I must confess this crossing freaked me out! Grandpa’s wooden longtail boat looked almost as old as him, and watching the other boat slowly work its way across the Mekong from the opposite bank we could see how swift the current was. Unloaded these boats only sit a few inches above the water.
The two boatmen looked at the bikes and talked amongst themselves for a while before lashing the two boats together and motioning for us to put my bike on. They didn’t seem to care if I left it standing up, but in the interest of lowering the center of gravity I laid mine down, at which point the bike started pissing fuel as I’d lost the filler cap vent the night before during our dash around Pak Lay with my gear balanced on top of my tank… So, I had to sit there with my finger on the fuel cap for the entire crossing…
I thought we’d make three trips, one for each bike, but with mine loaded they then motioned to Oddvar to bring his bike aboard too
© Brian Ennion, All Rights Reserved.
Man o man I’m thinking to myself, if a boat gets swamped or tips I am going to sink straight to the bottom of the Mekong wearing all my gear… I wonder to myself if I can hold my breath long enough to get rid of my boots. Probably I might manage to float / tread water for a while if I don’t have those weighing me down…
And we’re off! Another pic from Brian, this one with his new camera:
© Brian Ennion, All Rights Reserved.
We start off slow and it’s going well, then gramps decides to whack open his throttle and we get a bit sideways and water starts pouring into the boat “Here we go” I’m thinking to myself and I’m looking at grandpa wondering if he realizes we’re taking on water and he won’t get paid if he kills us…
He backs off on the throttle and starts bailing water out of the boat with his free hand. A couple minutes later, we reach the opposite shore and I breathe a BIG sigh of relief!!! Getting the bikes off the boats wasn’t easy- the landing was quite steep, but we managed it without dropping either bike into the river! A bunch of kids came to watch the crazy farang
Then I had to get back in the boat to go get Brian. Much better with no bikes and I even had a paddle!
Mekong river crossing selfie
With only one bike to load it goes a lot easier and this time across we don’t take on any water. Approaching the east bank:
Hallelujah! We survived!
Discover that at the top of the trail to the ferry landing there is a big new dirt road that takes us all the way to the main road at Ban Khi. I love these steel frame wooden bridges-
It was very hot. We stopped in Ban Khi for some drinks, then rode north on towards the small village of Ban Na Di. Here’s our track for this day, with the .gpx file attached below:
Some nice water crossing along the way-
Dodgy bridge (better to just ride through the water I think!)
Here comes Brian!
This is the trail that we were going to try to find that would take us over the mountains to Muang Fuang:
Big respect to Brian for plotting this out. Here’s another angle:
If you play on Google earth it LOOKS like there’s a trail that goes all the way through. Of course, the problem with Google earth, as we were to discover, is that the images are often out of date, sometimes by years, so conditions on the ground may not match what you see on Google Earth.
Rex had apparently tried to ride through here from the other side once, but encountered gates and conditions that made him turn around. Fuark, the experienced enduro rider who rents dirt bikes out of Vientiane told Brian it couldn’t be done and that he’d had to rescue a guy who went in there by himself and got hopelessly stuck, abandoned his bike and hiked out!
Wow, sounds like FUN! Brian and Oddvar were also keen to give it a shot! We approached this with a “can do” attitude and all agreed regardless of success or failure it would be good fun to try and get through.
It was getting late so we stocked up on food and as much beer as we could carry in Ban Na Di, then hit the beginning of the trail. Right away it’s water crossing after water crossing and in many places the creek is the trail- brilliant stuff! No pics as we were running out of daylight and needed to find a place to camp. We spotted a farmer’s shack just off the river and strung up our hammocks there, bathed in the river, built a fire and cooked up some dinner- Mama Noodles and canned sardines washed down with Beer Lao! 5-star it was not, but we all went to bed with full stomachs!
Good stuff, eh Brian?
Oddvar and Brian eating sardines by the fire in the Lao jungle