Just in case!
And so here it is, Day 3 and do we really have a 7 hour uphill hike today?? After brekkie of the last of the bread and some boiled eggs, we packed up and had a wonder around the village. We waited around for Pon to have breakfast with the chief and his family and set off down to the river. Here we knew we were in for a bit of a wait for the boat to take us up the Mekong so we made ourselves comfy and got out the cards. Simon decided to write 'HELP' in the sand just in case our boat didn't turn up and we were still sitting there a few days later.
Over an hour and several card games later, the boat arrived and we all hopped in. We were taken up the river, Laos on our left and Burma on our right. To our absolute delight, the boat went towards the Burma side and Pon led us all onto the rocks of the beach.
Home for the night
We were now walking on Burma!!! It felt great, and a little scary that we were illegally walking on another country. We scrambled along the rocks, spending about 15 minutes enjoying Burma-time and taking pics, before getting back on the boat. We passed a cargo boat on the Burmese side that was full of cattle. Pon told us that it was a boat from Thailand and was setting up a cattle farm on the Burmese side.
Back on Lao land, we arrived at a little village that was a lot more affluent than the others we had seen, with electricity and a shop that sold sweets and Red Bull!!! With our bags full of sweet treats and some wonderful fresh water (the water we had from the village had been boiled in the pots and tasted like smoked cheese), we walked through the village.
We came across a very old man getting a hair cut and Pon chopped us up some coconuts. We drank the milk from them but left the flesh. We also got to wacth a villager making Lao Lao whisky. I really can't explain that one very well, but it involved some bubbling water and an ancient looking contraption!
Now we were ready to set off, Pon admitted that he had told a bit of a porkie and that we only had about 5 hours walking today and that it was not all uphill. He wanted us to go to bed so we weren't all hungover and exhausted!! Bless his cottons.
Just out of the village, we went past a small temple or 'stupa' and then walked alongside a river. Once away from the village the path soon began to climb. The track continued up and up for a long long time.
It was sweaty work but our legs were getting used to the uphill strain on this 3rd day. We stopped for lunch and had mini celebrations as Pon gave us some chicken - without bone! Pon ate everything, scooping a big piece of fatty skin up with some rice, chewing on and through the bone, while we all picked at the best of the chicken and ate our rice!!
The afternoons' trekking continued uphill for a while before heading very steeply downhill until we got to a river. Shoes off and crossed the river, trying not to slip on the rocks. Everyone but Simon and me stripped off for a swim in the cold water but we knew we still had an hour's climb ahead of us. After a rest while everyone swam, we began the final ascent to the village. It was very tough going, and all very steep uphill.
We waited for the others about half way up as we were worried we had gone the wrong way!! Together with Tanno, Gerda and Fergus, we kept on going on the relentlessly steep hill, thinking that the village didn't exist. At last we saw 2 little pigs scurrying up the path and knew we were nearly there. And there it was, another Akha village that would be home for the night. This village was set a lot higher on the mountain than the others we had stayed in and so the views were so stunning, especially as the sun set over the valley. After a sweaty climb we were ready for a wash and so with bikini top and shorts on, with a sarong wrapped around me in the traditional Lao way, we went to the communal wash tap. Some cows were in the 'shower room' when we got there but a woman filling some buckets up with water shooed them out!! We waited for her to finish then washed as well as we could while still dressed!
The evening was spent in the usual way with dinner cooked for us while we played cards with a huge audience gathered around.
We were all pretty tired on this last night, after a long climb today and a late night with a lot of alcohol on the previous day. We all retired to bed pretty early and were shown to each of the family homes we were to stay in. This village had clearly not seen many tourists before. When we got into our home, the family of 2 women, a man and several children stood at the end of the bed and just stared at us. We sat on our single reed mattress on the floor, next to their bed and didn't really know what to do. No matter what we did, they stood there and stared at us. When it went dark, they turned on a torch and carried on watching. We chatted to each other, read our books, got the bed ready and our clothes sorted out, all the time being watched. We wondered if the others were having a similar experience! They eventually got into bed themselves and seemed to settle down.
Lao Lao whisky in the making
As the dust in the house started to get to me, I made the mistake of blowing my nose in the normal fashion with a tissue. Mid-process, the torch went on, was directed at me and several faces watched in stunned silence. The Lao way is the usual Asian manner of clearing the throat with a very loud hawking up action, which still makes us feel sick.
It was a rather uncomfortable night and a very loud one; the dogs had a bark-off in the early hours and that then set the cockerels off. Joy.