mushrooms on a fallen tree
Tree mushrooms that we saw on our walk, shortly after noon.

Saturday, November 12:
a lot of hiking before lunch

«Breakfast, time for tooth-brushing», says my journal, which then continues: «and the start of a long hike that turned out to be much more demanding than any of us expected, and somewhat more adventure-filled as well. But before the trail proper, we walked through a couple of villages, poor and happy, it would seem, and the tiny children cuted it up for us shamelessly.»

super-cute children, not looking at the camera
Shameless! (There’s an even cuter, larger version, too.)
woven bamboo wall

Woven Bamboo (big image, small).

walking through what looks like a dining hall

Building of unknown pur­pose (big image, small).

another adorable kid

Totally unafraid of strang­ers (big image, small).

house with antenna dish

All the modern conveniences (big image, small).

As you can read in Mark’s page, the first village was of Khmer people, by far the ma­jor­i­ty ethnic group of Cam­bo­di­a but about 30% of the pop­u­la­tion of Laos; the sec­ond village was of Hmong people, who make up about 10% of this coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion. They’re much more fam­il­i­ar to us in the States, es­pec­i­al­ly if you live in Pro­vi­dence or the Twin Cities.

very old man and very young girl-child

His great-great-granddaughter. I think Mark’s version of this picture
is better. You can get an enlargement of this one, too.

But we left the villages and started our hike. Let me quote my journal here: «There had been rain the pre­vi­ous day, and the trail was mud­dy through­out. Up and up and up, with tricky foot­ing, lots more ups and downs, and then the down and down and down was slippery, with loads of rocks threatening ankle-turn or leg-break.

«In addition to Hung and Toby, there were two young local men, one in sandals, the other (I think) in flip-flops. One of these was water-porter to the group, and both were ready to lend a strong and balancing hand to anyone in need. And I was frequently thus in need.

Lots of pictures from before the leech adventure:
Poinsettia, but as a small tree rather than the way we are familiar with

Yes, it’s Poinsettia (big image, small).

blurry view of harvest

Harvesting rice (bigger version).

blurry view of wide-spaced trees

In a rubber plantation (bigger version).

people in the distance, field mostly cleared

Still harvesting rice (big image, small).

rubber trees

Rubber plantation, notice the diagonal cuts in the bark (big image, small).

tree-grown cliff

The forest is growing out of a sheer cliff (big image, small).

huge boulder

Isolated boulder (big image, small).

tree-grown cliff, close-up

Close-up of the above (big image, small).

shallow pathway, showing some ants

Ant trail (big image, small).

Now that’s lush (big image, small).

Ant hills

Evidence of ants (big image, small).

«About 2/3 of the way through the walk, Sheri discovered a leech on her wrist, and was hor­ri­fied. From then on till the end, people were either seeing the signs of having been sucked at, or picking the things off themselves. Mark and I gave ourselves a cursory search, and saw no problem. We continued confidently to the end, but to relax, Mark took off his shoes and found a 2-inch blot of blood on his sock. We already knew that the beasts’ mouthparts could go through a thick sock, so we were not surprised. In many of the other cases, there had been no sign of the leech, beyond the mischief it had done. But Mark did see the villain causing at least one of the two wounds he got. Blood was still oozing out of the puncture, and M had to hold a piece of tissue with antiseptic on it, for more than a minute.

a Poinsettia forest, so to speak

We walk beneath Christmas decorations (big image, small).

lovely purple flowers

For some reason, I had great difficulty getting a satisfactory picture of these astonishing flowers (big image, small).

a hole in the tree cover permits a view of the sky

A hole in the Laotian jungle (big image, small).

«But then I took off my own shoes, and from the left ankle down, the sock was soaked in blood: far more bleeding than Mark had experienced, and the blood was even soaking the inner sole of my shoe. When I took the sock off, blood was not merely oozing, but flowing in a stream down the heel. I called Toby over; he wiped the wound with alcohol, and similarly to Mark, he gave me tissues and cotton wool with antiseptic to hold against the would till it should be stanched. Mark pointed out that the leech’s an­ti­co­ag­u­lant would have to be bled out of the wound before bleeding would stop. After I had held the tissue to my ankle for at least 5 minutes, the bleeding was still going on. I made do by using the multiply folded elastic of the sock to apply pressure so I could put the shoe back on.»

But some comments on the pictures in the block of twelve to the right:

Poinsettia is native to Mexico, but it obviously grows perfectly well here in Laos. It seems pretty clear that these plants are growing wild. The rubber tree is not native to these parts, either, but Southeast Asia is now the principal supplier of latex to the world. In Brazil, where the trees come from, the plant is subject to various blights, but not here. And another botanical note: the purple flowers shown to the left look to me like typical blossoms of the family Bignoniaceae—if you’re from the East, you know Catalpa and Trumpet Creeper in the family, and if in Southern California, you know Jacaranda and Tabebuia, though these two are introduced from South America.

In the morning, Toby explains some details of
Laotian household construction (23 seconds)

After our adventure with the leeches, the day changed quite a bit, and I’ve set those events into another page.