Le Grand Détour

Luang Namtha – Trekking 2/2

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france_french_flag Avouons-le, la nuit a été très difficile. J’ai l’impression de ne pas avoir fermé l’oeil. Moins à cause des araignées ou des moustiques que de la dureté des paillasses. Un petit sondage m’apprendra que nous sommes tous dans ce cas.

Nous émergeons difficilement à 6h. Nous découvrons qu’il pleut averse dehors. Et que nos affaires de la veille sont encore trempées, chaussures, chemises, caleçons… Tant pis, je décide de sortir prendre une douche au milieu du village. Sans complexe je me fous à poil. Tout le monde s’en fout. Y compris les cochons, les poules et les chiens. Tant mieux.

Un peu plus tard nous visitons l’école du village, où le professeur essaye de maintenir un calme relatif dans 2 classes. Les enfants sont super mignons. Kat leur fait réciter pour nous les nombres et les mois. Nous donnons au professeur les stylos et les cahiers que nous avons achetés la veille. Pour les adultes du village, il est temps de partir travailler.

Pour nous c’est l’heure du petit dej. Tin a préparé une omelette, du riz et du café instantanné. Miam. Nous dégustons tout cela entre les gouttes. Tin en profite pour choper un coq, le tuer et le plumer dans notre « lodge ». Il ira lui vider les entrailles à la rivière quelques minutes plus tard. C’est notre déjeuner. Et peut-être le saligot qui a commencé à chanter à 4 heures. Ca lui apprendra 😉

Vers 10h, nous repartons. Ca sera une journée humide. Très humide. Susie va mieux. Il s’agissait plus d’un truc mal digéré qu’une tourista en bonne et due forme.

Après quinze minnutes de marche, nous parvenons dans un village Khmu, dont le style de construction est différent des Lanten. Ici les maisons sont surélevées sur des pilotis. Nous visitons également l’école de niveau supérieur. La classe est à peine plus studieuse que dans le village Lanten. Sur le tableau noir il y a un problème de calcul. Combien d’enfants ont réussi à le résoudre ?

Nous laissons les méninges cogiter tandis que nous retournons dans la jungle. Cette matinée jusqu’au déjeuner est éprouvante. Il pleut averse sans discontinuer. Ca glisse, c’est hyper-casse-gueule. Nous prenons cher avec les sangsues. Deux théories cohabitent dans les rangs, la bonne et la mauvaise théorie. La première dit qu’il vaut mieux se trouver dans les derniers du groupe car les premiers ramassent les sangsues. La deuxième dit qu’au contraire il faut se trouver à l’avant du groupe car les premiers pas les réveillent et les derniers du groupe les ramassent… Laetitia qui se trouve au milieu en prend plusieurs. C’est la différence entre la théorie et la pratique ! Pour ma part j’en retire 2 à quelques minutes d’intervalle mais l’une d’elle a réussi à faire un trou dans ma chaussette et commencer à me sucer le sang. Brrr.

Nous sommes détrempés mais nous nous encourageons mutuellement. La nuit d’hier, nos discussions et le partage de ces aventures ont vraiment soudé le groupe. Tout le monde est très sympa. Nous nous rendons compte que nous restons tous dans la même guesthouse !

Mais ça n’en finit pas de monter. Il faut faire attention à nos pas pour ne pas dégringoler, aux sangsues, aux branches dont certaines sont tranchantes. Il est assez délicat de prendre des photos à cause de l’humidité.

Alors que nous parvenons enfin à notre pause déjeuner, la pluie commence à diminuer d’intensité et nous apercevons même des bouts de ciel bleu. Notre ami le poulet du matin ne se révèlera pas très tendre. Certains du groupe avouent avoir hésité entre le trek de 3 jours mais sont finalement contents d’avoir opté pour les 2 jours. Sans compter que le « lodge » valait bien le « homestay » ou le séjour chez l’habitant, en tous cas pour le confort.

Je profite du chouia de réception pour appeler la Gibbons Expérience et confirmer notre inscription pour le 15 novembre.

Avant de repartir, nous croisons un groupe de trek qui en sont à leur premier jour. Nous leur souhaitons du courage.

L’après-midi se révèle plus sympa car la pluie a enfin cessé. Au-revoir les sangsues ! Mais nous sommes toujours trempés… Nous atteignons un superbe point de vue panoramique sur les montagnes et la vallée. Puis il est temps de redescendre. Une descente ultra-perilleuse car très raide et très boueuse à cause de la pluie. Des postérieurs souffriront de plusieurs glissages. Nous commençons, je crois, à tous rêver d’une bonne douche, de vêtements secs et d’une bonne bière à la guesthouse.

Nous arrivons finalement dans un petit village très charmant. Des petites filles toutes nues jouent dans la rivière en contre-bas et nous font des grands signes de la main en disant « Sabaidi » (bonjour / comment ça va ?). Nous retrouvons enfin notre minibus.

Sur le chemin du retour nous organisons une collecte pour les guides, dont nous avons apprécié la jovialité mais également les explications pour Kat et la cuisine pour Tin. Cela a l’air de beaucoup les toucher. En arrivant à la guesthouse, nous immortalisons notre arrivée, tous dégoulinants, avec de vrais sourires.

Voici l’heure de la douche et de la bière tant attendues, tandis que la nuit tombe déjà. L’entente est tellement bonne dans le groupe que nous décidons d’aller manger tous ensemble le soir, au « boat landing », restaurant supposé être l’un des meilleurs du Laos. Ca sera finalement correct mais sans plus… Mais ça ne nous a pas empêché de discuter toute la soirée tous les huit, en anglais, allemands et français pour revivre et commenter tous les bons moments que nous avons partagés. Merci les amis !

La nuit sera vraiment plus douce que la précédente…

english_flag The night was short and not calm, to say the least. Between the smelly quilts, the cat hunting spiders, the others turning over, the pigs snorting around the doors and then the cockerel crowing right next to the “lodge” we didn’t manage to get much sleep.

Ket had left us last night to go and sleep at the school (as there weren’t enough mosquito nets for him too). I was one of the first to get up and so when he came back I was already sitting out outside and he came over to talk to me. He’d slept with the teacher and Tin in the schoolhouse. The bed was apparently like ours, which means that it’s a big box, and it’s big enough for 3 people.

He doesn’t look like he’s slept much more than us though. We are all looking a little worse-for-wear this morning.

The fire was tricky to light this morning though because of the moisture in the air. I woke up at about 2am and listened to the thunderstorms for half an hour. I have no idea how the paths are going to be through the jungle today, but I’m kind of hoping that we did the difficult part yesterday!

Before breakfast, however, we get to visit the village school. As we arrive there is one boy outside, it’s unclear as to whether he’s been punished or has just decided that he’s had enough. There are two classrooms in the school, the teacher is in one with about 12 children and in the other are 7 girls all working hard and reading the blackboards.

Our visit causes a little chaos, but the teacher carries on regardless and the students with him are clearly listening to him and not disturbed at all. They all have one page from an exercise book and, as it’s nearly time for a break they start folding the pages into paper airplanes. It’s time for us to leave too and head back to the lodge for breakfast

I seem to remember being sold on the dream of Lao coffee with breakfast but in reality it’s a cup of instant coffee complete with milk and sugar in the sachet. There is also rice and a lovely omelette (I never thought that I would put those words together!!).

After breakfast I want to change into my long-sleeved shirt from yesterday, but our clothes are still wet and so I put my shirt over the door near the fire (that they’re keeping alight to cook lunch for our picnic) and I sit next to it in order to hold my cap next to the flames to dry it.

***NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED***

We see that Tin is carrying around a rooster. We joke that he’s our lunch but it turns out to be true. Cedric and I watch, fascinated, but horrified as the three guides take the rooster out of the backdoor to kill it. I see Ket pulling a tail feather from him before plunging it into its neck. Tin keeps hold of the feet and the rest of the bird drops but its wings continue to flap. He brings it back in and throws it onto the floor…still flapping slightly.

Cédric and I leave the lodge, we both need air and a little time to realise what we’ve just witnessed. He’s not convinced about the feather and so we head back in to check with Ket who confirms that that’s his way of doing it. The local guide then plucks the chicken and heads down to the river to rinse it.

***END OF THE FAINT-HEARTED***

Our problem is that the toilet that we are supposed to use flushes into the river. The river flows from the toilet towards the chicken-washing place which is also where our cutlery and crockery is washed. We banned all use of the toilet during these times but we are totally aware that all upstream villages have the same set-up…

Once lunch has been prepared, we’re off for our last day of adventure, leaving the village through the school yard we head to the neighbouring village of Ban Nahome. The Germans also passed through here in 2012 to install toilets and water supplies. As Stéphane listened attentively to Ket’s stories I made friends with one of the two small puppies that was chasing a piglet around us. He seemed interested for a few seconds but abandoned me as soon as he realised that I had no food to offer him!

We briefly visited the school in this village which is for 10-14 year-olds. On the blackboard was a maths problem and although I’d like to think that I could solve it using just my brain, I decided that today wasn’t the day! In the class there were about 10 children, one of whom was dressed as a princess and another was busy playing with a puppy…good job the teacher was in the loo!

From this village we then headed back into the jungle. Passing along narrow, muddy footpaths with sheer drops down to the left into the river. I was happy when we moved away from the river and started climbing further and higher into the jungle. I was happy, that is, until it started pouring with rain. It didn’t stop raining until our shirts were see-through with rain water, our caps were no longer protecting our heads and our hair was sticking to our scalps; the leeches were crawling up, over, into and, even, through our socks… Stéphane managed to get one off and then stopped the group so that we could all check ourselves. Only Theo and I were leech free, though only Laetitia was really bleeding — I passed her one of our plasters as they were easier to get to than hers.

When we stopped for lunch Stéphane managed to get through to the Gibbons’ Experience and confirmed our booking for the 15th (as there was no space for the 14th). Laetitia confirmed their booking on the Express for the 14th. Laetitia offered plasters and cleaning stuff for the local guide who had also been attacked by the leeches wearing just flipflops. Ket said that usually local people didn’t clean up their wounds, but it was covered in mud and would have gotten infected otherwise.

It had now stopped raining and, having had lunch in the shade, we were a little chilly so the rest of the trek did us good, half in the sun, half in the jungle. We saw some rice fields on the slopes where the people have to pick the rice by hand on each stalk — so much more work than in paddy fields. We crossed another group of tourists, mainly French-Canadian, who were on their way to the “Eco-lodge”. We didn’t say anything, apart from good luck for the descent because, with the rain, it was probably a little bit tricky!

The way back down was a bit slippy but fairly straight forward. We arrived in a village where three little, naked, local girls were singing and dancing in the river. They started screaming “Sabaidee” as our group approached, it was really nice to hear!

Once back in Luang Namtha, we got Ket to stop the bus in front of our hotel and everyone got out for a group photo. We had had such a lovely time and had really got on well as a group. The girls all headed quickly into the showers, the boys all grabbed a cool BeerLao from the fridge before we all swapped places and the boys took their showers.

We agreed to have dinner together in a riverside restaurant that is recommended in the German guidebook. Unfortunately it’s quite far out of town and so we asked the manager of the guesthouse to call us a tuk-tuk. We waited quite a long time and by the time we got to the restaurant everyone was pretty hungry. The food was tasty, but there wasn’t very much of it. In any case it didn’t spoil our evening recalling the good times we had shared. Then we all headed back to the hotel to a good nights’ sleep!