Le Grand Détour

2 jours à la cool à Luang Namtha (Laos)

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france_french_flag 12 novembre, profiter des amis

Nous sommes réveillés à 5h du matin avec le bruit tonitruant de la pluie qui tombe en trombes sur la tôle ondulée du batiment à côté… Ca change un peu des coqs mais il impossible de dormir davantage… Notre matinée sera vraiment tranquille de toutes façons. Nous la passons à discuter avec notre groupe d’amis, assis autour d’une table dans la partie abritée du patio. Nous refaisons le monde tandis que dehors s’abattent des torrents de pluie qui n’ont pas l’air de vouloir s’arrêter. Nous avons une pensée pour ceux que nous avons croisés la veille dans la jungle et qui doivent poursuivre leur trek avec cette pluie… Au moins, nous, nous avons eu un peu de soleil !

Nous déjeunons avec Cédric et Laetitia dans un petit restaurant de bord de route. Comme il semblerait que la pluie ait l’air de vouloir diminuer un peu, nous envisageons d’aller visiter la cascade et le village de Nam Dee pour le reste de l’après-midi. Avec du recul, ce n’était clairement pas le jour pour ça mais tant pis, ça fait des histoires pour le blog 😉

Après un passage à la guesthouse où Susie et moi en profitons pour sortir les parapluies que nous trimbalons depuis le Japon (et qui ne nous ont pas servi depuis…), nous luttons pour trouver un tuktuk qui accepte de nous emmener. Il faut dire que la pluie a repris de plus belle. Mais nous sommes décidés à la voir cette cascade. Le manager de la guesthouse nous avait dit que le tarif du tuktuk devrait se situer entre 30000 et 40000 kip… Nous arrivons péniblement à négocier 80000 kip.

Il faut dire que la route qui nous emmène à la cascade est en fait une piste cabossée maintenant bien boueuse, voire pire… En effet, à un moment donné le tuktuk s’arrête, il n’ira pas plus loin. Pourquoi ? Hé bien parce que la rivière est sortie de son lit et passe maintenant au-dessus de la route de 15 à 20 bons centimètres ! Nous decidons de continuer à pied, en traversant l’eau rendue marron par la pluie. Cela vaut-il vraiment la peine ? Hum. Nous poursuivons jusqu’à une hutte qui sert de guichet. A ce moment évidemment, nous sommes les seuls fous de touristes à vouloir visiter le site. Pourtant, les jeunes nous font payer les billets sans sourciller. J’essaye bien de leur demander si c’est dangereux mais ils ne parlent pas anglais… Manquerait plus que de se faire emporter par une coulée de boue !

Mais nous sommes obstinés. Nous payons et nous nous engageons sur le chemin qui longe la cascade. Sauf que celui-ci s’avère plus que perilleux. Lui aussi est submergé par la rivière grondante en plusieurs endroits. Nous poussons encore plus loin jusqu’à un moment où nous sentons que l’on pourrait gagner un Darwin Award. Ca devient trop dangereux. Les eaux menacent, nous ne voyons plus le chemin et tout est ultra-glissant.

La mort dans l’âme mais toujours vivants, nous rebroussons chemin. En revenant vers l’entrée, je vais voir les deux jeunes pour leur faire comprendre que ce n’est pas cool de nous avoir fait payer si l’on ne peut pas monter jusqu’à la cascade… Ils nous font comprendre eux que nous n’avons pas pris le bon chemin. Diantre. Apparemment il faut emprunter le sentier de gauche. Alors, on y va ? Of course !

Décidemment nous sommes très obstinés aujourd’hui. C’est parti pour une grimpette de 15 minutes, en tongs, faut-il le préciser, sur un sentier très raide et plein de boue. Nous atteignons enfin le pied de la cascade… qui n’a rien d’extraordinaire en passant, sauf de menacer de nous engloutir si la pluie n’en finit pas de tomber. Le chemin continue encore plus haut. Cédric et Laetitia décident d’y grimper tandis que je reste avec Susie. Ces péripéties nous font quand même bien marrer. C’est vraiment n’importe quoi d’être venu jusqu’à là 🙂

Soudain, nous voyons Cédric faire un bond de 5 mètre en arrière. Que passa ? Susie suggère que soit il a vu une bestiole, soit le chemin s’est effondré devant lui. Sa première intuition était la bonne. Et lui de redescendre quelques secondes plus tard en nous montrant les photos d’un serpent vert fluo. C’est le moment de partir.

Mais va-t-on pouvoir encore traverser la route submergée à pied ? Oui, même si le niveau de l’eau semble avoir encore monté. Deuxième question, le tuktuk nous a-t-il attendu comme prévu ?

Et là c’est le drame. Point de tuktuk.

Le doute s’installe. A pied ça fait bien 5 à 6 kilomètres… Personnellement je refuse de croire qu’il se soit barré sans nous, j’ai foi en la nature humaine et en l’honnêteté laotienne. Et j’ai bien raison car le tuktuk est en fait garé à 300 mètres de là, le conducteur en train de faire une sieste au volant. Ouf !

Nous retournons à la guesthouse, une nouvelle fois trempés. La fin de l’après-midi consistera en blogging pour nous tandis que les autres optent pour le massage. Nous en profitons pour réserver notre première guesthouse en Thaïlande, à Chiang Mai (d’où je tape ces mots d’ailleurs).

Une nouvelle fois nous décidons de dîner tous les 8, dans un restaurant recommandé par le manager de la guesthouse. Et ce sera un excellent choix, tant dans les saveurs locales que dans le rapport qualité/prix. Tous ensemble nous refaisons à nouveau le monde en se remémorant les bons souvenirs des jours passés. Vers la fin du repas, Cédric nous parle des mauvaises critiques qu’il a lues sur Trip Advisor à propos de la Gibbons Experience, pour laquelle nous avons réservé tous les 4. Certaines font froid dans le dos. Elles datent un peu mais nous hésitons presque à annuler.

De retour à la guesthouse, le moment est venu de se dire adieu avec Théo, Sonia, Cédric et Laetitia qui partent tôt le lendemain matin. David et Lisa quant à eux partent également le lendemain mais à 14h. On formait vraiment un super groupe. Quelle chance de pouvoir partager de si bons moments tous ensemble !

english_flag 12th Nov. making the most of our new friends

This morning I was woken early by the pouring rain on the corrugated iron roof of the next-door building. When we eventually got out of bed it was still raining and so the larger of the breakfast tables had been pulled under the shelter at the front of the guest house. Stéphane and I were the first to sit down and eat and just as we’d finished Sonia and Theo emerged. We had a lovely chat with them about previous adventures and future plans until Laetitia and Cédric then joined us. I gave up my place at this point so that Laetitia wouldn’t have to eat in the rain — the sixth place being less protected than the rest!

We carried on with our blog for most of the morning before heading to lunch with Cédric and Laetitia with whom we’d planned to rent a tuk-tuk to take us to the Nam Dee waterfall.

I was dressed in my skirt and flipflops as it was easier to dry my feet and legs than to dry trousers, plus we’d washed our walking shoes after the trek and they were still wet back at the guesthouse due to the non-stop rain since 4am this morning! We even got to use the umbrellas that we’d bought whilst in Japan and hadn’t needed since!!

At the guesthouse they had told us that it should cost about 30,000 Kip and no more than 40,000 for all 4 of us.

As we were having lunch, Lisa passed in front of us having bought her lunch from the café where we’d had dinner a couple of nights ago. She seemed keen to join us for the waterfall and so we said that we’d see her when we came back to the guesthouse (Laetitia having no battery left in her camera). However, we got side-tracked and headed into a supermarket which took a long time as Laetitia wanted to get supplies for the Gibbons and the shop had an organisation that was “eccentric” to say the least. Whilst we were there another guy from our guesthouse arrived and told us that the “German couple” were waiting for us to go to the waterfall. Ooops!

I left the others shopping and headed back to the guesthouse to let them know that we hadn’t forgotten them or gone without them and that we’d be leaving soon. Unfortunately between times Lisa’s father had phoned up and wanted her to facetime with her granny so they wouldn’t be coming with us after all.

When we eventually found a tuk tuk, the driver asked for 100,000 Kip to take us to the waterfall and back. We said that this was too expensive and headed off towards another who said exactly the same thing. When we offered 40,000 which is what the manager of the guesthouse had said was the maximum price we should pay, he counter-offered 80,000 saying that it was the minimum he would accept as it was raining and the state of the road is too dangerous to do it for less…. Laetitia pointed out that this is the dry season and that the guy was used to driving in a lot worse conditions, but we wanted to go and see the waterfall and there weren’t many tuk tuks in town at this time, so we agreed.

The tuk tuk headed off towards the dirt track that should take us to the Nam Dee village and waterfall. Unfortunately part of the road was actually underwater and people were wading across. The tuk tuk stopped and said that this was as far as he could take us, but we could walk the rest as it’s not far.

OK.

I took my flipflops off — scared to lose them as the river was flowing pretty fast over this concrete bridge — and headed across, closely followed by the others who were busy taking photos. It was still drizzling with rain at this point.

We headed left and soon found the waterfall entrance across a small wooden footbridge. The “village” that surrounded the ticket office was deserted and all closed up. They clearly weren’t expecting many visitors today. The ticket office was manned though and we handed over our 10,000 Kip each to be allowed access to the Nam Dee Waterfall.

Off we headed…the path fell away into the river, literally, the concrete footbridge was in three pieces, each more sunken than the previous, with the last one under the water and only visible by the change in the stream’s flow as it passed over it. The water was a delicious milky coffee colour too because of the rain and, just at this point it started to rain slightly more heavily. We carried on for a little way along the path until we reached a point where the path was actually under the water and in the rapids. We were all for adventure but this was our limit — not knowing what kind of surface the path was and not being able to see through the water to see. With heavy-hearts the others turned back to where I was already walking — happy to be able to cross over the river before the water levels’ rose again…

Stéphane went to the ticket office to tell them that it was dangerous and that they shouldn’t let people pay to go in in these kinds of conditions to which they replied that we hadn’t taken the right path…

Apparently, the correct path to take goes up the hill to the left. OK, said the others, let’s go…

The walk up the hill was pretty slippy and muddy with a safety rail that was there more for decoration than for anything else. We had got used to trekking in the rain with the muddy paths, but this time we were all wearing flip-flops which are not recommended for these kinds of conditions! Nevertheless, hardy warriors that we are, we carried on, up and down the paths until we reached the waterfall which was spewing café au lait towards us at quite some speed.

Cédric and Laetitia headed off up the next slope to see whether the path went on for much longer and we were just about to follow them when I saw Cédric leap backwards suddenly. Then slowly lean forwards again with his phone at arms’ length towards something.

I said to Stéphane that there was either some beasty creature or the path had just fallen away under his feet. My first guess was right and, when they got back to us, he showed us the photos of a luminous green snake that he’d taken with his phone. Time to head back to the tuk tuk then? We all agreed and slid our way back down the paths to the entrance of the village.

We passed a group of people carrying things as we crossed over the wooden footbridge, I thought that they must have been escaping the rain to go to a higher house, but looking back over our shoulders we saw them setting up the stalls in the village next to the waterfall….seemed a little strange to wait for the tourists to leave before doing this, but maybe one day they’ll work out where their marketing system is going wrong! ^_^

As we approached the part of the road that is underwater we realised that our tuk tuk was no longer there. The b***ard had abandoned us because we didn’t agree to 100,000 Kip? Surely not. Maybe there’s some other explanation…

There was, he had moved his truck up the hill to the other side of a previous mud slide and was having a little siesta in the front of the truck when we pulled up alongside ready to head back to town.

Stéphane plucked up the courage to knock on the driver’s window and we all leapt in and headed back (stopping only for a bagful of kebabs for his dinner from a roadside barbecue stall).

Back at the guesthouse we met up with the other four people from our trek and agreed to head out for dinner together again this evening. This time, a restaurant recommended by our guesthouse manager, Lai’s Place. Cédric, Lisa and Sonia all ordered things from the pot-roast menu that came with a warning that it could take a long time. Stéphane and I had some quicker local dishes…everyone agreed that it was delicious and far better than last night’s choice.

Tomorrow they all leave and Stéphane and I will find ourselves just the two of us again for one more lazy day here before heading to the Gibbon’s Experience for another detour.

france_french_flag 13 novembre, indolence

Ce matin c’est grasse matinée, yes ! Car la pluie a enfin cessé dans la nuit. Nous prenons le petit déjeuner dehors, au soleil.

Le programme de la journée est bien peu rempli et c’est tant mieux. Un peu de blogging et puis nous partons visiter le marché où nous déjeunons une soupe de nouilles locales pour trois fois rien. Il fait vraiment beau aujourd’hui. Cela durera-t-il jusqu’à la Gibbons experience ?

Encore une séance d’écriture pour l’après-midi. Nous réservons le bus pour le lendemain, en optant pour passer la nuit dans le petit village de Baan Donchai, suivant les instructions de la Gibbons Experience. Or, de ce village, nous ne trouvons aucune mention sur Google… à part dans l’email de la Gibbons experience, justement. C’est le saut de la foi 🙂 On verra bien.

Cette journée aura été un peu molle. Nos amis sont partis et nous attendons notre prochaine aventure avec impatience…

english_flag 13th Nov. – market and blog

Very lazy day, we headed to the market at about 11am where we wandered around for a while. At one of the stands there were two ladies sitting down and two others, from different stalls, stood in the alley. They were eating something that we’d not seen in Lao until today. A kind of powdery dip and some small, round, green fruit. They invited us to try one each and showed us that you use your teeth to split the fruit in two, then dip half in the powder and eat it before doing the same with the second half. We tried one fruit between us and that was enough for me. The experience is unique, first the salt aggresses your tongue, then the dried chili powder burns it and then the fruit manages to complete the taste triangle with its sweet, sourness that makes your taste buds explode. It’s hard to say if it’s nice or not. It’s just different. You can make up your own mind by coming to the morning market in Luang Namtha at about 11:30 on a Friday morning. I’m sure these ladies will be happy to share with you too!

We gave them the second fruit back!

We finished the tour of the rest of the market (very dodgy looking butchers section that didn’t make me hungry!), before we stopped at a busy food stall for some noodle soup (that Theo and Sonia had recommended to us yesterday).

It was lovely and so quick for them to prepare but so full of flavour. We had a plateful of cabbage, salad, herbs and green beans on the table to add to the mix, as well as a choice of spices and sauces, but we stayed fairly simple and it was still wonderful.

And that was pretty much our day, wandered round the town back to the guesthouse to order our bus tickets for tomorrow.

The plan is that we get the bus to the village of Baan Donchai where we stay in the only guesthouse before getting picked up at 10am and taken to the Gibbons Experience for a three-day, two-night “Classic” experience. See you tomorrow.