Ouch. Accidents suck.
So, we had just completed a successful three days and nearly 300km of motorbiking across the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos. For newbie bikers, I was impressed that Seb was able to navigate these sometimes very rough dirt paths with no incident. About half the time, we had nicely paved streets and the other half was divet-filled, fine powder-dust paths, strewn with pointy rocks that looked fatal to our tires. The 110cc engine on what was obviously not meant for dirt-bike conditions motorbike sometimes strained to pull our weight up the sharp inclines, but mostly we were having a very fun and beautiful ride.
However, we were pretty tired, having slept the past few nights in mosquito-filled bungalows with a sleeping mat as hard as a rock. Our change of clothes was now as filthy with red dust as the outfit we were wearing. My sensitive product-accustomed skin was parched, having rationed only sun screen, soap and lip balm as my cosmetics to carry in the day-pack for the past few days. The silt-dust kicked up by our tires or those of passing vehicles had fluffed into our ears, eyes, noses and stuck stubbornly as a brown grit veil to our now sun-red faces. The 3cm margin to change positions on the bike was making our bums numb and sweaty. We were ready for nice long shower and a couple days’ break in a clean place.
We had decided we’d spend the next couple days relaxing in a sleepy Mekong riverside village of Champassak. With this tempting treat hanging in front of us, Seb miraculously powered through the 150km between the magnificent falls and the turn-off to town.
We took a wrong turn somewhere (not surprising when there are so few street signs in our language), and found ourselves trying to pull up a concrete road with a 12% incline (ironically, that one was in English). The combined 130 kilos of us, plus the 20+ of the camera bag and day pack put a strain on the engine which started to whine painfully. Seb tried to downshift into 1st gear, but the huge weight on the back (ahem, must be my ‘impressive thighs’) caused the bike to rear up like a frightened horse and speed wildly out of control on the back tire, trying to buck us off. Somehow, Seb managed to lay it over on it’s side, which fortunately prevented us from tumbling back with the heavy bike on top of us, but our left knees, elbows and hands bore the brunt of the fall onto the pavement and were pretty badly scraped. As with any accident, there was a moment of panic, but it was really a very minor fall and other than our superficial scrapes, and Seb’s aching knee, we were basically ok.
We eventually limped along the final 20km to Champassak and found, what turned out to be, the most rat-role of guesthouses in town. Too tired to search for anything more suitable, and with Seb’s knee becoming more and more painful, we took advantage of the moldy shower and pumped Mekong river water to wash our cuts and dusty faces, and fell exhausted onto the rock-mattress and tried to sleep.
By morning, it was pretty clear that Seb had sprained his knee. When we fell, his left knee must have gotten twisted under the bike with most of the weight on top. Not anything that merits a hospital stay, but he can’t walk without limping and it’s too painful to bend – which means squashing onto a hot mini-bus for 10 hours to our next destination is out of the question, for the next few days at least. Even getting around on motorbike will require me to drive (yikes!) and Seb to sit side-saddle like a lady on the back. Ok for toodling around town, but not practical for long journeys.
So we found a nicer guesthouse with a 180° view of the wide river, comfy hammocks in the garden, Wi-Fi, and a tasty restaurant in the shade. We’ve settled in for the next few days, knowing that this unforeseen break will probably result in an adjustment in our itinerary, but for now we are happy to go with the flow and are thankful to rest and recover in such a beautiful place.