Out exploring Vang Vieng – Another blue skied afternoon in Vang Vieng brought us to Tham Phu Kham cave, which was an impossibly tall, straight up 200 meter climb. The cave was little to brag about, but the lagoon next door was a miniature Eden. We took turns swinging out into the cool waters and jumping from the trees. It was an idyllic afternoon spent lazing about the ferns.
Our transportation to the lagoon was the most interesting of contraptions. Dr. Seuss would have had a wonderful time describing this vehicle. We were trying to think of a Suess-like name and came up with ‘wanagoose’ and ‘swalahan.’ Anyway, imagine a wheelbarrow-trailor that is pulled by half of a riding lawn mower. I was afraid we were going to tip over for most of the trip (especially in the water), but it saved us a 10 km walk in the mid-afternoon heat.
Vang Vieng Kayaking – Our final free afternoon was spent kayaking down the same river that we tubed down. It was fabulous! Liz and I are ready to take our place on the women’s Olympic team after our performance on the river. We managed the rapids quite well, except for one narrow passage where we couldn’t steer quickly enough to avoid being rushed towards some very thick and prickly bushes. Liz managed to duck just in time, but I had to grab onto one of the branches to avoid being punctured in the lungs and tore out a sizable chunk of skin from my hand. My med-kit (that takes up more room than my clothing allotment) will finally come in handy.
Our guide was very informative, helpful, and fun. He seemed to like starting water fights with the girls. We pulled over for lunch and then started our trek up into the mountains in the direction of some caves. My very expensive trekking sandals that Sportsmart promised would be suitable hiking shoes took that perfect opportunity to break and I was left walking barefoot for the rest of the day. I had to pick my way through the banana trees, sugar cane, and other weeds that rose over our heads. Years of running around barefoot on the farm prepared me well, but Nike will be hearing from me a.s.a.p.
Sleeping Elephant Cave – We visited the Sleeping Elephant Cave and it was unbelievable! The cave stretched for miles in either direction and had some of the most interesting rock formations I’ve ever seen. Our bamboo torches bounced eerie shadows off of the cave walls. I felt just like Indiana Jones, except for the whole scary men chasing you with blowguns, hairy spiders, and lost treasure experience….but, eh – it was close enough! Various portions of the cave were partially filled with water that we had to wade through and we even shed our clothes to go swimming in a few of the ‘ponds.’ I don’t want to think about what type of fish I was swimming with, but I’m sure it was comparable to that icky looking thing from Star Wars that swam with all of the trash. (remember the scene with Princess Leia?) We emerged muddy, sweaty, and with a few spiders in our hair – and it was awesome!