We pass through stretches of teak, then huge thickets of great bamboo. There is a mighty uproar of cicadas, making it harder to keep a cool head and a steady step. Sheer black walls of mountains to the left ahead.
Early afternoon we arrive at a Khmu village and stop to rest. It is in the mountains, and at the foot of more mountains.
The Khmu are animist, they pass stories down by the fireside at night, and they grow rice and vegetables in the surrounding forests. At first the children hang back:
But they are not shy and once I hit my head on a beam, fall over something, and then take my boots off to inspect my feet, they gather in to laugh and horse around.
Adults gather round for a chat. I suspect they also are expecting me to break something.
From where I sit I can see in the kitchen, a mountain kitchen with a dirt floor and not much in the way of utensils:
As I look at them, I realise how beautiful they are, and how poor.
This girl’s face stays with me as I walk: you can see beauty and malnourishment, intelligence and illness. She is a child, she has little, and she asks for nothing:
We have to leave, otherwise we will be spending the night in the open. We pass by mountain rice and pumpkin growing beside the track. But then it becomes quite dense, and from here it is all uphill.
I am tired, my boots drag, and the girl sits heavy in my heart.
(events 6 Oct 2013)