse to wash off all the dust!