It was our last day in the treehouse in the jungle. We had a challenging day ahead of us of more ziplining, hiking and rock climbing (using via ferrata) up to the top of the waterfall and then hiking out of the jungle through the countryside back to Pakse.
We woke up again with the sunrise. Now that we were empowered to zipline on our own, we did not need to wait for our guides to escort us out of the treehouse. So we spent an hour zipping back and forth from our treehouse, until we got bored from the repetition. Maurice tried to zipline in the opposite direction and would end up sliding to the middle of the cable, from where he had to use his arms to pull himself back to where he started.
We packed our bags and ziplined out of the treehouse for the last time. Then walked back to basecamp where we were surprised to see that by 8 AM we were the first guests to arrive. Lee, our head guide told us we could take it easy and come to breakfast by 9:30 AM so we could depart on our day’s activities by 10 AM. The other group of five who started their condensed 2 day / 1 night tour yesterday had to start hiking today by 8:30 AM. We were hungry and excited to get our big breakfasts early. This morning, Lee explained, we had cheese with our baguettes!
We relaxed a bit after breakfast, then we hiked in a different direction from base camp than we were used to. We hiked uphill then across another funny bridge. This one was a suspended tightrope with ropes for guardrails. Looks impressive but was easier to walk on this one than yesterday’s funny bridge that was a horizontal rope ladder of sorts. LINKLINKLINK
Here I tried to balance like a circus performer.
Maurice was in the front of the pack. As usual, I shook the bridge to throw him off balance. The guides behind me laughed and joined in.
We continued to hike up the steep rock-lined path until we reached a clearing to see the waterfall from another angle.
Here is yet another photo of the same waterfall we keep featuring in our posts.
We continued to hike for what seemed like way too long. Our guides were very nice as they offered to take our backpacks from us as we hiked this particularly steep stretch. Then we reached our favorite zipline, though not the longest, it takes you across the waterfall. Maurice ziplined across.
Then I did.
From the other side of the zipline now, we hiked up the steep rock-lined path for twenty minutes again in order to zipline across the waterfall one more time. This time our head guide Lee went before us. Another guide decided we should zip across in tandem, and so we did. Lee was very surprised to see both of our bodies pummeling fast towards him.
We hiked some more (see a trend here), until we reached our next challenge: the via ferrata.
Neither of us had rock climbed before, this was a way for inexperienced rock climbers to climb up the bare face of a cliff wall using only zipline equipment. Via ferrata is Italian for “iron road.” The iron road in question is a steel bar that ascends alongside the footholds nailed into the cliff. We attach our two safety cables, one at a time, to the steel bar which is nailed into the cliff every 1-2 meters. The worse that can happen if you slip is that you will fall 2 meters down, in which case, you can still get scratched up pretty bad, but no big problems.
At the base of this cliff wall, two women waited there with backpacks and limited safety gear (no helmets, brakes or zipline pulleys). They were two of the cooks in the Jungle Hotel’s kitchen. These ladies came from the village as well and would accompany us in climbing up the via ferrata and hike back to the village.
Maurice is here psyching himself up to climb.
The climb started off quite difficult, I had to use my (limited) upper body strength to pull myself onto each foothold. Some parts of the cliff were even sloped the wrong way i.e. my head was uncomfortable dangling away from my feet. We eventually got to the easier part of the climb and took some pictures.
Maurice and one of our guides ahead of us.
We were starting to get the hang of it.
We even paused to appreciate the beautiful view of the valley. We could see the roofs of basecamp way below us.
Look ma, no hands!
We finally arrived at the top of the large photogenic waterfall. Lush green hills in this rainforest microclimate were so different from the dusty dry plants covering Pakse and surrounding southern Laos countryside.
The water, which looks so serene here, flows down into the tall waterfall below us.
We removed our gear and took a long break here to explore on our own and then have lunch.
Maurice brought along his lifestraw, which we both bought and packed on our trip as an emergency source of fresh drinking water. We finally had the chance to use it in the rolling stream here. It was actually very difficult to use as you had to suck really hard to get clean water to flow through the many levels of filters into your mouth.
We had lunch with our guides one last time. We had vegetable fried rice wrapped into banana leaves among other dishes.
I wanted to take a photo of the beautiful valley below us but unfortunately I lost my footing and slipped. My hands were still greasy from lunch and I could not grip on to the rock no matter how hard I tried.
Then we continued hiking. This time we did not ascend much, it was relatively flat through the rest of the jungle and then some descents until we walked back on the endless dusty path to the village. We were sweaty, hot and exhausted. We left the shaded, cool weather of the highland rainforest back into regular 100+ degrees Fahrenheit lowland southern Laos.
We bought some cold sodas at the village and took a well deserved break as we waited for the 5 people taking the condensed tour to finish. They arrived 1.5 hours later. We all said goodbye to our local village guides and then loaded onto Green Discovery’s bus to drive us 1.5 hours back to Pakse.
We only stayed in Pakse’s Alisa Guesthouse for one night, the next morning we took a minivan to Si Phan Don (aka 4000 Islands), but we had to film the obligatory room walkthrough video.
We each had a nice shower with real plumbing. The water pressure was not as good as what we had the previous two days, of course!
We had dinner at Xuan Mai restaurant. The spring rolls were the best we’ve had on the trip although my noodle soup was very disappointing. Maurice liked his dish though. Unfortunately, we had very poor service, this is despite of the fact that they gave me a Laotian menu (Maurice got an English menu). Being an Asian American in Asia, I receive a lot of strange looks from locals, especially since I’m traveling with a Caucasian man.
On the way back to our hotel from the restaurant, I found a great place to rent motorbikes. Not expensive and these people will treat you right.