I have never seen rain come down like this in my life. The drops are as hard and heavy as hail, falling to the earth in the proverbial “sheets” or “buckets” or “cats and dogs” . . . whatever you want to call it, it’s raining that hard. The jungle is soaking up the first major water of the rainy season as the lush leaves point towards the sky and the insects hide from the down pour. The river has swollen to twice the size it was when we arrived, and you can see why. In every direction, adhoc streams are forming, bringing down the rich orange mud, a color of soil any good farmer might long for.
The guides are shouting back and forth to one another, laughing, telling jokes, amused at themselves for being barefoot and in mere cotton, while the tourists (that’s us) hunker down beneath their 3-ply goretex jackets and their umbrellas. The five men are at ease here, especially since they know their day of work is just about over, and the classic Laotian afternoon of rest and relaxation awaits them at the bottom of the hill.
We have a few more stretches of the hill to climb, unsure feet finding the perfect landing, avoiding the precarious slip in the slick terrain. Steadily though, we arrive at our destination and the guides jump about with ease and help us to a safe spot to wait for their return. The rain comes down even harder now and I’m wondering how the four gringos (Lindsay and I, and our two friends from the U.K. that we met on this trek) will make it down the hill without our descent turning into a muddy Woodstuck slide to the bottom. Inevitably, we’re going to get wetter than we are now, so I’m glad my father taught me at a young age to always bring an extra pair of socks when going into the wilderness.
I look longingly back-up the hill to see the tail of Mae Buakham swish away the last remaining fly and then disapear into the woods. She too is surely happy to be done with her days work where she can finally eat freely without me sitting on her hairy, regal neck.
Hey, did I forget to mention that I was ten feet off the ground riding Mae Buakham, an elephant?