The Nine Hour Tour

  There are basically two ways to get to our next destination, Muang Ngoi. The first is to take a 4 hour mini bus ride through the curvy mountain roads and then hop on a boat upriver 1 hour. The other option is to take a boat the entire distance. We wanted to enjoy the ride so we took the boat. Tickets cannot be purchased in advance, so you just show up the morning of and if there are enough people (not sure what enough is), then the boat goes. We had talked to some other travelers so we knew there were at least 4 that were going for sure and Rebecca was going to make up her mind that morning (she did join us and we glad for her company). There was quite a bit of confusion as passengers were shuffled on and off the boat, but generally more were getting on than off and the boat was becoming pretty full. At one point the boat drivers started off loading our bags on to a second boat and wanted the passengers on the second boat to cram on our boat. It was an interesting process as the language barrier prevented any kind of understanding of what the boat driver was doing. Thankfully enough people protested squeezing all the people on one boat and we stayed on two boats with our bags still on the other vessel. After an hour of sitting docked we finally were off only to stop 10 minutes later for fuel (which we were glad for) and then 10 minutes later for propellers (also a good idea) and after about an hour, for whatever reason we stopped and they motioned for three people to get in the other boat which we gladly did as that’s where our bags were.

By 10:30 we were heading upstream and taking in the river life, seeing naked children bathing/playing in the river, people fishing for their dinner, women washing clothes, and beautiful mountains. The next nine hours were relaxing and slow with moments of excitement as the engine would come to halt every 20 minutes or so. We were preparing ourselves for a swim more than once as the boat stalled right after a set of small rapids and we started to drift sideways back into them. This seemed like business as usual for the driver so we went with it. One positive outcome to having engine problems was getting to dock at a small village/beach and play foot badminton with the kids (this is similar to playing hacky sack) until they all stripped off their clothes and went for a swim. John thought about joining in but decided this might cause some sort of international rift.

We pulled into our stopover for the night at 5:30pm with sore butts from the hard seats and quickly found a place to sleep and eat, awaiting our one hour boat ride the next morning which would land us in our final destination, Muang Ngoi.

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