Luang Prabang (part 4): Fateful Waterfall

Tiger Trail Travel in Luang Prabang offered a Hidden Waterfalls hike which sounded very cool, and we booked it for the day following the big parade. This was supposed to be a set of waterfalls that only Tiger Trail knew about. Dress for getting drenched, was the main instruction.

Temple before the fallWe were at the rendezvous early, so we visited a temple complex across the street to kill a bit of time. There is always a temple to visit in LP.

There were only 3 or 4 other people signed up for this day’s hike, plus the guide and maybe an assistant. We were driven up to the trailhead somewhere in the hills, and we started up, walking mostly in the river itself. The water was milky and foaming, full of dissolved limestone which coated the rocks, making them surprisingly grippy. But we couldn’t see how deep the water was as we stepped. We should have been issued walking sticks, just so we could probe our footfall before committing to a step blindly, but it was jolly and adventurous all the same.

About 20 minutes in, Bill made a misstep and tore something inside his thigh, and he felt something go “pop”. We immediately pulled him out of the river and I administered homeopathic Arnica within 2 minutes of the injury. The injury was so severe there was no question of him continuing. The guide and one of the hikers helped us back down to the trailhead.

The guide called the owner of the hill resort where our hike was to end up, and she picked us up and took us back to Luang Prabang town. She took us to the Lao massage clinic she herself goes to, and Bill got worked on for 2 hours with herbal massage. Meanwhile, I went back to our hotel, got into dry clothes and had some lunch at a French bistro kind of place on the way back to the clinic.

Massage waiting area
Massage waiting area

I waited in the antechamber, which I came to know well over the next several days. I mentioned to the owner of the massage place that we probably ought to have a cane, and she immediately got on her cellphone, called the pharmacy and a metal cane was delivered by motorbike within 10 minutes, for less than $10. Impressive!

I ran through various scenarios and courses of action. After LP, we were thinking of maybe going elsewhere in Laos, and we also had gotten Vietnam visas in case we wanted to zip over for a citybreak in Hanoi. We had reservations for later in the trip for beach time on Koh Tarutao at the National Marine Park in the far south of Thailand. Any of that was now looking unlikely, possibly to be replaced with airlifting Bill to Seattle.

A bit of google revealed that “pop” to be an indicator of level 3 hamstring injury. Nothing for it but rest & ice and wait it out. Since Luang Prabang was a perfectly pleasant place in which to wait & see, we decided to just hunker down for awhile till further action became clear. No need to run off in a panic to the USA to be impoverished by the healthcare system.

Reading on the balcony at Villa Ban Lakkham
Reading on the balcony at Villa Ban Lakkham

The Apsara Hotel could not accommodate us after our reservation ran out, so we moved up the street to the Villa Ban Lakkham. We had a lovely room with a bigger private balcony. The patient basically hung out for most of the time, reading a tome of Thai history and watching a Terry-Thomas retrospective on our tablet (thank you, Youtube and good wifi.) Bill has very little concept of rest, so it really took a severe injury to get him to actually REST. While he rested, I went out and wandered the town and photographed:

  • Buddha atop the stairs
    Buddha atop the stairs

That Ray Charles Thang Goin' On
That Ray Charles thang goin’ on

The back of his thigh began to show spectacular black & blue bruising at the top, that in short order covered the entire back of his thigh. However, the pain was only bad in a certain position in the trajectory of a stride, so he could actually walk, carefully, slowly. For style, he switched to a more arty walking stick we’d bought at an antique shop.

On one of our walks, we ran into a couple who had been in our waterfall hike group. They told us about a cooking class they had taken which they said was terrific. Further on, we ran into the hiker who had helped us back to the trailhead, an American named Bruce and his Norwegian wife Karin. Turns out they had also been staying out at the elephant camp when we were there, and later we spotted them in our pictures of the place. Later that day we ran into them yet again, and we decided the Universe wanted us to have dinner together, because clearly our trajectories were bound and determined to get us together.

Bruce and Karin
Bruce and Karin

Over a dinner of Lao hot pot and beer, it turned out that Karin and I had former residence in Pakistan and the ability to speak Urdu in common, which certainly neither of us had expected of the other, coming across each other in a small town in Laos. We also had husbands who refused to participate in travel planning, while we enjoyed scouring the internet to choose hotels, experiences and transport options. (Although we enjoy it, sometimes we would like the burden of these choices to be shared. The boys just step up to the TSA agent and expect everything to fall into place.)

So even though we didn’t make it to the hidden waterfall, and our trip plans got changed entirely, we got the opportunity to explore Luang Prabang longer and Bill actually relaxed. We did make a couple of new friends, and I signed up for that cooking class, which was immense fun…