Pakse, Laos

We decided to take the afternoon bus from 4000 Islands. They told us to meet at the restaurant and from there we would be put on a little boat to the mainland, where the bus to Pakse would be waiting. So, at 10:30 sharp, we met at he restaurant, and were told to sit down, and that they would call us. After about 15 minutes, we noticed that the restaurant was somewhat empty, so we asked and said with surprise that we should be down at the boat of course, so off we scooted… Just as we reached the beach, Greg’s pack strap gave way… really love these relatively expensive deluxe army grade packs we bought… The little boats were filling up. There were six of us left, and they decided that they couldn't fit any more in the little boats, so off they went. We sat on the beach to wait the half hour for a boat to come back for us, wondering if the bus would still be there, but secretly a little happy that we got to sit on the beach instead of a hot bus.

When we got to the other side in our narrow little wooden boat, and jumped across to the wobbly dock, we walked up the beach where they waved their hands and up the stairs to the street, and of course there was no bus in sight. The locals were great of course, and waved the stupid tourists on down the street away from the water. We walked for a couple of kilometres through the dusty streets, and eventually came to a bus terminal with lovely new deluxe buses. They waved us away, and pointed further up the street. We got to the second bus terminal and the buses were not so pretty, and of course, our bus was full. This could be good, or this could be bad. It turned out that we got put in a little minivan and had a relatively comfortable and uneventful ride to Pakse.

We managed to arrange a trip thought the zip lines in the jungle with a German couple. The bus picked us up and we drove for about two hours. One hour on reasonably good roads, and one hour on potholed washboard dirt roads. We finally reached a small village, and after getting kitted up with harnesses and helmets and tethers etc, we set off on a hike that lasted the rest of the morning. We reached the first “bridge”. This was just a wire strung across a little stream, with another wire above it to clip onto and to hold on to, while navigating the tightrope. We could have just walked across the stream because it is dry season, but we were all eager to use all the gear we had been dragging along that of course we had to try it.

The first little tightrope
Lunch in the Jungle
At about noon we stopped and the guides spread out banana leaves on the ground and set out a very inviting lunch with little dishes of curry, rice, vegetables and fruit. After lunch we continued on to a swinging rope bridge with a wooden plank floor high above the jungle canopy. We started with a small zip line, and progressed to some that must have been a kilometre long and a kilometre high or more! We zipped back and forth over the valley for the day. 

Swinging bridge
Coming in for a landing - using the stick to stop!
Some pretty long zip lines!
Amazing scenery
In the evening, we came to a verandah overlooking the big waterfall that we had seen all day.
We had a supper of lovely delicious curries. We spent the evening climbing on the rocks around the waterfall.

Coffee looked so inviting when we arrived!
The view from behind the waterfall
I was the only one brave enough to go in the waterfall
Just happy we survived the day
Sitting at the waterfall
Shadow Greg

Shadow Elaine

About 9pm we zip lined to our individual little tree houses. Our cabin had four sleeping mats on the floor and four sleeping bags. We piled the mattresses on top of each other and put the extra sleeping bags over us and slept very warm and cozy through the cold mountain night.

After sunset it got very cold
Our little cozy treehouse 30 metres above the forest floor
We woke early and had a nice breakfast. Greg couldn't eat much because of course they always try to accommodate tourists here by serving eggs for breakfast and really cannot comprehend that Greg does not eat eggs.

After breakfast we put on all of our gear and ziplined all morning over some of the longest, highest ziplines that either of us have ever been on. After a delicious lunch, where Greg was able to make up for his scant breakfast, we set off on our return trip. We basically had to climb the mountain to the top of the giant waterfall. It was a gruelling slog uphill for hours, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. But as I always say, “Adventures are never fun while you are having them”. The corollary to this is “If you are asking yourself why you are there and wishing you had just stayed home in bed, and if you come close to crying at least once, you are probably having an adventure”. Our final challenge was to climb up a cliff on metal bars that had been driven into the rock. Even with the tether and harness, it was a little disconcerting. Do not attempt this trip if you are even slightly afraid of heights. Finally we were back to even ground and just had to walk 45 minutes back through coffee plantations to the bus. All of us grumbled that they really should bring the bus down the road to get us, but it was a beautiful walk. All of us slept on the two hour ride back to town - but not the entire way because the bouncy road kept us awake:)


Wire rings bridge

Ok, this one is a little scary

Lots of steps back, and lots more where I wish there was steps

Bamboo forest

Climbing the cliff

At the top!
Oops - fell off - give me your hand

Made it
A lovely day
The next morning we went out to the village to ride elephants. Each elephant is owned by a separate family. They are responsible for feeding and caring for the elephant and training it. We rode up the mountain to a set of ruins. It wasn't actually the trip we had booked and we weren’t completely impressed considering that we had paid over $100 for a full day elephant trek through rivers and jungle and ended up with a half hour trek up a dusty road. It wasn't really anyone’s fault, just a complete misunderstanding of what was offered and that the poster was out of date and that the elephant sanctuary no longer offered the trip and that most of the money was going to a driver with a giant fancy air conditioned van that we didn’t need, for the one hour drive… The guy gave us some of the money back, but this was our one rip off of the trip - do not do the elephants in Pakse unless you go with a big group and split the travel cost.
Elephants in the sanctuary
The Wat in Pakse
One of the temples in the Wat
Lovely paintings on the walls
Greg decided to get a haircut - they used a straight razor!