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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Limestone Caves of Central Laos

Yeasterday we explored a few of the cave systems in the Mountains near town (Vang Vieng). To reach the first cave he rode our rented motorbike in the general direction that we had been told by the locals.  After about a half and hour of trecherous gravel roads that had been washed out by the heavy rains we ran out of road. From here we had to go by foot. Where we left our motor bike we met a family whose eight year old son offered to guide us through the cave (never for free of course, but it really helps having someone who knows the cave and area.)  We had to treck for about 2 hours along a dried up riverbed through the rainforest. On either side of us great mountains of limestone disappeared into the clouds. The sounds of tropical birds and insects echoed off the cliffs toward us as we trekked on. By the time we reached the cave we were soaked in sweat from the afternoon heat. App. 40 degrees celcius, a noraml dry season temperature in southeast Asia.  The start of the cave was still very light while we hiked through a few chambers with open ceilings. Then we came to a hole which led to pure darkness. The boy instructed us to enter and we did so slowly with our weak flash lights illuminating the cave ahead. We only had to go a few feet before we were in total darkness. The boy followed in after us and led the way without even a flashlight. At times he was so far ahead we lost him and his english was limited. We crawled through a few tight spots on our stomachs and alot of it on our hands and knees. We were underground for about 1 hour before we surfaced again at a hole about ten feet from where we had entered. It was a total blast. We left a tip for our young guide and continued on in search of more caves.

About 10 Km down the road we saw a sign which pointed down a small dirt road. All it said was rainbow cave, there was no indication of how far, not that I trust the judgement of distances on hand made signs in asia. We hiked through the forest and eventually came to the edge of rice paddies which stretched out too the base of the mountains a few kilometers away.  Another small sign pointed just to our right where another mountain bordered the rice paddies. We walked a short distance along the paddies untill we reached the cave entrance. This cave was a water cave which was about 30 feet in length and we dont know how deep... kinda scary. After swimming in the cave we climbed a 30 foot bamboo ladder up the limstone cliff  into another cave which at one point came out of the side of the mountain and we had an amazing view of the paddies below. We continued to explore the cave untill it ended and than turned back. We were accopanied by a couple other people we had met on the way. A german named Thomas and an Israeli named Myan.
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