Listening for the Alien Heartbeat

Laos is mountains.  So I find a guide:  he is dry and cheerless and carries a machete.

My brief to him is simple:
1. We go to the top of a mountain
2. We don’t talk.
He may like me already.

I take the usual stuff: water, food, knife, sleep bag, mosquito net, medical kit, and enough plaster to cover the human body 11 times. Usually that is enough.

We first cross the Nam Oo river. A boatman in a small narrow boat picks us up. The boat sits low in the water and is unstable. I carefully find the best place for my feet and undo my laces just in case.

Laos: crossing the Nam Oo riverWe start on a well-worn track, skirting rice-fields and following a stream. Women covered head to foot work the fields in the hot sun.

Laos: mountains- stream and fieldsThe track becomes overgrown and the guide’s machete comes out.  But it is not much of a machete.  Now the Malagasy, they know about machetes – probably why they are so cheerful.

We follow the stream up a narrow damp valley. I slip in the mud and leeches drop around us. Water drips from my hat as though it is raining, but it turns out to be my own sweat. Raising the tension is the deafening howl of some unearthly insect:

We reach the top of the valley. These are mostly Hmong mountains, and the trail is fringed with head-high mountain rice, corn and the occasional pumpkin:

Laos: hmong woman on mountain trackThen in the distance I see the rising of mountains.

Laos: mountains ahead(events 6 Oct 2013)

12 Responses to “Dry, Cheerless, Armed”

    • alienheartbeat

      thanks. I was a bit disappointed when I realised how few I had actually taken that were in any way useful in showing the place.

    • alienheartbeat

      interesting comment. my sympathies lie with the impressionists, and I usually pick just a few aspects and try to offer an impression of them.

  1. Arik Beiman

    seems like your travels are the perfect projection of my ambitions of travel… this ambition pales even in comparison with your descriptions and pictures (which probably pale in comparison with your actual experience).

    • alienheartbeat

      if only everyone I know was as polite and kind. In fact if even 10% of the people I know were as polite and kind. In fact, if even one or two of my immediate relatives were as polite and kind…

  2. Millie Ho

    I like how you don’t leave out what’s in the foreground (greenery, part of a boat), which gives your photos more perspective. Great work!


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