An insane climb, a dead giant millipede, and handing out fluffy kangaroos.

Day 11: The day started with breakfast on the terrace at the guesthouse, overlooking the river. There’s a house being built next door to the guesthouse, and it was fascinating to watch the team of guys working away – everything is manual work, not a power tool in sight.

While we ate our breakfast, two guys took it in turns to work on chopping down a 50 ft tree – using only a tiny hatchet. Every now and then as they were getting closer to felling the tree, one of them would shout at any passers by to get out of the way. Limited health and safety regulations here!

After breakfast, we got our walking gear on and walked to the base of Phadeng Peak – also known as Nong Khiaw Mountain Viewpoint. The red arrow on the photo below shows the viewpoint we were headed for – eeek.

We paid our 20,000 Kip ‘entrance fee’ (about $2.50), and borrowed two of their cane walking sticks.

We mentioned in an earlier blog that Laos was the most heavily bombed country per capita. Turns out that Nong Khiaw, where we’re staying, was the most heavily bombed village. Signs at the start of the walk reminded us that it’s vital to stick to marked trails to avoid unexploded bombs – and another sign mentioned dangerous wildlife off the beaten track too.

We started the climb. It was tough. Really tough. Not just the height and the incline but the intense heat. We huffed and puffed our way to the top – it took nearly two hours to get there, and we collapsed in a heap at the top to recover, both sweating profusely and with our walking clothes soaked through. The views were superb though, once we’d recovered enough to enjoy them!

As we were hiking up the track, we came across a giant millipede – about 8-10 inches long – thankfully it was dead… Other than that, the only wildlife we saw were lots of lizards running across the path and an occasional bird flitting through the trees.

Then the descent – which was a heap easier than the climb, albeit our calf muscles were squealing and shaking. All in all, a tough hike but it feels good to be getting back into shape again.

One of the biggest challenges walking in this heat is being able to carry enough water – today we had nearly 6 litres between us, which was barely enough. For a day long hike, we reckon we’ll have to carry 10+ litres to last throughout the day. A family of four who were doing the same climb as us had only brought a single 1.5 litre bottle between them – they learnt their lesson.

We got home, showered and slept for a couple of hours before heading out for dinner in the village. This evening we had yellow curry chicken and vegetables, and sweet and sour duck breast – more fabulous food. As we ate dinner, the sun was setting over the village and river – a glorious evening.

On the walk back to the guesthouse, Lil was craving chocolate. It’s difficult to find any in this heat, but a local store had small wrapped chocolate cake cookies, so we got a packet of those (and they were surprisingly good). It’s always fun looking through local produce, much of which is unfamiliar. When we were leaving Sydney, Lil packed 24 small kangaroo key rings to hand out to local kids along the way – she gave one to a tiny little girl in the store, who shrieked with delight (wish we’d got a photo of that one!)

Tomorrow we’re planning a lazy start to the day – then off to hire bikes to pedal to some local villages. More then.

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