Coffee, tempels and looking for a way out

After all the jumping on the rocks off the waterfalls in Tadlo it’s time to say goodbye. We start to cycle a loop at the Bolaven Plateau. The plateau lies at an altitude of 1000 meters so we begin with a climb.

The ascents to the plateau are going slowly, sometimes we don’t realise we are going uphill. It’s a nice part to ride with all the typical Lao houses on poles along the road. We see these kind of houses everywhere in the country and it makes the villages very beautiful. As soon as we leave the lowlands we see the bushes which the plateau is famous for: coffee! We like a cup of coffee very much and it’s nice to see how it grows. We see all the bushes full of red and green beans.

In front of every house in this area we see the beans lying to dry and when we pass a factory we are invited to have a look. After the beans are picked they have to dry in the sun. As soon as all the moist is gone from the beans the skin is shaken off in a machine and the beans look green. These beans are sold and roasted by the coffee companies themselves so they are ready for sale. In the middle of the Bolaven Plateau there is a small town where the coffee is being sold. Paksong is called the coffee capital of Laos. The market of this little town is large, but coffee seems to be the only product we can’t find here. We ask around for coffee and we are told that they sell the beans immediately to big exporters nowadays. Fortunately they still know how to make a good cup of coffee on the market and we enjoy the good taste in this special capital.

From Paksong we have a luxurious 50 km ride downhill to Pakse. We don’t have to do anything and we enjoy the scenery which goes by. When we are halfway we take a small road which leads to the highest waterfall of Laos. At the Tat Fane Resort we drink a cup of coffee with a view at the water falling down 120 meters deep. It’s a magic place and it’s great watching the big amount of water falling down so deeply. We decide not to stay at the resort and we move on in the direction of the Mekong.

In Pakse we meet a cycle collegue on a Santos bike. Koen from Belgium is on the road for quit some time and he is still very enthusiastic. We find out we had contact before by email, which makes the encounter even more special. Koen goes a different way, but who knows our ways will cross again soon in Thailand.

We are on our way to Champassak which lies close to the ruins of an old Khmer temple. The ruins date from the same period as Ankor Wat in Cambodia and we have read the two places used to be connected with a road. To reach Champassak we have to cross the Mekong River by a very small ferry. The Mekong changed a lot since the time we crossed it for the first time in Northern Laos. In the North it was a small river with a lot of rapids, here it is a wide and calm river. Our ferry is being made of two small rowing boats put together with some wood. The bicycles fit perfectly and we go smoothly to the other side of the Mekong. In Champassak we find a place at the waterfront where we see the fishermen pass by.

We cycle to Wat Phu, the Khmer temple complex. A small road wanders trough the scenery and some beautiful small villages. One of these villages used to be part of the complex, but it doesn’t show anything anymore. We are early to avoid the crowd and the heat. With a low standing sun in our backs we have a look at the beautiful style dated from 700 after Christ. All the stones seem to fit in each other and the statues look real. The complex is partly situated on a hill which gives a marvelous view on the Mekong and the environment besides it. Back at our guest house we meet another cyclist. Hervé from France is three years on the road. He started in France and cycled across the desserts of Northern China. Hervé lives his dream and it’s great to have a chat about the route.

Our last stop in Laos is Khong Island which lies in the middle of the Mekong. We cross the river again and spend two nights on the island. The Kong Island is one of the bigger islands in the Mekong. This area is called the ‘4000 islands’ what points to the amount of islands in this part of the river and it is 14 km wide here.

After almost 2000 kilometers of cycling in Laos we start our last piece of this beautiful country. We are told the road ends in a dirt road, so we are not surprised to see the tarmac finished below our tires. The dirt road seems fine and wide and we suspect to reach the border soon. After 4 kilometers we still don’t see any signs of a border crossing and the dirt road is now a small path of sand surrounded by bushes. Marlous starts to grumble that this can’t be right, I scratch behind my ears and with no one around to help us we paddle a bit further.

The path isn’t getting any better and so is our mood. We turn around to another path I have noticed before. I decide to have a look by foot first to see if I can see something. This path is even smaller then the other one so this one can’t be it. We start cycling back again in the hope we missed another intersection. The moment we are almost back at the tarmac again there appear three motorbikes who transport tourists to Cambodia. They explain us the way and we follow their tracks in the sand. As soon as we are at the intersection where we have been before there is a big branch laying across the road pointing in the right direction. We follow the small path I walked on before. I thought it couldn’t be the road to the border but apparently it is, because after a while we reach a small wooden shed. This is the border office where we receive a stamp in our passports. We are ready to go to Cambodia.

* Tadlo – Paksong: 67km
* Paksong – Pakse: 56km
* Pakse – Champassak: 39km
* Champassak – Khong Island: 107km
* Khong Island – border Cambodia: 54km
Laos total: 1966 km



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