DAY 236, KM 8599, Vientianne, Laos
Friday 4 April 2008 40 °C
That's it. We're finished, we're kaput. There is nothing left in us to keep us going. For the past few days we have been searching out fancy hotels with airconditioning and passing the days horizontally.
April is the hottest month of the year in Laos. And that means over 40 degrees Celcius in the shade, plus 100% humidty. No problem if you just drink enough water, right? Wrong! At about 10am in the morning the temperatures have hit white people melting point. We have been drinking 5 plus liters each during our biking hours, and we still hardly ever pee! (I will stop there with the bodily details) Every once in a while one of us will turn completely red, start trembling, and almost faint.
That's when we find a tree and lay in the dirt until we feel like we can go on. That is about every thirty minutes. When we finish our day, we are exhausted and the exhaustion doesn't seem to go away, even if we rest for a day. We aren't just talking about being uncomfortable anymore...we're talking about hitting the wall, and our bodies shutting down completely. Wim even tried to shave his head for some natural air conditioning:
Apart from our bodies shutting down every 30 minutes, we have been quite disappointed with Laos. You see, Camobodia was challenging, but everyone we met along the way raved about Laos and it somehow kept us going. "The people in Laos are wonderful!" After hearing this from a ton of people, we had visions of shiny, happy people welcoming us into their lovely country with open arms. What a needed change after Cambodia! As we approached the border though, we soon realized that the guards were not going be be the huggable Laosians we had been expecting. No, they were big, mad and wanted bride money. They told us, "no money, no stamp." Apparently though, Wim would rather die than give money to corrupt authorities. The stand-off was long and really uncomfortable, but in the end they bended and gave us our stamp, because, well, that is their job after all.
Unfortunately, this kind of set the tone for our southern Laos journey. As in Cambodia, restaurants are far and few between, people run away from us, and most people are too afraid to try to communicate. (This has resulted in a lack of biking fuel, and a skinnier Wim and Amy) However, the village people of Laos add a new dimension to our daily food challenge. When we go to a restaurant, we always ask the price first. After agreeing on a price, which is always a special tourist price, we sit down to eat. It turns out though, in Laos, that a full bowl of soup is a lot cheaper than an empty bowl of soup. When we go to pay, the price often triples, and sometimes has been known to jump tenfold! At one point the restaurant woman ended up asking 3 dollars for an agreed upon 1 dollar bowl of chicken broth... after a hand-gesture discussion, I figured it might have been a "misunderstanding" and gave the $3 to the women. At that point she yelled, "Thankyou!" aggressively in my face and started laughing like a wild hyena. So it really makes us wonder, where did all those shiny, happy people go?!
After many of these incidences during our first week in Laos, we really started to feel drained. Often, during our time in small villages we feel like outsiders that are to be exploited, instead of respected as fellow human beings.
The Last Straw
Amy began the week with diarrhea and naseau. Quickly, but surely, Wim was not far behind. Struggling to keep pushing on, we gathered our mental strength and made horribly slow trips to the next cities. As we were approaching the last city, we met a cow who was also having stomach problems. Just as Wim was passing around the backside of the cow, a great explosion occured on his leg. Needless to say... the cow felt relieved. And we felt totally defeated. We have now officially collapsed, we are completely physically and emotionally finished!
Little did we know...
Little did we know that in just a few days things would take a turn for the worse. We would both find oursevles in the hospital, struggling to stay conscience...