4th November – Road to Pakxan

5 Nov

Woke up in a thick mist by the lake. We could see that the sun would come through fairly quickly and so got ready to visit the jars site before it got too busy and warm.

 

 

 

It cost 10000 kip to enter the site (5000 if you are local). It’s a good idea to have two prices so that the locals are not excluded.

The first thing that you see as you arrive is the signs explaining the effort that was involved in clearing the site of UXO’s. This area was one of the worst hit areas in the Vietnam war. All the villages in this area were completely wiped out by carpet bombing. The whole area was deforested and lots of the hills remain bare and barren to this day. Our guidebook suggests that the land was poisoned in some way. Another thing to look up on our return!

 

 

 

The jars are thought to be over 2000 years old and their purpose is not completely understood. It is thought most likely that they were used for burial purposes. It is a shame that the area was bombed so much, but being on the top of a hill with a system of trenches running around the hill, it had to be a target.

 

 

 

 

We decided to try one on the minor roads to Pakxan rather than go to Vientiane as we did not feel like going back into a busy city again yet. A driver warned us off one route and said ‘maybe’ you can get through on the other option. We set off south and at first the road was really good. In fact it was brand new tarmac! There were no crash barriers in the high mountain sections, but driving slowly felt fine. The road then changed to dirt although still very wide as though it was waiting for bitumen. As we went further the road showed more signs of mudslides and washout. Still not really a problem in dry weather.

 

 

The road continued to switch between bitumen and dirt, sometimes rough where it had been washed away and then refilled. There were a few small rivers to cross as the bridges were under construction all the way through. Nothing deep until we got to a point where a bridge was being built over the main river. By this time we had come too far to turn back and so we hoped we could cross!

We watched some water buffalo walk across and at no point was it over their backs, but it was close in a couple of places. More worrying was the fact that nobody else was driving across. In fact there was no traffic. Some locals told us it was no problem and pointed out a route which would take us via some shallow spots.

 

 

The nearside was fine, but there were two sections that looked deeper and faster.

 

 

We then went up onto the last shallow before the faster section. We were a bit nervous as we had not forgotten the time that we got stuck in Mongolia. The car went into the current and it felt that we were travelling sideways. There was a bit of a hole on the riverbed and the front of the car dipped until the bonnet was covered. The engine also slowed and the fanbelt screamed as the fan tried to turn under water.

 

 

 

After one moment of doubt we popped up out of the dip and surged up onto the far bank.

 

 

We decided at that point that we not do any more river crossing on this trip … if possible!

Another 10 km down the road we got to another river crossing! This time I waded through to check the depth, and found that if I did a big loop downstream, we could cross with no problem.

We were hot and bothered and needed a drink and so stopped at one of the many roadside stalls. The lady was really nice and insisted that we take photos and show them. Hoots of laughter followed!

 

 

 

We continued along the road and found a nice place to camp by the river.

 

 

Tomorrow we just had 63 km to do to get to Pakxan

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