All good trekkers know, no matter how brief the trek and ours was only a few hours long, supplies are essential. So we began the day with a visit to the Luanga Namtha morning market.
Any special food requirements, Sing, our guide, asked. We’ll try anything I said. In all the excitement I forgot about my recent tummy issues. Until I found him studying the fresh meat section!
No, Sing. I’m not killing it and I won’t be plucking it, either. Sing, move away from that stall.
And I’m not eating that either!
This is more like it.
Yes, fresh veggies and fruit!
Supplies obtained, Sing happy and me relieved, we’re ready to tackle our walk in the jungle.
Luang Namtha is close to the Nam Ha National Protection Area which makes access easy for those, like me, who can manage only a brief jungle experience. National Protection Areas were established throughout Laos in 1993. Although protected, small communities live within their boundaries and continue to hunt, fish, and clear patches of the land for crops.
It’ll be easy the tour company told us the day before. Even for old ladies like me, I asked. Yes, they said. Easy was two hours of steady climbing on a rough track. Yes, uphill all the way, uphill for each and every step.
It’s more like tramping than I expected, puffed John from behind me. Listening to him pant was not a comfort! I’m very glad we didn’t select a difficult grade. I’m guessing that would have involved rock climbing, abseiling, river crossings and white water rafting.
After only a few moments Sing paused to cut me a walking stick. And then a few moments later he took my pack. I was too busy catching my breath and swatting at the mozzies to protest. I’d learned my lesson about mozzies the day before. I was lathered in Deet, and my shirt was buttoned to the neck and at the cuffs, I wore a hat, and in the absence of long trousers I was wearing tights and shoes with socks. Those mozzies were not going to get me – and I’m happy to report they didn’t.
Before leaving the guest house we’d had a bit of a debate about which shoes to wear: partially open sandals with excellent tread or regular sneakers. Two minutes along the track I was pleased I decided on the sneakers. There’s nothing like being in the jungle to bring on worries about snakes and other creepy crawlies. But we actually didn’t see any, snakes that is! We were too noisy.
An hour further on, in the heat of the day, such was my confusion and exhaustion I mistook this for some sort of Roman road marker. Wrong epoch, wrong continent, wrong culture – just plain wrong!
The creepy crawlies close-up. I resisted the urge to poke them with my stick.
At the top of the ridge we walked on for about another twenty minutes before stopping for lunch.
Can you see the track?
It would be very easy to get lost. Fortunately, Sing has been here before, many times.
Our lunch spot
We had marinated buffalo meat, larb – a minced pork salad that is made with a lot of chilli, bamboo salad, a rattan dish – I’m not sure what was in it, the deep-fried taro which was deliciously sweet, sticky rice, and bananas.
I was nervous about trying the buffalo meat. I think it was a serving of that which made me sick a couple of weeks ago. This time it tasted completely different.
All too soon it was time to continue. Sing gave us the choice of a short or long path back to the road. It was concern for the third member of our small tour that made me say we better take the short path. (I’m not telling a lie. At the last minute she developed a stomach-ache and stayed with the tuk-tuk driver at a nearby-by village.) I didn’t hear any protests from John. It was hard work, that walk in the jungle!
There’s a rule in tramping in the New Zealand bush: if it’s difficult going up, it’ll be just as bad on the way down. Turns out the same rule applies in the jungle. My knees, my knees – after only half an hour they were screaming. I, however, did not make a sound!
There was plenty to distract me. And inspire me. Just when I thought I’d have to stop for a while this woman emerged from the jungle. I had a walking stick and Sing was still carrying my pack so there was no way I was going to suggest a rest.
She’d been harvesting these grasses which are sold to China for brooms. She soon disappeared down the path and we had the jungle to ourselves – until there was the unmistakable sound of gun shots. Hunters! After that we didn’t try to be quiet.
All too soon we could see the road and the village where our fellow traveller was waiting for us.
Near the end of the trek we paused to admire this grove of bamboo. It was typical of others we’d seen.
We learned later that when there is a lot of bamboo in the jungle it can be a sign that the forest is struggling and that the soil is depleted.
From the road, looking back to the edge of Nam Ha NPA and part of the track. What an amazing day!
Have you ever done any treks in the jungle? What was it like?