|Apologies cos yet again i'm miles behind with the whole journal writing lark!
So after we left four thousand islands the plan was to take a day trip into the surrounding countryside from a place called Pakse. However it was stupidly expensive so we skipped quickly on to our next destination, Thakhek.
We had come to Thakhek to attempt to ride the loop, a round trip through the centre of Laos taking in caves, nature swimming pools and beautiful scenery.
Sounds good until you discover that the best way to do this is by motorbike, only problem Nia and I have never ridden one before!
Everyone who wants to ride the loop stays at a place called the Travel lodge where you can read about the experiences of other loopers. Sitting reading all the entries before we left i think we were so determined to succeed we might have missed all the bad stories (that i read when we got back) and focused on all the ones that made it sound easy riding the 400km loop on 100cc bikes!!
So at 7am the next morning after a 10 minute lesson from Mr Ku (the bike owner)we were off. We maybe should have guessed it wasn't going to be the best experience when at the first petrol station (5mins down the road), the petrol attendant knocked nia's bike over and the seat completely feel off. However we managed to half fix it and were then on our way again.
The next half a day was lovely we drove along nice, wide, quiet straight roads and we even managed to find one lot of amazing caves, helped by a group of local children who just appeared out of nowhere when they saw us crazy tourists coming. We then managed somehow to miss all the other caves and swimming holes along the way mainly because we were rubbish at measuring distances.
Then about 3pm it all started to turn horrible. We had read in the book that although there is a massive new road being laid and a dam being built its no problem to ride along. Lies, all lies!!!!!!
The road disappears and is replaced by mud, sand and big huge twisty roads through the mountains literally in the middle of nowhere. Add to that really, really, really massive lorries and its probably one of the most scary things i have ever done.
So what started out as a nice way to learn to ride bikes soon became a complete nightmare.
Then we asked a local man the way to the town we were planning to stay in and he pointed us further down the road (little did we know at the time we were in the town we wanted to be in already!!). So we kept driving and driving until we decided that we definately had gone to far, so we tried in my very basic Thai (that is thankfully quite similar to Laos) to ask the man we were buying petrol off where we were. Only 30km further up the road than we should have been!!
He suggested we carry on to the next town another 20km down the road and we would find a guesthouse to stay in.
So racing the sun we set off down a waterlogged, pot holed road in search of a guesthouse. We arrived in the pitch black, tired and really scared, so literally asked the first people we saw who owned a massive house if they knew where there was a guesthouse.
Now in Britain you would never dream of just staying with a group of random people in the middle of nowhere but me and nia like to think these ladies we asked were angels, real life ones, because not only did they allow us to stay they brought us bottles of water, made us up our beds and gave us lots of soap to wash with as we were covered in dust.
The next morning when we had thanked them about a trillion times we drove 5 minutes down the road and saw 5 guesthouses all in a row!
Nia had woken up feeling really sick after getting sunburnt arms so we were only going to try and drive half the distance we had originally planned. But within 10 minutes we had to stop at a garage as there was a problem with nia's bike.
2hours later we left we a fixed key, a fixed seat for nia, and for me anew foot pedal and a new front tyre, which i think i had probably been driving on for most of the previous day.
By midday Nia could only drive for about half an hour before she had to stop becuase she felt so ill so we weren't getting very far, but there aren't many other options other than carrying on when you are in the middle of nowhere.
We finally made it to the next town, where nia drunkgallons of water and then fell asleep for the next 4 hours whilst i tried to get her medicine from the pharmacy by acting out what was wrong with her! Think i might have looked completely ridiculous but the lady understood me which was the main thing.
There is one main cave that everyone wants to see when they do the loop (and was basically the reason we had decided to embark on this stupid adventure) but nia was looking a funny green colour and I really didn't think it wise to drive another 60km out of our way to see it so the next morning really early (we knew we would need plenty of breaks) we decided to head home.
We had been travelling for about 1 hour when we were stopped completely by an massive electrical storm that we could see coming towards us. Luckily in true Laos style a lovely little old lady let us shelter in her home whilst it passed. She just sat on the floor in her duvet and smiled at us for the whole time whilst the rain kept going and going.
After this there weren't an more really dramas, as the road becomes good again when you hit the main highway so we managed to get home before sundown even with plenty of breaks as Nia was still seeing double.
I have never been so relieved to see a town ever as when we arrived back in Thakhek, we were both practically in tears.
So after what felt like a lifetime but was actually only 3 days we gave our bikes back and had some well deserved food before planning how the hell we were going to get out of Thakhek asap and NEVER come back.
I'd like to say it had been a successful 3 days but we only saw 1 cave, we missed all the nature swimming pools, didn't see the biggest and best cave and although we both now know we can definately ride motorbikes i don't think i ever, ever, ever, ever,ever want to ride one again!!!!!
Next stop Vientiene the most laid back capital in Asia.............