Thursday, September 6, 2012

Trek Side Trip (written by volunteer Gretel)

Volunteers have amazing experiences on weekends as well as during the teaching week. Six of us went on a weekend trek north east of Luang Prabang. The truck dropped us beside the Nam Pa and we headed up a steep track into the mountains. After an hour of puffing and sweating we headed off on a cow path through the jungle. A couple of hours later, we arrived in the first Hmong village. It was a real eye opener as the area is extremely poor and there was no water source in the village as well as no road, no electricity. The kids were very shy and stared at us constantly – they certainly don’t have many outsiders visiting. We visited the school. The building was extremely crude with missing boards to let in light, few benches, let alone desks and chairs. The blackboard was very rough and there were none of the bright pictures that as a westerner you expect in a primary school. We met the teacher and gave him some exercise books and pens we had brought for the kids. It made us realise what a great opportunity our students in Luang Prabang have.After a beautiful walk through mountain rice fields with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains we got to the Khmu village where we spent the night. The village was quite large and there were piglets, chooks, ducks and dogs everywhere. I stayed in a building with woven bamboo walls, a dirt floor and a platform that we slept on. Others slept in the Chief’s house. After a delicious dinner it was off to bed early and we slept to the sounds of animals in the roof and pigs grunting outside. We were woken at about 4am when the roosters started crowing after which all the other animals started making noises.The walk out was stunning, down a creek, past wet mountain rice fields, through teak plantations and jungle. Lots of creek crossings and an amazing array of butterflies, spiders and a few leeches. To get back to the truck we were ferried across the fast flowing Nam Suong by long boat. An unforgettable experience.