Friday, September 5, 2008

A close one! (Laos)

Arrived In Luang Prabang last night about 4 hours late after an eventful ride through northern Laos. Leaving around nine in the morning we started out of luang Nam Tha heading south towards Luang Prabang. The ride is supposedly about 7 hours long through the mountains. With our previous experience we figured it would take 10 hours. Within about two hours we ran out of concrete and slowed to a crawl along the rough dirt track that was the National highway. At every turn we encountered trenches a few feet deep hidden by pools of brown water.

The road seemed to be built along the old path that connects every village in northern laos. Because of this the road seems to go in every direction. North for an hour, south for a few more, ever slowly moving East. The road ran up and down mountains only a few feet from the edge of the cliff which would drop into a 4 or 5 hundred foot ravine.

After about 4 hours we came upon an accident between a bus and a pickup truck. They blocked the road quite well but small vehicles seemed to b squeezing past. even through a few other buses and trucks had stopped to wait our driver seemed confident that he could squeeze through. After a long and difficult attempt that left us on an awkward angle he gave up and started to back away.

Unfortunatly a little too close to the cliff. Most of us are still on the bus at this time and I am gettting a little nervous. I look out my window on the right side and all I can see is trees and air. Its a very long way to the bottom to the ravine and we are inching closer in that direction. luckliy the back wheel gets stuck and the driver gives up. Now the bus is partly over the edge and leaning toward it and I happily get off to wait for them to figure things out. We wait around for about an hour until the laos police show up and do a bit of confusing spray painting on the ground around the accident sight. About every five minutes a pickup or van would drive through, some tried to sqeeze between the two wrecked vehicles and others attempted the gap between the bus and the side of the mounatin. Unfortunatly that gap was pretty muddy and the vehicles kept getting stuck trying to get by. at some points there were vehicles stuck all over the place and all the people were trying to help push them out. Pretty entertaining to watch. Eventually are bus is towed out by another bus and we are on our way. If your wondering where the tow truck is you have probably forgotten we are about 4 hours from a city which likely doesnt even have a tow service anyways.

At many other points on the journey we had to struggle through some really deep mud but we didn't get stuck again. At one point we passed a transport that had gotten stuck about 3 feet deep in the mud. A group of locals were attempting to free it but it didnt look like it was going to well.

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