March 12, 2006 GMT
Laos II

Who are David McMillan and Erika Tunick? We had no idea except that they also have traveled through Asia on a motorbike and that we have surpassed each other several times yet never met. The hours apart in Pakistan, India, Nepal and Laos had been so often and mysterious that I started to picture them as a computer nerd in the US having a laugh on our expense. But David and Erika are real (check it out: http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/mcmillan ). After months sharing roads and guest houses with ghost riders we were to meet at Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) in southern Laos. This time we would make it indeed. But fate had yet a few ploys in stock.

Laos is truly wonderful for a tranquil roundtrip on two wheels, perhaps the best country so far in that respect. Though the towns up north was more inviting by the look of them. Larger settlements further south such as Paksan, Tha Khaek and Pakse appeared more like studies in worn-out French colonial architecture. Still, between these places and on rust-red gravel roads, we found little bamboo huts villages and primitive food stalls that beat the best of culinary experiences available in the capital. Indeed, the best Lao kitchens are the authentic Lao kitchens. Moreover, Laos supplies the best coffee on earth. A cup brewed on beans from the Bolaven Plateau have a distinct choc taste, is incredibly expensive in the west, but served for cents where the beans are grown.


The Tad Lo village was our last night stop before the Four Thousand Islands. In the morning we had a good breakfast with Bruce and Sarah, a friendly couple from New Zealand, and a swim in the river. Then we jumped on an elephant for a ride in the bush. But the latter was a bad idea. As the animal was to climb down a steep path, the seat strap around its belly snapped and we fell off. You know, elephants are pretty tall, like two horses on top of each other. I landed with a tree root jammed in my groin, and then the girl landed on top of me. My nuts were so torn and scratched that the girl fainted by the sight. Literally. At the same time the elephant boy was in shock, apparently afraid to loose his job. Moreover, how could I – with my strategically placed injury – sit across a motorbike and ride it 200km on bumpy roads to an appointment at Four Thousand Islands?

laohuts.jpg
A distant cry in the Lao jungle: “Aarghh, my balls!!!

With excessive use of ointments, some rolls of bandage, and tons of persistence we gave it a go. As you would expect it felt lovely to stand when driving, but it did not take many miles before my leg muscles were sodden with lactic acids. By God, how does the Ullevaalseter-guy do it? He must be superman and I will worship him forever. In absence of Paris-Dakar-style training I endured the hours by sitting in a variety of unstylish positions, a few which by the look of them involved the tankbag in a very provocative way. Nevertheless, we made it to the meeting point. That was only to receive sad news from David and Erika. After nine months of safe journey they had crashed with a cow east of Pakse. David broke his collarbone and was of course unable to drive the remaining two hours to Four Thousand Islands. Now, if you believe that destiny work for some people to never meet, then this is a story that fits the label.

laosunset.jpg
An eventful day ends with a beautiful sunset
(but romance was out of the question)

Posted by Erik Saue at March 12, 2006 01:38 PM GMT
 


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