In the light rain I cycle up to the border to Laos. Just before the border the rain stops and when I cross it the sun shines. Just as pleasant is the border crossing itself. The visa I can get here on the spot, everybody is extremely friendly, there are only few people and it is very quiet.
Most surprised I am about the road. It seems to be brand new, clean and best of all: there is hardly any traffic. But after only a few kilometers I leave that road already. I want to follow the Ho Chi Minh trail here in the east. Finally back on a dirt road, I was looking forward to that. In contrast to Vietnam that is only a few km away, here it is very dry and dusty. After half a day I get to a crossing where I am not sure anymore where to go. People show me the way but they also doubt, that I can pass there by bicycle.
I go on anyway. But only a few kilometers further the narrow road becomes a trail through the jungle. The locals tell me there is no bridge over the big river I soon have to cross. I realize that I probably won't make it along this route and so I decide to turn around. Now I may follow the good road anyway.
Sabai Diiiii (hello) I hear from both sides of the road constantly. But not loud and almost agressive like in Vietnam lately, but rather quiet and rather shy. The Lao are wonderfully peaceful and relaxed. It has to be the temperature here. Out of the hammock they wave and greet, no energy wasting. People live in simple elevated bamboo huts. Below in the shade the women often weave this beautiful fabric that their sarongs are made of.
I heard already that there are quite some cyclists here in Laos and soon I meet Esther from Holland with whom I cycle for the next days.
As soon as possible I go back to the east. Here the roads consist of this dusty, red earth. After a day on such a road I am red from head to toe. Here on the Bolaven Plateau there are many coffee, rubber and banana plantages. But in between there is also lots of forrest and some nice waterfalls. They are not only nice to look at, much better is still the bath in the river as the temperatures regularly rise to unpleasant heights in the afternoon.
On the way back from Attapeu the roads becomes again a dirt trail made of dusty red earth. It gets smaller and smaller until a big river blocks the way. What a cool route. Straight through the jungle. About 5 big rivers I have to cross, many small and many mud holes. The trail is mostly covered by bamboo trees and I constantly hear countless bird and other voices out of the jungle.
After the ride through the forrest I come to a little village where there is a little guesthouse. What a peaceful place! The guesthouse owner has two elefants and in the evening I go for a ride with one of it. It is just fantastic to sit on this great animal with its thick but still soft skin. As the sun goes down we walk along the rice paddies, through wetland and to a hill with a great view. Finally we take a bath with the elefant in the river. I should try and stay on its back while it goes under water. I feel like a surfer as I try to hold my balance while the elefant is taking a bath. Three times that works quite well, but the forth time a can't keep the balance anymore and fall next to the elefant into the muddy water. It's just big fun.
Next morning I wake up with the quiet, rhythmic chanting of the monks in the temple close by, then the animals come alive and finally it gets bright. I could wake up every day like that...
I am a bit afraid of going to Don Det. The Mekong is getting very wide here and has created hundreds of islands. As I heard it as become quite a backpacker-hub. Not really what I am looking for. But some rest days in the hammock will be good. I do find a nice and quiet place and finally manage to do nothing for a whole day!