The Lao wilderness...and beyond
Nam Ha NPA Travel Blog› entry 383 of 424 › view all entries
Up early with the villagers, the noisy cockerels and the barking dogs, we awoke to a rather lively scene in the house. 2 of the kids playing on the bed next to us, staring at us, then smiling and hiding under the quilt when we saw them. One of the other children was hushing the baby of the family on her lap, while the mother of the family was busy cooking over the small open fire in the opposite corner. The women in the Akha villages wear silver coins in their headresses, apparently these are given to them when they are deemed beautiful. The woman in the house carefully wrapped on the headress of beads, small bells and coins.
We met up with the rest of the gang back at the Chief's house and discussed our first homestays and families.
After brekkie of bread and boiled eggs (we handed out the leftovers to the kids that had gathered around us, it was wash time and down to the communal wash tap. We were of course escorted and watched with curiosity as we washed our faces and cleaned our teeth. As I got out my lenses and little mirror, a swarm of villagers suddnely gathered around me, absolutely amazed at the sight of me putting lenses into my eyes.
There was a commotion in one of the other houses and so we all went to investigate. Someone had come back from a morning's hunt with what Pon called a 'jungle cat'. It looked like a cross between a racoon and a possum. It had clearly been shot; it is illegal for Lao people to own a gun so the villagers make their own guns for hunting.
As we set off from the village for our second day of hiking, we were escorted out by the smiling faces of the villagers, all waving at us and doing the OK and thumbs up signs they had learnt. We were all touched by the shy curiosity of the Akha village and how welcome they made us feel despite the language and cultural barriers.
The second day trek was pretty tough going. We were soon climbing on relentless steep uphill paths, puffing away in the rising heat of the day. The scenery was rather stunning, and Pon pointed out the nearby mountains that belonged to Burma and China respectively. We walked along a path that took us through some illegal opium fields. As we all stopped to take pictures of the innocent looking poppy flower, Pon ran back and told us to keep walking and not to take photos. I felt a little scared at this point, imaging the scene from 'The Beach'! We carrried on and through a further field, the few villagers working the fields watching us suspiciously.
At lunch time, we stopped on the path to rest and Pon started a small fire.
In the early afternoon, we arrived in another Akha village and rested at one of the houses. Pon told us that there was a wedding happening and that we could go to the wedding house to join in the celebrations once the ceremony was complete. We had our usual audience, and out came the devil sticks, the paper aeroplanes, the balloons, and the smiles and laugher soon erupted in the small village. When it was time, we made our way to the house of the village chief and joined the rather lively crowd of villagers who were welll on the way to being hammered.
After a few hours of sitting around with the wedding party, we had to move on as we still had an hour's walk until we got to the village where we would spend the second night. We were sad to leave, and the chief was happy for us all to stay for the rest of the day and sleep at his place!! We carried on the path, all of us walking in a not particularly straight line and all had to duck behind the bushes along the way to relieve the beer bellies!!! After about an hour of lively discussions and trying to keep to the path, we arrived at the mighty Mekong river, flanked by white sand beaches.
Pon, bless him, was so worried that we would all sit around until very late and get hammered, told us that we had a 7-hour trek tomorrow that was all uphill! We smelt a rat (the mountains are not that high here!) and stayed up until the beer had run out, Israel and Fergus staying up til after midnight playing cards!!