Several years ago, I visited Laos. While on my trip, I decided to take a kayak from Vang Vieng to Vientiane on the Nam Lik River. It’s a popular route that involves being driven to the river, then kayaking for a few hours until arriving at a spot where a truck waits to pick us up. This time, however, things didn’t work according to plan.
It all started at the drop-off point.
As soon as we arrived, our truck got stuck in the sand. We pushed. We pulled. We dug. But, no matter how hard any of us tried, we weren’t able to get it out.
After thirty minutes passed, we were assured that things would be taken care of soon. They were going to get someone from a local village to help. And, if that didn’t work, they’d send another truck in its place. So we got into our kayaks and went on our way.
It wasn’t until we got to the end of the route that we were told that no one was coming to meet us. They hadn’t been able to get our truck out. There wasn’t another truck to send.
“We’ll have to walk to the main road and hitch a ride with a bus,” our guide told us. There wasn’t anything else we could do.
At first, none of us were happy about that. We had paid for a service that we felt we had been cheated on. Plus, the weather was boiling. To make matters worse, all I had to wear was a wet swim suit and that would chafe the hell out of my inner thighs on a couple of kilometres walk.
But, in the end, I did my best to plug along.
Actually, once we got started, myself and another person from the group took the opportunity to get a really good view of the countryside. That came with meeting several of the locals, including children. Some would wave to us from afar. Others would walk along beside us.
All in all, it was a lot of fun.
However, after an hour of walking, one of the men from our group came back to talk to us.
“What’s taking you two so long?” he asked. “We’re going to miss the bus! We have to get to the road!”
We hadn’t noticed that we had been taking a long time to walk, but now that he mentioned it we supposed that he was right. The thing was that we didn’t care. We were having a great time with the locals. We loved the view.
“I’ll take your bag for you if it’s too heavy,” the man said as a way to shame me into moving.
In probably not the most mature of responses, I told him what he could do with himself.
He grunted and ran off to catch up with the others.
I can’t actually remember the name of the woman I was walking with, but from now on I’m going to call her Gloria. She was from Germany and was travelling on her own, like me. She had her camera out and was taking pictures of everything. A huge smile crossed her face.
“Should we hurry?” I asked.
“No! They can wait.”
I figured she was right.
We walked for another forty minutes before we started to wonder how much longer we had to go. We were both thirsty and my legs were burning. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone that we could ask. Our group was far ahead of us, probably pissed that we weren’t more worried about catching the bus. The locals didn’t speak English.
It was then that a tractor came up behind us.
For some reason, I stuck out my thumb and jokingly pretended that we wanted to hitch a ride. The farmer didn’t take it that way, however, and he pulled over. He pointed at the back of the tractor, large stalks of bamboo that we were supposed to sit on.
The farmer smiled and asked us if were were ready. Or, at least, that’s what I’m assuming he asked. I gave him the thumbs up and we went on our way.
Now, as wonderful as it was to be given a ride on a tractor, what happened next was that much better. Every house we passed had people come out to see us. They waved from their windows and porches. Some showed us their babies or small children. A few followed behind. It honestly felt like we were being paraded through the area.
And we loved it!
We waved back. We shouted “hello”. When we passed the other people in our group, we told them, “You guys had better hurry!” They weren’t amused.
Then we got to the end of the road.
We got off the tractor and thanked the farmer for the ride. He waved his hand as though it wasn’t a problem and turned around to head back the way we had come. Obviously, he had taken us further than he had meant to go.
It was another thirty minutes before our group arrived and they still didn’t look happy about what had happened. No matter. Gloria and I had enough happiness for all of us.
It was such a great experience. And it just goes to show that great things can come from the most unexpected (and unwanted) of situations.