How I Fell in Love with the Nanny Wagon

Muang Khoua Travel Blog

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The walkers stop by the side of the road to await news of boats and become a light snack for midges and mozzies...
When I lived in Sheffield, I grew heartily sick of the increasing number of massive gas-guzzling 4x4s that had come to dominate the city's roads. These chrome-covered beasts were everywhere and I hated them. Some people call them Chelsea tractors, however I prefer the name nanny wagons. This is down to the excruciatingly irritating army of moneyed mummys who just had to use them to drop off/pick up their little darlings to/from the school gates each and every day.

In doing so they blocked the streets around the schools like a hefty dose of Immodium and surely endangered the lives of the very children of whom they were so protective: the average height of most 4x4 bumpers being at the chest/head level of the average child.
The tireless Demi - he disappeared off down the slope and then popped up next to a knackered tree trunk. Just because he can!
However, following the aching events of our journey from Muang Mai to Muang Khoua, I've changed my mind about nanny wagons, and have rechristened 4x4s - Heel Savers. This is why:

The morning after the long walk to Muang Mai, we awoke to discover that the local truck/bus had not yet returned from yesterday's journey to Muang Khoua. The river was also deemed too high for 4x4s to cross, leaving our transport options in a sadly reduced state. Nonetheless, our group of nine was impatient to depart. This led to a decision to walk as far as we could towards Muang Khoua and then hire motorbikes to take us the rest of the way. I wasn't too thrilled about this after the previous day's lengthy trek, however - it was a group decision and, as a democratic lad, I agreed to set off and see what happened.
In the Nanny wagon - all smiles!

My reluctance to walk was principally down to the fact that my right heel was starting to resemble a volcanic crater, with crusty skin sloughing off in a rough oval to reveal red raw flesh leering out from beneath. Another day of shoe friction would not be helping matters. Instead of staying behind though I poured in more iodine, bandaged the bugger up, pulled my shoe laces tighter than the skin on Joan Rivers's face and decided that, at about 40km, this could end up being the longest day's trekking I would ever do.

We set off and walked on mostly uphill roads through verdant rolling hills, for maybe 8km. Then came a rest and a group-splitting chat about what to do next. Nok, our Thai - Lao translator, had spoken to a random woman on a passing motor bike who had informed her that we could get a boat to Muang Khoua from close to Muang Mai.
Swerving past a mini landslide.
It was a pain in the arse as we had already walked a fair distance and we were unsure about whether the boat story was true or not anyway with the river being so high. Nok decided to accompany the woman back to Muang Mai and check the details. The rest of us dumped our packs and sat around chewing pieces of grilled pork and slapping at biting insects for the next hour and a half.

3 motorbikes (sans Nok) finally appeared up the hill and one of the riders told us that we would all take turns to be driven back to Muang Mai, board a truck, head to to the river and then take a boat to Muang Khoua. This was going to cost a bit. Not the earth, but a bit. Thus came the breaking of the fellowship - should we get on the bikes and head for the boat? Or continue walking and try to grab motorbikes down the line?

My head said: "Don't worry about the cost, get on a bike and go back.
Getting ready to ford another swollen river.

My pride said: "No retreat, no surrender - you can dooooo it - Aaaaaaaadriaaann!!!!!!!!!"

My pride is an idiot. But a winning idiot: I chose to keep going.

I was not alone though; Antoine, Ophelie, Ken and Hiro were all obviously obeying their inner Rockys as well. And so, as Demi, Javi and Naomi sped off down the hill as pillion passengers, we heaved our backpacks on and set to stumping uphill once more. I won't go into the rigours of the next two hours of trudgery (is that a word? It is now), but suffice to say that the following things occurred in roughly this order:

We walked uphill.

My blister got more painful.

We found a small village that didn't often see westerners walking through.

We were stared at with great curiosity by a crowd of women, men, children, pigs and chickens.
Flooded houses close to Muang Khoua.

They had one motorbike but wanted 200,000 Kip (about 25 dollars) for a ride for one of us to Muang Khoua.

None of us took it.

Whilst we were leaving the village I stood in an ankle deep puddle of mud and pig shit.

I said many, many rude words.
We walked on (uphill).

My blister was clearly not in a good way. Neither were my legs.

I sat and rested on yet another hill climb, by now feeling flatter than if I had just taken on a triple-pronged tag team of Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and an enraged giant anteater.

I struggled to catch up with the others. We all sat on backpacks and rested.

I realised that the chances of me walking to Muang Khoua today were now lower than those of Roy "Chubby" Brown being invited to do a stand up routine on Blue Peter.
Crossing the dirty old river to Muang Khoua.

There came the sound of engines.

We looked up to see 2 nanny wagons roaring up the hill.

Nok and the others got out, greeted us and explained that, since the river had lowered enough for 4x4 crossings, they had decided that this way was better than the boat.

I got down on my knees, flung my arms into the air and sang the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah.

I wrapped a plastic bag around my pig shit mud foot and got into one of the 4x4s.

We made it to Muang Khoua about two hours later, after negotiating up and down through some of the worst mud/slime roads I've ever seen.        

And that, my green, ecologically aware, ozone loving, maybe even crusty readers, is how I fell in love with nanny wagons. Big salty balls to the kids, the planet and logic - my feet are more important.

Here endeth the lesson.
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The walkers stop by the side of th…
The walkers stop by the side of t…
The tireless Demi - he disappeared…
The tireless Demi - he disappeare…
In the Nanny wagon - all smiles!
In the Nanny wagon - all smiles!
Swerving past a mini landslide.
Swerving past a mini landslide.
Getting ready to ford another swol…
Getting ready to ford another swo…
Flooded houses close to Muang Khou…
Flooded houses close to Muang Kho…
Crossing the dirty old river to Mu…
Crossing the dirty old river to M…
Muang Khoua
photo by: Saladin79