The second email. This brings back great memories 🙂
“Wow, what an amazing last few days! We went out into the mountains in a pick up truck, then hiked through forests for a couple of hours, until we got to a little tribal village, where they put us up in a big hut. They cooked us a huge meal, of spring rolls, chicken soup, chicken with ginger and vegetables-lovely! The locals then came around and showed us magic tricks, which got worse as the night wore on-i think they were smoking too much of the local crop! The chief was partically keen to speak to us, except we couldn’t understand a word he said and vice versa! We all slept together in the hut, and the shower consisted of a bucket of cold water-very refreshing! The next morning, after a rude awakening by the cockerel (about 5am), we had a nice breakfast and then got surrounded by lots of little women selling wares. We bought little holders for our water bottles, but as they didn’t have change, we ended up with bracelets too! We then set out on another hike for about 5 hours, up and down hills and across rivers. Our original guide decided he was too ill to come (hungover i think), and our ‘local expert’ Sammy kept disappearing on us. Fortunately the cook/general helper Phaum was excellent. Everyone should have a Phaum with them-he killed 2 posionous snakes for us, cut our way through the overgrown parts, helped us across the rivers, and massaged my shoulders when they hurt! (not to mention the fabulous cooking) We had to cross the river several times, but there were 3 quite wide parts. The first of these, Phaum got some big rocks and we used them as stepping stones. The second and widest part we were supposed to get a raft across, but Sammy (who had appeared from nowhere) said we shouldn’t rely on it coming and we should try to walk across. The current was really strong, but we waded in and holding hands managed it (the water went to chest height-so our clothes were absolutely soaking). Phaum went across a few times and got all our packs across holding them above his head. Just as the last of us was over-gueswhat we saw? A perfectly well formed raft coming down the river to meet us! So Sammy used that to get across! The last big crossing was at the elephant camp, where they hurriedly put some bamboo sticks together (toughly tied at one end) and with a couple of us at a time balancing on them, Phaum pulled us over! The elephant trek was great!! A bit scary on the narrow parts near the cliffs, and quite steep up and down hills. But those huge creatures are scared of anything!! My one bolted at the sight of a baby buffalo! Bashed his way past everyone else and practically dived into the river! The worrying thing was that the guide jumped off and ran in the other direction (i think he was trying to cut him off further up, but didn’t really suceed) When they dropped us off outside the village (because the elephants were scared of the pigs!!), we were a bit stranded, so we just wandered or a bit, heading in what we thought was the right direction. When we were startingto get worried, guess who showed up? Yes, the great Phaum! who had ran half the way to try and find us. Our guide and Sammy turned up later on a raft. We slept in the upstairs roms of a villagers’ house that night and again had a wonderful meal. We showered in the river.
The next day we rafted down the river. A very simple bambo raft-15 poles tied together! The girls sensibly took the raft with Phaum, whereas the men had to take the smaller one with Sammy-and they ended up doing most of thework with two long poles at the back. It started sinking quite quickly, so we had to swap occasionally to balance it out. We got absolutely soaking, especially through the rapids!
But now I’m back safe and sound. Off to Laos in a pick up truck tomorrow (not looking forward to the long ride-had enough of that truck in the last few days). Met our new tour mates-2 german men-not sure if they are a couple, but lucky me-Sammy is coming with us and has chosen me to be his buddy!! This guy never shuts up-even when he’s sleeping, he’s singing! I think i may have to use the earplugs (or at least my MP3 player)