Day 35.  8th February.  Nong Khiaw to Vieng Kham.  50km. 1150m climbing.

Luckily David slept solidly through the night without any further stomach issues and so although he wasn’t feeling 100%, we were both keen to set off. I was feeling slightly nauseated but otherwise ok and we both managed to eat breakfast so we set off.

We were immediately into more stunning scenery, which distracted us from our ailments. It’s difficult to keep describing mountains in the early morning mist in different ways to how they look at other times, but they seemed even more beautiful at this time. The mist soon burnt off as we entered a narrow valley, following a tumbling stream and then we were into our major climb of the day.  We do these climbs slowly but today we took it even slower as we knew we were only aiming for 50km and had this one 800m climb to do (although we had undulated over 200m climbing before even starting). 

The road was spectacular as we climbed through wonderful scenery. We passed through villages clinging to the ridges, with the usual waves and smiles.  We understand these villages are inhabited by different ethnic groups, but this was not obvious to us passing through. We navigated past piglets, cows, ducks, numerous children and a lot of pot holes.  

At one point we passed a line of young men walked along the street of a village banging drums and cymbals, with one holding an animist symbol. Animism is a belief that natural objects like trees, hills or rocks are inhabited by spiritual entities with supernatural powers.  Ancestor worship is also common in the highland tribes. A talaew is a bamboo star that is placed somewhere – often amongst growing crops, to ward off evil spirits.  We had seen them in the rice fields on the walk yesterday and have seen them along the road, but these seemed a lot more elaborate than just a star but presumably do the same task. We didn’t  know what this was about and although tempting to leap off the trike and take a photo, it was clearly a ceremony of some sort so did not seem appropriate (although they waived to us and gave us thumbs up from the procession). 

The road was mostly quiet although there were occasional large Chinese lorries.  We always tucked right into the side of the road when we heard them coming (and could see in our mirrors),  even slightly off the road if we could.  However we have no complaints as the drivers always gave us as wide a berth as possible. Bizarrely, later on near the summit, they were all parked up in a line on the road for no obvious reason (other than possibly all stopping for lunch).  This was not a long stop as they all passed us again, going down the other side. 

About two thirds of the way up we were assailed by a Scottish voice passing on a motorcycle and so of course we stopped. George and Julie were, we guess, about our age and were traveling around for several months on buses and rented motorbikes. They lived in Fleet, Hampshire, the place of my birth and the first 18 years of my life! We had a good chat but then left them as they went on upwards with the help of the motorbike and we were reliant on our legs.  They said something very interesting – that they were travelling to provide a good example to their children about diversity in the world. I would not like to suggest our reasons for travelling are so altruistic but maybe a small point of this blog is to share some of the wonders we are fortunate enough to able to experience, and it may even tempt others to push their own boundaries. Onwards and upwards, finally reaching the summit about 4 hours after we started the climb (that did include a lot of stops, both the rest and savour the scenery). 

We then had a 15km descent ahead of us but this was no whizzy descent.  In Laos, the road surface is always unpredictable. This part of the route had lots of potholes and short stretches where there was no tarmac – and thus only stones and gravel. So the descent was very concentrated as we controlled the trikes carefully over the bumpy sections, still mindful of the previous broken derailleur. We were also in the hottest part of the day and soon lost the refreshing air at 1200m.  

I had had problems with the spokes of my rear mudguard over the last few days.  One spoke was held into its slot with red electrical tape but another one had sheared off completely at the base and was held together with reams of duck tape.  The latter one pinged out again on the descent.  At the bottom we passed a motor repair shop.  We showed them the problem and a young mechanic very carefully welded and moulded the spoke back into position. While he was doing this the rest of the garage mechanics gathered round and studied the trikes.  They seemed impressed that we had come over the hill but I also think they thought we were a bit mad – but maybe that is a feature of travellers from afar! When the repair was complete we asked how much and were told 10,000 kip – around 50 pence.  We gave him 15,000, still less than £1 but he seemed very happy with the tip.

Then we followed the road for the last few kilometers into the town. There is rarely fresh fruit or vegetables in the grocery shops but the market in the town was still going so we got eggs and lovely fresh cauliflower and coriander which David transformed into a delicious egg and cauli curry later on.  We both proved to be hungry and finished it all so hopefully all will be back to normal tomorrow. 

4 thoughts on “Day 35.  8th February.  Nong Khiaw to Vieng Kham.  50km. 1150m climbing.

  1. Good to hear you’re both all better now. Sounds wonderful scenery. Can’t wait to get there ourselves in a few weeks. Enjoy.

  2. So wonderful to live your amazing trip vicariously through your blog. You both write so deceptively and your humour shinennns through…as do David’s culinary skills!!
    Stay safe and continue to enjoy your adventure!
    Gordon x

  3. Lovely to have met you both. We were a bit concerned about some of the roads that were in front of you, they were pretty hairy for us!
    The curry at the end of your day sounded wonderful- we had a pot Noodle from the garage 😆😆
    Safe onward journey and enjoy Vietnam 🇻🇳 👌 Julie and George

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