At ten in the morning Nina, Julia and I set of for a trek through the forests and fields surrounding Muang Ngoi Neua the plan is more or less to visit a cave, walk through some rice fields and visit a village in te jungle about an hour away.
We were warned about the mud but didn’t listen.
The first half an hour of the trek follows a well trodden path, muddy but not to bad, the cave is really just one big chamber with a small stream through it.Nice but nothing special. To go any further underground you will need to be a spelunker and know what you are doing.
The mud is getting heavier and my feet sink knee deep in the mud a big sucking sound then my sandal comes off. I retrieve it but the heel strap is broken. I take both sandals off and decide to go bare feet, we cross the first of a number of small rivers and irrigation channels.
The mud stays sticky and deep and we are going quite slow. Then suddenly we emerge fom the jungle and into the rice fields. There are rice terraces and little dikes to hold the water in, ducks waddling about and people working everywhere.
The fields stretches seemingly in all directions so we ask one of the locals how we can get to Ban Na he waves to the East so we start traversing the dikes between the paddy fields they are wet, muddy, unstable and made for Lao sized feet. We slide and stumble slowly from one to the other.
More asking, more vague answers , and after an hour we’re completely lost. Then the girls who are further ahead of me, stumble on a group of women who are actually going to Ban Na, It turns out we were going in the exactly opposite direction and actually walking away from our intended destination. We double back on our trail and I tell Nina and Julia not to wait for me if I lag behind I’ll just turn around and go back to Muang Ngoi Neua.
The trail now moves out of the fields and back into the forest and starts heading uphill I decide enough is enough and turn around. the forest trail to the rice fields present no problem but I feel seriously out of shape. so I sit down on the edge of one of the terraces and have a rest and a drink of water. No worries anymore about the mud, I am pretty much covered from head to toe anyway. eventually I get up take my best guess at where the point is that we entered the fields and start sliding my way towards it. Occaisionally I slip of the edge of a dike and into the paddy, at one stage I just wade right across two or three of them to get to a more likely looking trail.
A village appears on my left, Ban Hi, as it turns out, a few houses and a small temple nestled among the trees and edging the fields. Nice but nowhere near where I wanted to go. What to do?Askng the locals leadsto either blank stares or contradictory answers. Then I remember that my phone has a GPS unit on it and I put in the location of the river we crossed. Modern technologie to the rescue! I am a kilometer of course but heading for the right direction now. Ofcourse to cover that kilometer I must zigzag about double that through fields but eventually I am back where we entered the fields. I have been walking now for five hours with only a five minute sit down to rest up. Another break is in order. I haven’tsat down longer then a minute when the first drops of rain start to fall. I throw my phone and camera in a waterproof bag have another swig from my waterbottle and set off again.
It takes another hour in the pouring rain before I reach my guest house, shed my clothes have a shower and remove three leeches. Their bites look nasty and purple.