Nam Tha NPA Trekking
Louang Namtha Travel Blog› entry 93 of 117 › view all entries
Only opened to tourism in the last few years, the Nam Ha National Protected area covers 2,224 square km and includes many different ethnic hilltribes. The Nam Ha Ecotourism Project is a government-run initiative that allows trekking and rafting in the NP area with the intention of benefitting the villages and people within the area. It was to be my first taste of trekking in Laos.
I met up with the wonderfully cosmopolitan group demographic in the morning: two Belgian girls, a Scottish family of three and a couple from Barcelona - who I could add to the list of French and Russian-speaking people who say they can't understand me due to my thick accent?! In fact, I almost found it insulting that they could understand the Scots over me - surely that's not right?! Mind you, they seemed to be far more educated than any Scots I've ever met or knew could exist.
The trekking itself over the couple of days was good. Unsurprisingly, the surroundings were not too dissimilar to trekking I have done elsewhere in Southeast Asia and although nowhere near as challenging as trekking up Mount Fansipan, I was still pretty worn out by the end of; especially after the second day, when we didn't stop walking till around 7:00, when it was getting dark. Our two guides were good fun, eventhough the amount of breaks we were having did grate on me a little towards the end of day two.
Where this trekking really excelled over the other trekking I had done in Southeast Asia (maybe excluding Sapa in Vietnam) was with the villages themselves, which proved to be the absolute highlight. Tourism is obviously a new and very welcome thing to the hilltribes in northern Laos, especially seen as the villages have only recently allowed tourists to come and see how they live within the last few years. Chang Mai in Thailand it felt as if we were the billionth or more set of people to arrive as we stood almost unnoticed while the villagers went about their lives. Not so here, however; not for a while, at least.
On arrival at Ban Nalan village, we were welcomed into the school where we could see the limited facilities available to the kids.
Heading off the next morning, if you were to believe the propaganda it was supposed to be the day when I would be reunited with an old nemesis: the leech. Our main guide even dubbed it, "The War Of The Leeches". Somehow the sequel to our showdown in Thailand never materialised.
The best part of the trek was the ascent up a stream in some wonderful old forest of up to five hundred years old. Once up to the top, we climbed round a mountain face before heading down, down, down into another village. Here we were given a hand-made bag bearing markings specific to the hilltribe, before heading off to be picked up by our tuk-tuk. We had had to drink boiled water from the village we stayed overnight which was brown in colour, had little bits of dirt floating around in it and tasted of smoke. I had avoided drinking it as much I could, but by this point I was gagging for some water that didn't make me want to wretch and was looking forward to a relaxing shower back in Luang Nam Tha.