Day two of the trek took us out of the hills, through watermelon fields, to a village school where we dropped off some children’s books we had brought with us and to a “weaving village” in the most insanely beautiful location. We also had some much needed boat time before being dropped at Mong Noi, our final destination, which did not disappoint in the visuals.
Over the next day we regained our energy by lazing in hammocks at our waterside huts, ready for the 4 hour kayak back to our starting point. We were joined by a new guide with minimal English, but we managed to relay to him that Maura and I had no kayaking experience. He insisted that all 3 of us wear our life jackets but had no other advice to impart.
The first hour on the water was placid and peaceful….and then we hit rapids!! Chris had a little dunking, but kept his cool despite losing his Go-Pro camera. Then it was our turn in our double kayak. The waves quickly filled the kayak and then we fell in. We miraculously managed to keep hold of our hats, glasses and paddles whilst rushing down the rapid and clinging to the upturned kayak. We used all our strength to swim ashore and drag the kayak with us whilst our guide nonchalantly watched on from a distance. We rested on the rocky riverbank to catch our breath and try and regain some strength until our guide came over to encourage us to get back in the saddle. His advice for the next rapid was to power through it.
The next rapid was bigger and scarier than the last. Once again the kayak quickly filled with water and Maura fell in, whilst I managed to stay in the useless piece of plastic. As I saw my panic stricken fiancé being dragged off to certain death I shoved my paddle out for her to hold on to whilst trying to bail out with my spare hand and not tip over.
I screamed out for help and our guide came over to take Maura to safety. I frantically paddled to the side. Once everyone was out of the water Chris and I shouted at the guide to get a boat to come and collect us, which it promptly did. In hindsight I realise, because of our life jackets, we weren’t in much danger, but at the time I thought we were in Hollywood movie where someone had to die. Thankfully no one else was around to see the melodramatics.
Back in Nong Khiaw we celebrated being alive then spent a couple more days taking a well deserved break, exploring the surrounding hills on mopeds.
Despite being convinced that we were headed for a watery grave, I now realise we were actually in paradise.
We gave this school some books and pens. An alarmingly high number of children in Laos have never seen a book or, if they have, it is an old textbook. This pioneering publishing company is working to rectify this and get kids excited about reading. You can read the story about how Big Brother Mouse has begun to have a big impact on literacy rates here.
Some photographs from our mopeding through the villages: