Tracking wildlife in Lao - Day two: From Nakai to Tha Phai Ban

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Jim, Buaseng and Lakhon making their way across the forest.
Feb. 5, 2007* -- The journey begins. This morning we had an early meeting with the Watershed Management and Protection Authority (WMPA, the entity managing the protected area) and then hopped on a canoe for a one-hour journey up the Nam Theun River.

One could not have asked for a better day: beautiful blue sky, cool weather, gorgeous views of the river, and interesting birds crossing our path. Once we reached Kaeng Maeo (translated as “Cat Rapids”), a stop along the Nam Theun, we had some sticky rice --the Lao staple-- and dried buffalo meat for lunch, and started our two-hour walk to avoid the river rapids.

 Once back on another boat at the top of the rapids, we (Arlyne, Tony, Jim and I, plus Lakhon and Buaseng, two colleagues who work at the WMPA and the District Governor’s Office, respectively), went along for another two hours – by now my legs are a bit cramped – until we reached Tha Phai Ban around 5pm. Tha Phai Ban is one of the villages inside the National Protected Area, and the WMPA is working with them, as well as with the rest of the villages, to help them improve their living standards.

We quickly bathed in the river to take advantage of the remaining warmth and sunlight, and settled into Mr. Teuang’s house, the head of the village, where we’d be sleeping.

Jim, Buaseng and Lakhon making their way across the forest.
There were about 25 of us in Mr. Teuang’s pleasant Lao house, with a big area where we all kindled around the fire drinking hot water and the very famous rice whisky, ‘lao lao’ (impossible to escape in a Lao village).

The villagers were very welcoming: the kids staring wide-eyed at us, laughing when I smiled at them, the women helping prepare the food, and the men encouraging us to drink more as we told stories (mainly Arlyne and Jim, my Lao is not that great yet), and waited for the chicken to be killed and cooked. Around 9 pm we got into our sleeping bags and went to bed.

--To be continued

See Day 1: From Vientiane to the Nakai Plateau

(* This diary was originally published in the World Bank's Lao PDR site)

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