I woke up still wasted from the BBQ and world cup evening party. i was thirsthy and i pay the price now. I took a chance to ask my new American and Netherlands friends to cut my hair with vulgar office scissors. Happy with the work of my friends and supported by their satisfaction smile, I will go to sleep slowly to be sure to not fall the stairs. I open my eyes, oh no! the Clock project myself out of bed quickly, I barely have time to drink a coffee for going to Tiger Trails office before taxi-truck to leave. I arrived just in time, 8 h 30 for departure. They take other clients at their hotel and were left for 30 minutes on a dusty country road to Ban Xieng Lom. The village where the éléphant Village is established at the edge of Nam Khan River.
The place is simply beautiful, the architecture of buildings is a mixture of modern, exotic wood and Lao traditional. Rest areas located across the river are an invitation to a delicious meal with a superb view over the river and surrounding mountains. Everything is prepared at the restaurant located just asides.
This project helps to preserve the elephants and give jobs to people from poor villages of the area. It offers a home, some healty meal and veterinary care to all its residents. In fact, it’s a good way to discover the elephants, mountains, wildlife and nature of northern Laos while helping a team dedicated to developing sustainable solutions for the elephants and the surrounding communities.
A “briefing” before departure and text panels introduce us to the present reality and tumultuous past of elephants in Laos. The place has nine elephants, including a younger, we can ride after a small basic courses. The people are friendly and passionate about their craft. The place is well kept and elephants evolve in an environment tailored to their well-being. It’s impressive to see such big beasts dress to obey as such small humans.
we awaits the return of the other members of my group from their elephant trekking that takes about an hour through the jungle and ends with a bath in the river with elephant.
We takes some supplies and water bottled. We are now ready for Trekk. 30 min by boat on the river where we met fishermen, kids taking a bath, villages with houses of woven bamboo and water buffalo that refresh. A true journey into the ancient past of our society away from our capitalistic and consommation culture.
We finally arrived at the start of our trek. We pass through the main city in this corner of the jungle, a tiny downtown where straw houses alongside the power lines and satellite TV antennas in a perfect symphony of anachronism.
It runs fine trails not too rugged. We enter the heart of the mountains that can be seen from afar on the winding road between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. You can see beautiful mountain scenery, wild rice paddies or women work hard with rudimentary instruments. The trek is a good way to make the big empty, full of culture and stay in shape.
It rises and it rises, it seems to have climbed all the mountains, but not yet another steep slope appears before us. The sun at its zenith makes the climb even more sporty. I come finally to the straw roof shelter. I sit at the table and wait for the other. My jacket was wet as if I had fallen into a river. we had a lunch, is already after noon and I just had a cofee this morning. I just bit into my sandwich and I hear my digestive motor get going. In less than a minute my meal is already gone. Completely burnt up in my digestive system.
We joined a small village, my guide says it has a population of fifty residents. All rudimentary houses with no facilities and services. We see a Hmong takes a shower at the public well and some children said “hello” timidly. We only watch their daily life discreetly from outside their villages to avoid disrupting their activities. We feel a bit guilty to watch them, but as far as we stay respectful everyone wins something.
We continue to the bed of a small river and we encounter water buffalo concealed by a fence in the middle of the jungle. The temperature is stifling. Me and the guide enjoy the large leaves plant to make hats to protect us from sun. What can be more ecological and green?
We stop at a table of traditional wood house on the trail for a snack. A woman runs after his goats in the mountains. A bag of tobacco stand over the table. Sheets of standrad white paper serve as rolling paper. Something tells me that it shouldn’t be healthy. A radio plays in the background. Surely powered by batteries because there is no electricity evidence here. We are walking 30 minutes through the mountain to a Khmu village build at the end of the main trail.
My guide, who is Khmu native give me information on the differences between the Hmong culture and Khmu culture two of the major hill tribe from Laos. He came to study in 1997 in the big city of Luang Prabang. He had to travel five hours in the jungle and two hours car drive before reaching civilization. Approximately 75 families residing in villages. This village is much more organized than the Hmong village we met before. A band council, a residence for guests wanting to stay among them and one general store where can buy get a warm Pepsi and warm beer. People say hello to us timidly while the two couples of my group discuss intensively, the minutes fly and the rain is close to drop on us.
We continue to the river, the rain starts and stops immediately, but the path is now muddy and slippery. My rubber sandals near to project myself directly in the mud. 1 hours of slippery trails through the jungle and burning the rice field to finally reach our boat. Our diver exit from a bamboo house with his guitar and uses it to play us a little song.The boat cross the other side of the river and we’re back at the Elephant Village. The elephants are now in their area for a well deserved rest. Another half hour to go back to my hotel room to shower and sleep tonight will be very appreciated. oh yes! I was going to forget. I was going in the shower I pass in front of a mirror and I perceive that my hairdresser friends do me the worst cancerous haircut. I begin to understand why people looked at me in a funny way to Elephant Village. I owe you one bastards …:)
This post is also available in: French