Caves and Candles

It’s been a fantastic couple of days here – yesterday I took a bike to a cave, first you have to cross the river on a canoe thing with a longtail engine, it’s only about a foot wide so you have to balance the bike precariously across it to make the passage. The other way came a canoe with a dead pig in it, which was so heavy that is was nearly sinking, the driver having to bail out continuously as the water poured in.. On the other side you cycle for a few miles on these dirt track excuses for roads, at some places your cycling through 18 inches or so of water for 50 yard stretches. When you finally get there it’s well worth it though, you scramble up a cliff to the cave where inside is a huge lying Buddha for some strange reason. After I fought my way back through the cave with my trusty torch you enter an enormous cavern, so large that the torch cannot illuminate the other side or barely even the roof, so very hard to say how big exactly.

Just outside the cave (called Tham Phu Kham) is a stream with a tree leaning out across it. You climb the tree and leap from about 20 feet into the water, which a few of us were doing. It’s hard to make the jump of course, but it’s helped by the biting ants all over the launching branch which tend not to make you hang around for too long. A few of us did this, including some of the 500,000 Israelis that seem to be in this country. Some of us then went back to town and hired some tractor inner tubes and a tuk-tuk to take us up river a few miles. The driver deserts you and you jump in with your tube (and beer of course) and float back down to town. After making a few refreshment and jumping stops, we got back in darkness and couldn’t even find how to get out of the water, we all lost each other and ended up landing in different places. After half an hour or so we all ended up back at the rental place in one piece.

Then we foolishly went out until 5:30 which was a shame as I had to be up at 7:30 for today’s kayaking tour. However after the first few capsizes I was vaguely with it. We stopped at another cave, they put you in innertubes and you float into the opening which is about 6 inches higher than the water and 2 feet wide, float inside for some time and then abandon the tubes and crawl, swim and slide further into the system. It’s completely dark of course, but that’s perfectly OK as they gave us each a candle. Have you ever tried swimming with a lighted candle and kept it alight??? We got out of there after what felt like hours, tried to work out if we’d still got today’s batch of Israelis, then made a couple more stops for yet more jumping from absurdly high platforms before dropping us conveniently beside my guest house.

Leaving tomorrow morning for Phonsavan – the guidebook says they should have 24-hour electricity there by now, and maybe even an internet cafe!

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