Life in Laos continues. We rang in the new year in Vientiane, the Lao capitol, where we spent a few days admiring the French influence (below, the Lao Arc de Triumphe) and preparing to head south.
But wait! Our buddies from Vang Vieng find a new rock climbing haven in the small town of Tha Khaek, where a German couple has spent the last couple of years bolting over 100 routes and now runs a climbers lodge right at the base of the mountain. Could we be convinced to join? Yes, yes we could. So new year’s day, we wake up early and hung over and, 3 hours later, find ourselves sitting in a tuk-tuk on the side of the highway. Weren’t we headed to the bus station? Well yes, but the tuk-tuk had gotten himself lost on the way to pick up his passengers so actually, No, he doesnt have the time to drop us off at the actual bus station: the bus will pick you up on the shoulder of this precarious three lane thoroughfare instead, he says nonchalantly. And sure enough, the bus finally comes, pulls over for us, and we take the last remaining seats. Laos! Not very timely, these Lao people, but certainly honest. We arrive in Tha Khaek after dark and pool together 8 travellers plus bags to pile into another tuk-tuk to get out to the climbers lodge. But wait, we pull over on the side of the road and our driver phones an English-speaking friend.
“You can’t go there, it’s closed. It burned down.” Yeah right, we say, thinking it’s a scam, we still want to go – we just confirmed with them yesterday.
But alas. Twenty minutes later, we pull up to the Green Climbers Home, and it’s still smoldering. Shit. The main building, dorms and gear room included, we learn later, is completely gone -the victim of New Year’s fireworks. Even some of the nearby rock faces had cracked in the heat. Luckily, nobody was injured at all – the fire started at midnight and because it was new year’s many people were drunk, but nobody was asleep.
The lodge (photos taken later, in daylight)
We tuk-tuk back into town and spend a day guessing that we’ll just head south, but then discover that life goes on, some gear was saved, and climbers with their own gear are out climbing again. Whoo! We are told to knock on room 4 at a certain guesthouse and by early afternoon we have rented a rope and a motorbike and are feasting our eyes on some of the coolest rock we’ve ever seen.
We spend the next few days playing amongst the caves and stalagtites on some AWESOME 5s and 6s and having a great time.
C leading “Rambo Girl”
J “Dancing with Butterflies”
Our steed – J driving, me on the back clutching all the gear in my lap.
It’s a good life.
Love to all, and best wishes for 2013!
C and J