Friday, 1 April 2011

Tha Kheak

 The town itself is very small and basic with only a few similar places to get food, BBQ or noodle soup was the local food stuff. That's breakfast, lunch and dinner. Well we didn't visit Tha Kheak for the sights but for the loop.

The Loop

The loop is a "road loop" of approx 500km+ it starts and finishes in Tha Kheak and goes past various caves on-route. We planned on doing it in 3-4 days so with our hand drawn map we set off on our Kalao 100cc super scooter. We started out early and by 8:30 we had made it to our first cave Buddha cave. Guess what? it's full of Buddhas. We continued on our bike visiting various small caves throughout the morning and eventually made it to a large deep cave that had some amazing rock formations. After lunch we decided to get to the next main town and start thinking about somewhere to sleep that night. The bike was starting to get a bit empty and luckily the next town definitely had a petrol station. Well it had two but no petrol! We had to continue. We made it to the end of the road and were now driving on loose dirt and gravel. To say the road was bad would be a joke and we where now running on fumes and decided to stop at the next small village. We found an old man and asked him if there was any petrol anywhere. He said no and just as we were about to continue I noticed a big barrel full of the stuff attached to a hand pump. Ahhhh petrol, yes he now says? Well we filled up and now had to decided, do we continue? or head back to find somewhere to sleep that night? Well we had driven at least 30km down the road that we were warned about. The guy who rented the bike to us and gave us the map had said it would take between 4-5 hours to complete the 78km "road" which we now found ourselves nearly half way down. Well it was 1:30pm and the sun goes down at 5ish so that gave us about 3.5 hours to do 50km. Easy, I mean how bad can a road get? We where already on a pretty poor excuse for a road but then with about 40km to go it got really really bad. We were now driving on boulders and pot holes. This continued on and on for what seemed like an endless road and it was now starting to get too close to sundown. We hadn't seen any sort of place to stay for at least 5 hours and were now starting to worry a bit. The road slowly got a bit better and then we found a lonely guest house by the side of the road, the room was basic and the only place to eat was across the road were we enjoyed some noodle soup before going to sleep.

Day 2

We had decided that we would now head directly for the main attraction, Kong Lo caves. We set of early and no further than 2km down the road we found a small town called Luksao, with loads of shops and hotels! We stopped and had some really good fried rice and omelet breakfast. Mmmmhh! And then continued on the bike for a few hours driving through paddy fields and limestone mountains. The road was now back to black tarmac with only the odd pothole and we completed the 120km journey by early afternoon. When we arrived at the cave area we found a lovely guest house and checked in. It was still early and we decided to take the trip through the cave that day.

Kong Lo cave

The trip through Kong Lo on board a small long tail boat was something we had both been looking forwards to. The 7.5 km trip through the cave is mainly in darkness with only a small headlamp to illuminate the surroundings. It feels like a giant ghost train tunnel that never ends with a river running through it. It's amazing how the boat driver can know which way to steer because it is that dark. About half way through the winding cave which reaches nearly 100m high in places, I mean it's massive, we came to a landing spot where we got out and had a look around some of the amazing formations. This area was well lit and we walked for about 5 mins, taking some photo's and then got back in the boat. We got back into the boat and continued, the river was quite low and at some points we had to get out out and walk with the boat upstream. After a few more km we came to the end of the cave and had a little trip up river where we stopped for a drink. Then we got back in the boat and returned through the cave back to where we had started from. It may sound quite good but it was amazing, you'll have to visit sometime? We chilled for the rest of the night and enjoyed a lovely dinner back at our accommodation.

Day 3

Our last day would be simple all the bad roads were now done, the 190km journey starts with a steady climb on winding roads. We made it to the top were there was an amazing view of the surrounding landscape and took some photo's that really don't do it any Justice. The remainder of the journey was just straight roads back to Tha Kheak. We made it back early afternoon and checked back into our guest house. We had made it and unexpectedly no punchers!! "touch wood". Well the next day we were off again, this time to Pakse which we would visit to break the journey south.

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