Waterfalls, bears and a spider

Written by Stuart Revnell No Gravatar

It’s official – both of us are fit.  The Rough Guide says so.  Today we went to Kuang Xi waterfalls, and instead of opting for the taxi journey, we hired mountain bikes for the 62km round trip cycle, which, according to Rough Guide, “only for the fit”.  So there you go.

We did the journey in about four and a half hours, which, given that we stopped a bit for water, pictures, etc. and that there were a couple of fairly decent climbs involved, is pretty respectable I think.  We’re obviously not as fit as the couple we spoke to the previous day though, who said it took them an hour and a half out there, and an hour back.  Still, they had MUCH better bikes.

It was a lovely ride though the Laos countryside, and we only saw a couple of other people doing the ride – the majority sailed past in tuks, smiling at us in a slightly bemused manner, a mixture of admiration and pity on their faces as they disappeared into the distance.  I know the feeling – only a few weeks ago we were in the back of a jeep on the way to Darjeeling when we trundled past an English chap whom we’d met in Pelling, who was cycling along the Himalayas.  I smiled at him in the same way.

The waterfalls were lovely – unfortunately there were rather too many people there to really let us savour the tropical jungle idyll, but it was certainly a beautiful spot to spend an hour or so.  A highlight for me, though, was the bear rescue centre at the foot of the waterfalls, where a happy community of Laos sun bears lives in a spacious enclosure, complete with ‘bear hammocks’, hidden honey treats in bamboo sticks scattered around the place, and plenty of interesting looking contraptions and structures to amuse themselves with.  The bears have all been rescued from sad existences at the hands of traffickers and poachers working in the illegal wildlife trade, and with help from their keepers, begin to flourish in this safe, stimulating environment.  I don’t know what a happy bear should look like, but the ones here certainly looked it as they lounged in their hammocks, wrestled playfully with each other and foraged for their treats.

The keen-eyed among you will noticed that I’ve used a slightly incongruous shot of a funnel spider alongside a sun bear to illustrate today’s excursion.  I spotted it on the way to the waterfalls, and took about fifteen minutes waiting for it to edge out from the back of its funnel, while I did my best to keep my hands still to get a good shot.  A little blurred, but you get the idea.  Much as all of the creatures of the earth are to be loved equally, I find these things scary as hell, and would rather snuggle up with a sun bear in its hammock than with this abomination.

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