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Down the River

by Tara

A cacophony of cock-a-doodle-doos rouse me from my slumber at 7AM this morning. While everyone else is sleeping through the racket, I throw on some clothes to go for a walk, heading towards the pier to ask what time the boat leaves. As I stroll along the narrow dirt road, kicking up dust, roadside cooks are busy preparing breakfast for tourists and locals alike, with both traditional Lao foods, and more western options like banana fritters and pancakes with nutella.

Further down the road, fowl are being plucked and butchered in preparation for lunch and dinner, baskets are being woven, homes repaired, and hanks of wool yarn wrapped up into balls. The monastery at the far end of the road is buzzing with half-naked monks laundering their orange robes.

At the boat landing, I learn that our ferry will leave at 9:30. Yikes, we had assumed it would be 11:00! Peaceful walk finished, I hurry back to the bungalows, hoping that either Pete or Natasha will be awake; I hate making people get up! Luckily Pete is on their porch, so I tell him the news, and then go inside to get Tyler, who is also up, doing some writing.

With a bit of time before our boat leaves, we all walk down to a riverside restaurant for breakfast. Sipping on a cup of ginger tea with honey, looking out over the blue river and green mountains, I'm a little sad we're leaving already. But right now, it doesn't make sense to stay—we're paying for every day we have with the motorcycles whether or not we're riding them. Someday, we'll just have to return to this place.

When the boat comes, we trudge down the hill, discovering a huge line of people waiting to board. Unfortunately for them, they're milling about in the wrong spot. Tyler and I casually skirt around everybody, side-stepping down a steep slope, and walk a little further down the bank to where the boat is ready and waiting. We climb aboard, and soon everyone else follows suit. Then, the boat chugs to life, and off we go, down the river.

The ride home is a wet one, as we're constantly sprayed with water that splashes up from the rapids. Now I know why the Lao women bring towels! While we bounce around and drift down the river along with the current, a very loud American man has Pete cornered, talking his ear off about kayaking.

Lao Woman & Child Boarding Boat

Arriving in Nong Kiaw after a wet hour of sitting in the boat, we walk over the bridge and back to our guest-house where our motorcycles are still safely stowed along with our gear. The doggies we met last time run out to greet us, remembering our familiar scents.

Pete & Lao Doggies

While we pack up once more, bungeeing everything up, a pregnant woman lays peacefully in a hammock nearby. Four little girls surround her, patting her belly in wonder, as she beams up at them. Then, the girls lift their shirts and poke out their tummies and rub them too, pretending to be with child. It is both touching and overwhelming at times, seeing how much love there is here for Lao babies, and how everyone pitches in to take care of them.