Muddy Motocycles/Feet

30 Sep

After another sporadic meeting with Paul, we were introduced to two girls (Lisha and Rose). Lisha wasted no time after our introduction and went straight in with:

“So we’re going to rent some motorbikes tomorrow to go explore the other side of the river, want to come?”

“Ermmmm yeah? I guess?” I hesitated a reply.

A day of tubing and relaxing later me and Clare stood waiting whilst our bike was made ready. Up role the 3 on their bikes as we climbed aboard ours. I feel like someone should have shouted out a corny one liner like “TO ADVENTURE!”, but instead I just said a rather British, “Shall we go?”

The ‘Road’ (a muddy track) was immediately hard going. Last nights rain had taken its toll and while the road wasn’t hugely muddy, the huge pot holes had become lakes and due to the soft verges the only way forward was through. Due to the varying size and depth, it was often down to a game of ‘whoever’s first try’s it’, AKA puddle roulette. Most of the puddles were passable, but occasionally they would sink deeper and deeper and suddenly you’d find your feet (which meant the engine as well) were under water. This gave you only one option, gun it and hope for the best. This normally meant you’d end up with your legs covered in a thick orange mud or the bike would slip and you’d end up on the verge desperately trying to stop the thing sinking into the outer mud. This of course lead to a number of “God dammit!”‘s and “QUICK GET OFF THE BIKE ITS SINKING!”.

After our trial by mud we reached some flat ‘road’ and even managed to reach 3rd gear at some points. We drove on roads surrounded by paddy fields and through little villages which almost every inhabitant would call out “Sabadi!” (hello) and wave. With huge khast mountains as the backdrop against the sky, it really was beautiful.

Blue Lagon

Eventually after a few narrow wooden bridges and more mud, we reached to where we had vaguely planned on going, ‘The Blue Lagoon’. First impressions were of an empty car park (a field) and an attendant asking for money. Though once we parked and headed towards the lagoon our views quickly changed. A beautiful swimming hole lagoon, with water a brilliant blue/green, a tree growing over with swings and ladders and a roofed bridge crossing over it. Locals swung from ropes and dived into the inviting waters. Now this may sound corny but it really did look like something you’d see in a film or postcard.

We all played for hours, swinging from swings, diving from the highest branch we could manage (the water was so deep even from jumping near the top of the tree could you not even feel the push of the bottom). It made the hellish start to the ride seem completely worth it.

After a brief visit to the cave which was half way up a mountain (literally), we rolled on to a cafe we had passed near a bridge. Some locals served us some 2 minute noddles that took about 45 minutes to cook (though the mango and mint shakes were amazing). From this part of the journey onward we were joined by a French lady on a mountain bike (who often out paced us!).

We decided that the way we had come was probably not best to be the way back (Surely there must be and easier going way back!?). A map check confirmed there was another route back to Vang Vieng. So often we zoomed, thinking it be easier to at least TRY going another way.

After a few games of puddle roulette we hit our first snag. After I picked the wrong route through a puddle, caking me, Clare and bike, bike refused to restart. Fearing I’d drowned the thing, I started to wheel it to a garage. Amazingly the nearest bike garage was less than 50m and the mechanics had watched the whole thing.

“It no work” I said pointing at the muddy thing.

“????” and a thumbs up from the mechanic.

A old man stumbles out the garage speaking Lao and smelling of alcohol, another man in the background laughs and signs me to sit down on the bench. The mechanic has a go at starting the engine and immediately says “Ahh!” and runs into the garage. He now holds a new spark plug and says “BOOM!”, “Ok?” I reply and he begins to unscrew bits of bike.

I am then offered a shot of Lao Lao (homebrew whisky/moonshine/alcohol/engine de-greaser), which I politely turn down considering how much harder this would be even after a single beer let alone a shot.

Quicker than I realise the bike is fixed and actually working better than when I had hired it. So off we went again, desperately trying to hold on to our bikes through the mud and praying not to drown in the puddles.

Snag two happens. Paul hits a particularly deep puddle, couriers off road, through the mud and ends up accelerating into a tree/hedge. Luckily this was more comical than medical and we were on our way soon enough.

Then we came to this:

Apparently this roller-coaster of planks was a bridge. The bridge looked so flimsy we were unsure if anyone could walk across it let alone think about bike. Suddenly a local comes by on a motorbike, beeping and cursing us for being in his way he sped across the bridge, it flexing and sagging as he crosses.

“What!? Really?! You CAN cross that on a bike?”

“Who’s going first then?”

“I don’t mind” I say, “but I think I’d rather just wheel the bike over”

Timidly I crossed, with the bridge creaking and flexing like it really wasn’t happy. I made it across to 3 women sitting in a straw hut, asking for money to cross the bridge (apparently it was a told bridge!?).  Then snag three happened, a crashing sound like motorbike meeting timber came from the other side. The toll bridge lady jumped up and sprinted up the first hump of the bridge to see what was going on.

The Fall of Paul

Apparently Paul had tried to ride across and lost control and fallen off the bike. By some luck his bike had hit one of the only two uprights that held the bridge up, thus saving the bike from falling into the river. The toll bridge lady promptly removed the bike from Paul and wheeled it across (“Let me do it for you”).

The girls then expertly drove almost full pelt across the bridge and then took lead of the group (“Rose’s Riders”). We passed some wonderful scenes of locals playing in rivers, huge paddy fields with mountainous backgrounds and open khast quarrying (?).

Rose's Riders

We only had one small snag on the road on the way back, a flat tire on Rose’s bike. This was expertly fixed (again by the looks of the inner tube) by a local repair man. Who’s whole family of children came to watch. Me and Paul (much to the entertainment of the kids) took to pulling silly faces.

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One Response to “Muddy Motocycles/Feet”

  1. Amy H October 5, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    Verges means erection in French, I always have a giggles when I see signs that say soft verges. 🙂

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