Wednesday, January 27, 2010

They Call Me Grace

On our first day in Luang Prabang, Nick and I rented two mountain bikes and headed out for a 32 Km bike ride to the waterfall at Tat Kuang Si. I have to say I wasn’t too sure about a long, hilly bike ride, but Nick really wanted to go, so of course I went along.

The ride was certainly challenging at points, but it was an absolutely beautiful ride through the Lao countryside. We were surrounded by mountains and rice paddies and practically had the road to ourselves – except for some huge bulls grazing along the side of the road (I was too afraid of them to take a picture.)

2 hours of bike riding later, and we arrived at the falls, which were gorgeous. Because of the color of the limestone cliffs in the area, the water was this beautiful turquoise color, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before (except maybe in a Gatorade bottle).

We entered the park from the bottom of the falls and took our time walking up towards the top. Every twenty feet or so, we passed clusters of gracefully of cascading waterfalls and deep blue-green pools.

The first place we stopped was this fall / swimming hole

Nick wasn’t interested in getting in – the water was freezing and he’s generally adverse to anything that would require him to expose his skin to the sun – but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go swimming in such a beautiful setting.

As soon as I left the safety of the rock ledges, I couldn’t touch the bottom any more, but I’m a bit of a chicken, so I didn’t venture under water to find out just how deep the pools were. Aside from the initial shock, my swim was quite refreshing and after 5 minutes, I was keen to check out the other swimming holes.

At the next pool, we found an even bigger and deeper pool with a rope swing!

I was so excited! So as soon as the swing was clear, I climbed up the tree to take my turn. Unfortunately, things didn’t go too well for me up there.

I think it’s been about 12 years since I used a rope swing, and I forgot how complicated these contraptions can be. It’s certainly not like riding a bike. Needless to say, my rope-swing technique was a bit unpolished. My first HUGE mistake was that instead of just grabbing a hold of the rope, I wrapped it around my leg, so I wouldn’t fall off (as if that wasn’t the point…)

SO after grabbing the rope and securing it around my leg, instead of pulling the rope taut and jumping off the tree, I kind of just stepped off the tree, the way someone would step off a curb, which caused me to smack right back into the tree before heading out over the water. A bit painful, but trust me, that was the least of my worries.

Once I cleared the tree, I was free flying over a beautiful turquoise pool, and at just the right moment I let go and got ready for the plunge…. And it all would have been perfect, IF I hadn’t wrapped that rope between my legs.

Although my hands let go of the rope, my legs did not. Instead, the rope made its way all the way up to my crotch where I felt every single knot pass between my legs one-by-one until I smacked the water flat on my back.

I now have a rope burn mark on the inside of my thigh and, thanks to the 2-hour bike ride and the rope-swing incident, a very sore crotch. But in the end, it was my pride that suffered the biggest injury. A rather large crowd was gathered to watch and I was absolutely mortified by my most un-graceful descent into the water.

I have to admit it took me a while to gain my composure. After I did we were able to enjoy walking through the rest of the park to the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen.

And then up to the top…

Steps to the top

Walking along the top of the water fall

The water looks so calm just before it plunges over the edge…

A view from the top.

At the end of the day, my bruised ego was healing (although the rope burns might take a bit longer). Thankfully, after my whole ordeal, Nick was willing to skip the bike-ride home and we threw our bikes on the top of a tuk-tuk and headed home for dinner.

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