Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thanks For The Views

Going on a trip like this without a hand-held GPS and up to date Lao map loaded into it is just stupid. So I have only myself to blame.

I had wanted to travel along valleys, and indeed all the information I was able to glean from Google Earth indicated to me that there were valley paths going to exactly where I wanted to get to. I had correlated this information with my store-bought map and with the help of Fabrice Quet I was able to map out a nice route right there in my living room.

Unfortunately, once to actually get your tuchess on the ground, there in the middle of exactly nowhere, there are no signs, no indicators, and the names on the maps turn out to exist either in the imaginations of the map-makers or possibly in Afghanistan. But not here.

The truth is that there are also several languages to contend with. A village may have a Lao name, a H'Mong name, a Khmu name and possibly even a name in an ancient Serbo-Croatian dialect no-one has ever heard of. So the name on the map was possibly invented by someone in Vientiane. Or not. Or ever. Or not at all. Or however. Or somewhere over the rainbow.

The bottom line is that when you are there, on the ground on the bike covered in fine white road dust, that beautiful road leading into the countryside could indeed lead you to the village you think might be there or it may just be a dead-end culminating in a 20 kilometre wild goose chase at 5 km/h.

Or, you could just say to someone, "Where is Luang Prabang, my good man?" and be pointed in the right direction.

The Right Direction does indeed lead you to Luang Prabang, but it also takes you on the newest road, otherwise called The Road That Is Continually Being Built. This road has huge stones, fine white dust and ...

... was built to follow the mountain tops.

So instead of following the ancestral roads that were built to fit feet and animals, i.e., more or less level tracks, you are following feats of modern engineering built to be far above the flood lines for motorised vehicles that never get tired.

So thanks for the views.


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