Sunday, 4 November 2012

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 7: Darkness at the break of noon

I was almost unmovable as Maddison shouted at me to get up. I was still surfing through one-hundred mile an hour dreams and it felt as if I hadn’t slept at all. I slowly washed the unreality down the plug hole and plugged the hole in my head with my middle finger, telling my brain to go fuck itself as I got dressed and went for breakfast.

We were met by Paul who arrived just before 9am to join us for our excursion, then driven to a small village about 10km away, trekking through it in the early morning heat as the roosters crowed and chickens clucked around freely. We reached a small temple with a shrine to Lord Buddha. There were lots of different numbered pieces of paper on a table and a cup full of numbered sticks. I asked our guide what they were for just as he was about to walk off, and he told me that it was for fortune telling. I asked if I could try and she said yes, turning back towards the table. He handed me the cup which I shook from side to side until a stick rose and fell to the floor. The number 18 was on the stick, and the guy translated it via Paul, who spoke great English. The main gist of my fortune was to make more effort to contact my parents, be charitable, and pay attention to my future kids. Check, check and double check. My old man left my mother when I was a few months old and I’ve always been adamant that when I have kids of my own, I will be ready and willing to give them my all. It’s what every child deserves. I am going to be a great Dad, I promise my unborn children that.

We made our way through to a pool of cool water in a stream next to an underwater cave. I dived straight in and did a few minutes of swimming around to wake me up. We had to wait about an hour, floating around in tubes and comparing travel notes with others until it was our turn to go inside. There were a series of ropes to pull your tubes against the current, deeper into the pitch black depths of the cave, which was only lit by the head torches which would flicker across the walls as we all looked around like excited children. Paul was at the back, and Ben remarked that the one at the back always dies. A few seconds later, I somehow ended up there. I wasn’t fussed though, death cannot scare he who has died a thousand times, in fact, I welcome each rebirth that allows me to rise like a phoenix from the flames of every demise, reincarnated as myself, but stronger. I stopped pulling the rope, turned off my torch, and lay floating in the blackness alone for a few minutes. It was so calming and peaceful that I could’ve stayed for hours, however the guide obviously didn’t fancy letting me do that and called out to see if I was ok. I pulled myself along to a walking point, a 5ft crevice within the cave that I had to slowly walk my 6ft 3” frame through. It wasn’t easy, there was 2ft of water and I almost immediately lost my sandal, which floated off in the quick current. Modern day Jesus problems. I turfed my other one so I could walk easier and made it across, jumping back in my tube and floating to the far end of the cave to find the others. When there, we all turned off our torches and sat silently for a while. I begrudged the others when they turned their lights back on, I wanted to stay there in the darkness forever. We made our way back out the way we came, admiring all the jagged rocks which hung from the ceiling like babies in the Alien movies, amazed at how years and years of slowly dripping water can create such formations.

As we exited the cave, a polystyrene takeaway container with freshly barbequed chicken and vegetable skewers on a bed of rice was handed to us, along with a small baguette, for lunch. We ate by the lake, then walked back through the scenic village, admiring the misty mountains in the distance, and how the clouds gathered around them. It was the perfect scene, it had everything for the makings of a great postcard. I pressed CTRL+PrintScreen on my iHead and stored it in my memory bank for future dark days.

We were driven further up the Mekong to a starting point 9km away from our guest house, then the kayaks were taken down from the roof and placed by the river. We gathered for a quick lesson in how to paddle and were told that the most experienced should sit at the back. Having done it once, when I was thirteen on a school trip, I went to sit at the back only to be put in my place by Maddie, who is a qualified P.E teacher. This stoned writer went in the bitch seat with little argument. I lucked out having her as my team mate as she actually gave worthwhile instructions and tips, using my strength as her engine whilst she steered and corrected us with relative ease. At one point I even had a spliff break, laid back toking with my oar down, letting her do all the work as I admired the beautiful views and scenery on either side of us, which we’d witnessed from a different perspective the day before. After about 2 hours paddling we reached the same end point, had a little swim, then walked back to the hostel. I hung in a hammock on the balcony listening to Dylan’s ‘Blonde on Blonde’ for the first time in too long. “Everybody must get stoned” he told me, I obliged. It was now around 4.30pm and the skies turned grey. I heard a rumble in the distance, and somebody told me a rain storm was on its way. I planned to go and dance in it, but it never materialised, so I did the cha cha slide under the shower, then went out for a spicy seafood salad before returning to the courtyard for a few beers with the gang. I managed to persuade them to join me for one last drink before I left, so Ben, Eran, Ieke and I went and hit The Moonlight Bar for ‘one bucket’. We attempted to play pool around the fuck-face piss-heads that were drunkenly hanging off and sitting on the table. I damn near lost my voice shouting “EXCUSE ME MATE!” at the back of their heads, but I won the game so it was worth the twenty minutes of aggravation, I suppose. Eran and I stayed for another Beer Lao and chatted to some girls from Barnet, which is pretty close to my old abode, and an Irish guy that was doing his country’s’ stereotype no favours by slurring his words and spilling his drink all over the shop. We needed food to mop up our mess so I bought a chicken, bacon and cheese pancake which tasted better than any fast food I’d ever had, and was half the price, BOOM! We were followed by hungry dogs, so I ended up having to share. I completed my ultra-clean nightly routine, then laid in bed slightly less twisted than the previous evening. I even managed to write a little love poem to my sweetheart, which read:

“I wish you were here so I could have you near,
I wanna hold your hand, my dear.
Not just now, but forever and more,
I adore the missing piece of my jigsaw.
We go together like love and peace,
every day spent apart sees our bond increase.
We thought that impossible, but it’s proving true,
you belong to me and I belong to you.”

and then I drifted off to sleep with my mind on my lady and my lady on my mind.

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