Take the Long Road and Walk It

Muang Mai Travel Blog

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Landslide ahoy! Get round that one fat boy...
Cold balls of sticky rice and shrimp crisps make for an unorthodox breakfast. Still, if you're looking for energy rich starch carbs then it's also a brekky of champions - luckily for us. The awakening in our Laos border post room was not so much rude, more slightly uncouth - the cold, hard cement floor was hardly a goose down mattress, but at least we had been sheltered from the rain that had continued to sweep across the hillside throughout the night. The eight of us, though bleary eyed, were quickly up, about and more than ready to escape our little concrete box.

After a few rounds of discussion with our English-speaking Laos border guard, he agreed to call his plump 4x4 homie to come and cart us off to the relative comfort of Muang Mai.
Close up of the 'slide - a few small rocks to contend with and not a JCB for miles.
And so, in time honoured fashion, we waited for rescue and this time, praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster, SUV bloke showed up after only a short delay of about an hour. Demi, yesterday's Russian walking fanatic, made a roughly simultaneous arrival - this time astride a motorbike that he had hired (at some expense) in Muang Mai. He was here to collect Nok and made it clear to us that there was no way that the bulky 4x4 would be getting past a road-blocking landslide, some 10km distant, that he and some other Laos bikers had taken half an hour to trail break and manoeuvre around.

We swiftly negotiated with SUV Bloke to take us to the site of the landslide (4 dollars each for 10km - more money for old rope for him) and then we would walk from there. This would leave us with roughly 27km further to stumble through like heavily-laden pack horses; not an appealing prospect. With little choice, we jumped aboard and rode for what seemed far less than 10km to the site of the landslide. Demi had been absolutely right: large boulders and smaller rocks had ridden on tonnes of earth as it slipped down across the dirt road, barring passage for anything wider than a motorbike. It looked like a bulldozer would be required to shift the lot and re-shape the road into a usable surface. We strapped on our packs, paid SUV bloke, trod gingerly around the landslide, which exhaled the heavy odour of freshly turned wet soil, and set off.

Within half an hour we had encountered two further rock/soil landslides which, though not as momentous as the first, would probably prevent the progress of anything bigger than motorbike or smaller than a Sherman tank. The rain, which had abated somewhat, began to pester us again and I cursed the Scrooge-like tendencies that had led me to buy a rain jacket back in Bolivia for only 2 pounds (4USD). It being about as porous as Steve Mclaren's tactics as England manager, the rain soaked straight through, sticking the material to my skin. Rivulets of sweat began to course and join, forming a mini Mekong delta that branched its way down my neck. I dragged the useless thing off over my head and decided it was better just to get wet and instead dwell upon the hot shower and warm, fluffy towels that surely awaited us in Muang Mai.

And so we plodded on, the less than magnificent seven: A Spanish couple - Javi and Naomi, a French couple - Antoine and Ophelie, two Japanese lads - Hiro and Ken, and the obligatory English bloke - me. We had covered maybe 5km when we reached yet another landslide, this one not as serious as the others, formed principally of tree branches and foliage mixed in with a light helping of earth. Laos drivers were shifting and cutting a laborious path through for the passage of a jeep. The vehicle was carrying three western travellers hoping to make it through the border to Vietnam. We explained about the landslides and made an agreement with the jeep driver that, as soon as he had dropped the border-bound tourists off at the next bad landslide, he would return, pick us up and take us through to Mung Mai.

It was at this point that a temporary insanity seemed to descend upon the whole party. Instead of waiting where we were, as instructed by the jeep driver, we instead decided to continue down the muddy route towards Muang Mai. Maybe it was the crazy amounts of waiting we had done the previous day that had affected our brains, perhaps it was just that we didn't want to get cold in the still-falling rain, or it could have been we just didn't trust that the jeep would return for us. Whatever it was - we walked on...                                    
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Landslide ahoy! Get round that one…
Landslide ahoy! Get round that on…
Close up of the slide - a few sma…
Close up of the 'slide - a few sm…
Muang Mai
photo by: Saladin79