In response to a photo of some young Lao Sueng women, whose ethnicity I was unable to pin down, I got a comment and then an email from a French fellow who has walked the length and width of Phongsali province, mostly off road.
We both had photos of the same town high on a ridge above the Ou taken from the same spot. LB's photo was taken four years earlier before metal roofs. The trek he describes was done in the fall of 07.
Original in French here, http://voyageforum.com/v.f?post=1495745 you need to cut and paste to go to the post, I think there are is stuff in the link that isn't html. The following is a translation via Google Tranlator, you've been warned.
I'll stick in some photos just to look at.
Breakfast, rice, pumpkin, roasted and salted peanuts, bamboo shoots in soup. The father with a machete cut a piece of goat skin and dried completely stiff. Will it make thongs? No, the cut pieces are placed directly on the embers of the fire, but only the women eat in the long chewing. They drink boiled water in the single container provided for that purpose, a glass jar of earth used by everyone, including children brats. Then remonstrates album of photos of ethnic groups in the region that appeals enormously. Imagine, he reveals, among other things, photographs of a dozen different groups Akha, living in the provinces of Phong Saly and Luang Nam Tha, with which my present village will never have any social relationship and that most villagers d 'here have never seen and have also no chance to meet one day.
My young grandfather home, which is part of those wearing traditional dress, smoking opium, but moderately THERE seems a bit during the day and evening. To operate, I quickly noticed that he isolated himself quietly in his "closet to sleep." It's not often that we take such care of me but perhaps it is for him a daily habit of not showing off especially when taking drugs.
Around 10 o'clock the rain stopped. While women, like almost every day, go in the woods, barefoot and wearing the hood on the back. They relate, panniers loaded on the shoulders supported by a wooden altar matching the shape of the neck and relieved by a strap passing in front like a harness, firewood, bamboo shoots, herbs and wild vegetables. I returned my first visit family, the father-hunter has not returned since leaving last night but they still invited me inside for a new part of honey was still a little hidden purpose of my visit! The children of the house adopted me, they even hesitate to take revenge, gently, bad jokes that I make them.
Survival of the community requires in such a hostile, social ties among villagers of the same hamlet are strong. We meet often in groups, in meetings of three to twenty or more people, men and women and much discussion. Everyone, young or old, play with each child and the youngest babies, alternately with water pipes, will pass from arm to arm. A man passing over a meal is immediately invited to join the table to eat and / or drinking Lao Lao. This afternoon, with neighbors, there were larvae of bamboo found within sections of the plant giant cut with machetes; white creatures of four inches is wrapped, living in a piece of banana leaf green then filed, but for a few seconds, the embers of a fire. And tonight, at home, there will be a rat, a single animal that we will share with twelve people. However, are somewhat more difficult to absorb all the dishes or embellished sauces fermented fish or meat too sunburnt. They are sometimes involved in these seasonings, soups bamboo, soybeans or any dish of meat or fish itself then strong nauseating stench, the smell of carrion.
14 hours, the flood has returned. You run, I stalled to prevent slippage, a house to another in the mud and manure spreading. Women are still wood under the rain. At their departure in the early afternoon I accompanied him on the trail for a few hundred meters to a photo. Seven or eight women in Indian file, basket on his back containing only from the village, a machete and a piece of plastic tarp under which they will seek shelter in case of rain, seven or eight long black coats on the road , much higher caps loaded with necklaces of pearls, chains, cups and silver pendants.
Second day in the village of Ban Phousoung, almost all inhabitants are tame, even the youngest children in the neighborhood who already hesitate to approach me, tease me, follow me closely, often even before me at my wanderings. This afternoon, during these travels to several houses, I looked for a new guide for today but this time tells me that the path to the next village, three hours walk, is without difficulty, without junctions. I go alone and then the next step will be again in a village Ho.
Excellent second night in my family. Good games with children, good contact and good exchange with my young grandfather. Many people pass us. Tonight I took the headlamp and then went to inspect the kitchen, the women's corner. First there is the tiny, grimy buffet wobbly, some built with planks of wood with only one shelf at half height, there are arranged four bowls containing food scraps. Then, against the mud wall, a large shelf of bamboo, raised one meter above the ground and tilted so the weight of objects it supports one guesses she is destined to collapse soon if n 'is not supported in time. It supports the selection of bowls that are used at each meal, two plastic bottles half filled with fermented soybeans and peppers, two or three calabashes intact and some broken pots of bamboo receiving salt and MSG, a small earthen jar containing a background of fat pork and two or three other unidentified but so dirty that we dare not handle. In this same area are stored, backed against the wall, large bamboo tube used to fetch water at source and then store it in homes. Because of the inevitable spills and soil losses of liquid during filling, a layer of mud is continuously maintained on the ground. And above all there was the oven. Ho left the masters in their manufacture, the Akha of the region it is still inspired, but the building still in proportions of size smaller. Elsewhere, in other regions where they live, the Akha do not build kilns but just generally single floor lamps, fireplaces equipped with a metal tripod or simply identified three large stones that bear the bowls and woks. The oven is a parallelepiped of packed earth, pierced on one of its two long sides of one or two households supply firewood. If he has an outbreak, it supports the large cast iron wok, about five feet in diameter and is used both for cooking food for the pigs to humans, to dishes to heat the bath water babies, to cook the rice to steam in one of those big wooden barrels to deposit the alembic distillation of rice to get the Lao Lao. If the oven has two fireplaces, two woks will be smaller. The biggest perceived the oven was in Ho few days ago. The size of a large office minister, he had three homes which support the giant wok. The ovens at their buildings from earth, then, are formatted as molded between sheets of woven bamboo, which can then remain in place on some sides. I came across this detail during my inspection: the gap formed between the land of the oven and one of these bamboo plates that now separates them is filled with hundreds of cockroaches and enormous cockroaches, a giant colony impossible to fight without suitable products. Here, for once it damned me the blues this issue of hygiene.
While in other regions where they live, the Akha do not build the oven, it is also because the floor of their habitats, there most often raised on stilts could anyway not support their heavy weight . For home soil there was no concern because they are willing, of course, not directly on the floors of bamboo or wood that glowed from them, but on rectangles of earth packed in large wooden boxes suspended from the exact level of the floor or slightly above. Rectangles ranging from five feet to two meters wide by two or three meters in length and supported under the house, one or two additional piles placed in this location, or oversize cross beams at that location. Then there are deposited iron tripods or stones that bear the woks cooking.
Just above one of these homes floor, always present the number of one to three in each house Akha, whether or not also an oven, hangs a small platform made of bamboo summary. It used to be smoking or drying various foods and ingredients that can be distinguished and not always discernible because everything is permanently covered by a very thick layer of greasy black soot. There are herbs, some corn, peppers, sometimes a few pieces of meat from an animal that was shot recently in the village, too small wild rodents, snakes, eels and frogs sometimes, and other objects or foods such as totally impossible to determine.
25 Day Ban Phousoung, Disease
This morning feast of pork among neighbors below. I do not know what an honor, but in any event, a pig can not be killed without warning and certainly not without good reason. But it has not engulfed the entire beast, say about fifty grams of meat dishes per person, less for children. Other tracks will most likely began to smoke hanging below the little platforms outbreaks of soil which was discussed just before, others may be distributed among the extended family.
Two men of the house preparing to go to the next village and I propose to accompany them. But the rain, mud, these are good excuses for my family to keep me here, I quite readily admit, for a third night.
Yesterday evening, when most were already asleep, as had happened the previous night outside the dogs are fierce against something, against a wild beast for sure. Terrible barking furiously just to the edge of the forest. Then finally, as yesterday, a dull explosion, implosion almost triggered by the gunpowder and ball, both made up by the hunters themselves and with one of their guns had been patched loaded. Later, a crying child, also outside in the dark. A tear is an understatement, hysteria furious cries shouted. It lasted almost fifteen minutes before an adult does is determined to bridge this "whim". Then they are then, like every night in the mountain villages regularly, the barking of dogs, pigs grunting, fierce fighting between them and other insects of the night and continuing shrill whistles, couples of Birds that interact, in turn, then the long monologues and throbbing of my young grandfather addict.
A child is infested with buttons on back of the knees and a man is eaten by a huge abscess lodged deep in the mouth, her cheek swelling dramatically and causing untold suffering continually, two or three young men, pale, stunted, with dyed greenish gray, addicted to opium pains to combat a disease indefinable but undoubtedly housed in them, a man sporting a huge wound, probably caused by insect bites and extending now a fully infectious under his armpit. Not a single drug is available and there is not enough money to join and pay the sordid pseudo care clinic Utay, the chief town of the district at two days' walk from here. So sure, occasionally we will use some of the village shamans, sorcerers, healers who will make their circus and for the most extreme cases and more desperate, and any final limit only when it is often too late, we then decide to try to accomplish the shift to the plain, before selling it may be a silver jewelry for women in order to pay costs.
26 Day Ban Phousoung, Sacrifice: goats, pigs, hens and chicks
Yesterday, at the neighbors, there was a second feast of pig. Twenty-two men, almost as many women and children were gathered in the little house forty feet square. We all drank a lot. This ended in happy and very advanced state of intoxication for me and for all men but I stayed a few not then going to bed. These meetings also appear alcoholic excuses to "settle scores". Two men have exchanged many words, auctions, postillonnées. Verbal exchanges of several minutes, in turn, sometimes no one listens, even the first speaker. In alternating monologues, the verbal jousting. Then we sing, then fried a second batch of pork rind, then drink, then drink. The wanderings in the muddy village were so funny because then impossible to hide my condition.
The Akha women know sometimes be incredibly cheeky. My "wife Honey" is particularly. I suspect deliberately leaving little bow on the side of his cap and promote the fallout on the forehead of a lock of his hair, then either used as it should normally be the cap, all giving a crisp air and charming scoundrel. Very cheerful and regularly as other Akha women, it is most often a breast revealed, ready to welcome at any time the youngest of her four children. Yesterday she was smearing the left figure by children, with a pinkish mixture whatever, and then I wanted the photograph in this state. I have no excuse honey to go and visit because there officially since yesterday evening, but I will find other reasons or not, because all are happy now to see the approaching host foreign always offering opportunities for lively discussions and laughs funny parts.
Yesterday evening, delivered by our emotions drinks, we watched the DVD and watched very late, up more than 23 hours. It's in my house that is the only screen TV and DVD player in the village. It is connected to the small motor-generator for here there is no stream in which they could install a turbine. The engine-generators are Chinese and all of the same model. They are found throughout the country and more generally across the South-Eastern Asia. Singles gasoline engines equipped with a pulley drive, they are transformed or operate a variety of devices: power generators, small cultivators once rigged two wheels and handlebars, husking rice, etc. . Overview once in Cambodia, the camera was mounted on a small platform that had been adapted for railway rails, allowing the convenient transportation, easy and comfortable for people or goods over short distances before and just after the passage of single daily train line. In short, viewed a DVD of last night was exciting, it changed from those of usual sentimental karaoke Lao or Thai. It was a genuine and high quality performance of traditional Lao lam wong, choreographed on the long semi-improvised songs and dialogues between different actors around a story of intrigue. Divided into several acts and scenes, the art of lam wong is for virtuoso singers, all taking place against a background of music played at khène, the mouth organ, the emblem of the country and offer enchanting and psychedelic multi simultaneous sounds.
I'll stay for the first time, a fourth night in a village because it has rained much last night and the road will be impractical but also because today another neighbor will kill a goat and many insist that I still participate in the festivities. As for the pig yesterday among other neighbors, I do not understand what an honor it will happen. Among the many explanations that we try to give me, there is much talk of "saam tang", "three tang", a word that I do not understand. It is nevertheless certain that such event has been initiated under the encouragement of a shaman, we consulted because, for example among many others, the presence of "spirits" not allowed at within the household and have already caused some serious misfortunes.
Yesterday, during lunch pig was drinking alcohol after eating the rice is rare. It was still the universal course Lao Lao, alcohol distilled from cereals such as rice, but there he was "cut" the blood of goats from a slaughtered animal before. For meals, holiday or everyday, still inevitably occur and that as long as they drink alcohol in a glass or directly into the rice bowl, it does not touch it, rice . We merely by then pecking in dishes of bamboo shoots, soya beans, whole or prepared tofu, squash, tapioca soup with herbs and peppers. But when Rice started when the desired state of intoxication is reached, then we stop consuming alcohol. You can drink alcohol differently rice at every meal, at six o'clock in the morning if necessary. When it occurs in relatively small, it does not matter too much because we move quickly to rice, but meetings of larger drink a lot, long time and when we finally begin the rice, the meal itself, everything is cold, everything has been touched, moved a hundred times, mixed and sullied by all, by everyone, including kids brats. But now with my many acquaintances in the village, I can again eat three meals a day if I wished. It was time for my shorts, bought too tight a few months ago, I fell to my knees now, I must then tie with string.
Attention is serious business, not a goat that was killed neighbor but a goat, four pigs, two chickens and twelve chickens! Sure, it will gobble. A shaman has happened, is one of those seven or eight men in the village still wear the traditional dress of the Akha group. All animals slaughtered along with two full buckets of blood have been filed, prostrate for animals on the stage of sleeping men. A twelve dead chicks were placed on the body's largest pork, a large adult animal. Other offerings in the "minds" are arranged on the ground near the animals on the van and rice on a large green leaf of young wild banana, three bowls of rice, two of which are topped by an egg, six bowls of alcohol, a few small bunches of freshly picked vegetables, two or three pots with straw contained unclear since closed and three sticks of incense burned, planted in a bamboo tube. The shaman is sitting around this table, on a low stool. He recites "prayers", probably some incantations to the spirits of the house, perhaps those of the ancestors of the family, certainly for everybody here, never left the house. The scene lasts thirty minutes after my arrival. My young grandfather, probably guessing that I was interested, came to get me through the village to attend. But I doubt that the meeting lasted for a while because the bottle of alcohol that the shaman has prepared him with a water pipe, is already seriously undermined. Any activity of the household does not cease during the ceremony, on the contrary it is always so much noise and conversations, whereabouts, games for children, etc.. They even encouraged me to take a photo of the "table". When finally stop these incantations, I ask the shaman to see the ceremonial knife that he carries in a holster hanging from his waist. It all off and handed it to me at arm's length, I draw a hand but he abruptly withdrew all, almost frightened. Slim, blunder, I should have guessed, it is beyond question that a key or even lay a finger touches such sacred object, the risk of him losing his "powers" and to desecrate.
I'm leaving walk for two or three hours in the village and then come back to see the progress of slaughter. The preparation of meat is ritually always a spot reserved for men, women involved "only" rice and vegetables, seven or eight of them are at work. They then cut up neighborhoods mince meat of a pig. But surprise, four of them and the goat and two chickens and twelve chickens have not yet been initiated, the shaman who resumed at the same place his songs almost incantatory corpses. It then explains: meanwhile there was fifth pig is killed and one who is currently carving and will be swallowed up by the first, no doubt, a strong assembly.
Several girls went searching in my house, and in one or two others in the neighborhood near a basket full of porcelain bowls, rinsed them and then brought to the scene of gluttony which is preparing here. The larger oven is lit and it heats the contents of the already large wok, which is well contain twenty-five or thirty pounds of mixed vegetables. Without sufficient homes, the kilos of rice will be cooked while in nearby houses and reach, still burning in the large and heavy trunks blackened and hollowed wood used to cook and will be transported far in the hood Women .
Well, by cons with these events there, I missed my shot. That night I promised myself if I saw them still gather from the forest, to accompany the group of women in the neighborhood, or even elsewhere in the village. She would have accepted for sure. Already yesterday I followed, but only a few hundred meters to a photo. And a step like that, not having passed one or even two nights in a village that I will achieve it. For now, four days here, all the villagers in the neighborhood, at least those of the eastern flank of the village, I was perfectly integrated to the point that all kids, even younger now, approach me, touch me, s 'amuse me cause, that many women allow themselves photographed with enchantment that among men is that which succeeds in inviting me to sit inside or near his house under the eaves, that dogs do m'aboient even more after.
Dogs. The other day in Ho village of Ban Pakhasou, a man asks me if I eat. Me very proud to announce this truth, I throw that "yes, I eat and I love it!". But wham, the Ho does not eat dog. The Akha yes. The Akha are among the least pampering their pets, dogs and cats for example. It is true that no one here, whatever their ethnic group, do not caress these beasts, but it must be those of the Akha who receive the most kicks, blows from sticks or stones thrown. Between dogs, between dogs and pigs also at night, there are real adjacent, non-violent battles rows causing grunting and howling furiously. In these cases, it is the larger stones and larger sticks sometimes landing in the mixed.
There is a domestic animal life pervades and charge the village. It is for example very easy to photograph a person in the same field of view the silhouette of one or more chickens, pigs or dogs, a goose or a turkey, a cow, d ' a buffalo or a goat. Goats are not the most numerous and they do not meet all the Akha villages. When there is always a small herd together fifteen to twenty animals and certainly have several owners. This is a race rustic mountain, which look like small goats to sheep but black with a big beard and drooping coat and a pair of horn twisted into a helix.
16 hours, I again left home to dead, the shaman and two other men wizard now does more with finishing their monotonous chants sung semi. With all that, for the feast is being prepared, we do not propose to me now to eat mid-day since the last meal that took place this morning at 7 o'clock, it starts to get hungry.
17 hours, the five remaining animals, goats and four pigs are butchered, but finally I'm surprised they do not always begin to engulf the other pig and perhaps the chickens. Just before a young girl agreed to pose for a picture, standing near the goat slaughtered suspended vertically by the horns. When the chicks, I think they will end quickly and completely cut, braised and then just before being swallowed whole from head to tips of claws, by the men closest related family bloodthirsty.
Like eggs, so I guess that the chicks were among the Akha, a strong symbolic ritual. Last year, at a mortuary feast of several days in a family, here's what I had observed on this subject:
"Then a man has done an amazing rite, never seen before, an unsavory especially at this early hour. Inside the house, a basket containing a brood of very young chicks alive is suspended from a pole. In the indifference, the man has taken one of them he immediately and violently enough to kill him, thrown down, and then a bowl of boiling water and finally on the embers of the fire men. After Quick feathers and cut with a machete on the ground without losing a single piece, it has drawn up a skewer, head of the bird with the size of a marble. Rapid cooking on the hearth of men and the related family of the deceased's family have eaten. It explained that this ritual was repeated every day during the funeral festivities. "
Two full photographic film in three days, it's time I go if I want to keep some for weeks to come. Consider then go away, all that rain, "petty monsoon, this time seems to stop and already the sludge, at least those not shaded, and freeze it again becomes relatively easy to move.
Meanwhile, a goat, five pigs and poultry, it is still a lot. It may take several days this story, I do not even know the subject.
For special occasions I have, I say, a few small gifts "exceptional" to offer my guests small gifts that I make, however sparingly studied. Several coins for women who love to adorn their robes and headdresses, a dozen small pendants worthless and some steel whistles for children. Yesterday my young addict grandfather was entitled to one packet of tobacco brought from France. Here, on any occasion whatsoever, it only reveals and never expresses his emotions but he has still been able to hide this time a sacred light of pride having just received the little package. He now shows to visitors all men pass us. Were compared between smoking odors French and two other types of local production that he smokes daily and there is no controversy possible, the first flavor is much more purpose. I have not yet seen to burn in his water pipe but I guess it has already been done during my absence.
They are finally here not five or six men who wear the traditional Akha loose tunic, jacket and trousers indigo of thick cotton cloth, but perhaps a dozen in total, many of them that I had until 'then not met. 18 hours, one of them has joined the shaman-to-dead. Both as a woman who dares to inspect the comments of deposited on a leaf vegetable, extirpated the bowels of the goat liver.
18 hours 30, pieces of meat are taken away from the neighbors because it is too much material and labor for slaughter for one household. I saw a quarter of the goat and two chickens in my house and there is a pig with my "wife Honey." The herbs, pepper, salt and monosodium glutamate are already prepared and mixed, formed into small piles on pieces of banana leaves which are deposited on each diners they are in proportion to the quantities of meat substantially. Tonight we burn a lot of wood to prepare it all. I'm really looking forward to my meal and promised myself, after serious abuse of yesterday, not to drink tonight Lao Lao, certainly one drink anyway, first served, that totally impossible to refuse. So I can spend at the earliest to get serious, especially as everything is still warm and presentable on the diners, that is to say not too mixed, stained and overturned. But for sure, he'll have to fight pitched battles against these tours Lao Lao rice wine, which will surely befall gusty. It is already there in a few jerry cans earth five and ten liters raised floor in a corner.
Way amusing contrast with heaps of meat around, one of three women in my house is peeling just reported two squirrels in the forest by a man. They are currently spent on coals and will probably have to smoke or immediately cut into pieces or finely chopped bluntly, completely before cooking. Just before I photographed two of the critters raising kids by the neck.
19 hours 30, we do not always eat and for me there since 7 o'clock this morning. Then I'll rest on my pallet, the only place where I think I can isolate myself a little. But no, fifteen minutes pass and a band of twelve young people come keep me company, certainly informed by my grandfather understood that it was certainly not that I fall asleep now. Besides himself set an example, for the first time in four days he smokes opium in public. He just brought his equipment on the unoccupied bed of wood attached to the mine. He agrees, I'll shoot smoking. He does not smoke in a simple bamboo tube pierced but has a true opium pipe with a steel ball home and land attached to two thirds the length of the bamboo pipe. His opium is a very creamy texture that I've ever seen. My grandfather young opium addict, is both an aesthetic, a demanding and an expert.
Day 27 Ban Nang Noy, The egg parting gift
Last night it finally to 20 heures 30 that was carousing. Between fifty and sixty people, excluding children who do not sit down, have met in the very basic mud house and bamboo forty square meters. There are not enough low stools for all while we sit on the pumpkins also covered for the occasion with pieces of banana leaves. There are two diners men, each compressed against its neighbors side, and women with, arranged on each of them, seven different dishes and under each a bowl of rice and a big bottle of rice wine that we will fill both several times. A dish of goat meat, three others including a pig rind fried bamboo shoots chopped fine, tofu, Laap, this minced meat with herbs and peppers that are consumed by dipping the leaves edible vegetable Miscellaneous. As agreed for me tonight no alcohol, one bottom bowl. They have redone several attempts, even after my feast, so I preferred to extract myself at the table to join the small home where four or five old women were collected and also to watch the show at my ease. The orgy was installed, the words and postillonnées auctions. In the middle of the meal, a bottle of raw goat's blood was deposited on each of the two male diners and all, until the empty entirely, drank from the bottle. With so many people and alcohol, no overall control situation, and dogs who slip under the table to play the bones gnawed and spit on the ground rice into bowls for men.
21 hours 30, "my" three women in my household s'extirpent Day alcoholic who does not yet begun. I am now because I know it will become "of anything." Then, back in our home, meeting some flames around the home with two children who were not asleep, it is difficult to communicate because the Akha women of remote villages like this almost exclusively speak their dialect and Just a few words of Lao. But using the gesture and it all ends with a crisis of tearful laughter around the young grandmother who wants to learn to use my camera but, inevitably each new trial, held in hand in an inappropriate manner, back, backward, blocking the lens, etc.. My grandfather young addict who, as everyone saw me leave the festive assembly, joins us to smoke a water pipe.
Check out the early morning, after four nights here. Yesterday evening one or two men volunteered to accompany me on some way, at least until their rice fields this morning but none of them are income occur. I left some money to my hosts for the four days spent among them, but not too much, 4, 5 euros, because I did not take all meals with them. Then say goodbye to everyone, but bloodless, ever. A simple handshake with the man I want a good road and appreciation for women. Then the young grandmother joined her "sleeping closet, and returned with an egg. It's an egg, I know this is not an insignificant gift, which is more responsible for a strong symbolic because the Akha do absolutely never eat eggs that are exclusively for the outbreak and some shamanic rituals. It is only the second time, but several trips spent among them, as Akha offer me an egg at my departure. In short an egg that is fun, but thought it a bit "poisoned" as a gift. What to do? It would logically place on swallowing, swallow it but thought that, in the absence of information on laying date is out of question. My grandmother imagine my embarrassment and my intention to cook. Then go for a boiled egg to go, but if he still smells suspicious, then I will throw it.
I'm surprised they left me go alone because I had trouble on the road. I have, twice, to turn around and have thus "lost" almost two hours. Before the last climb to the village of arrival, I already noticed the hillside opposite, there is a torrent, with nice pools and surrounded by dense vegetation up on its banks. It's finally time for a bath, four days in Ban Phousoung there was out there available that rainwater collected in plastic containers and one to tap into the small muddy water hole. So much that the toilet a few sessions were brief and not full. So today is swimming in a beautiful river in the middle of the forest. This is the first village that surprised me, or vice versa, rather, to say the least because it is literally left speechless, rooted to the spot with amazement to see me there. Then he still accompanied to her village, in the chief's house. Ho is a village, but Ho Chinese of Yunnan recent immigrants from countries neighboring giant. Evening event without significant, especially since I have not stayed up late because I have nausea, I even vomited twice, a food that would not happen, perhaps the meat of the squirrel morning or semi cooked egg donated by my mother on the occasion of my departure.
28 Day Ban Laoxang, Rice Shelling
This morning I feel better and I'll try, if the first village passed through is not too attractive, to stop there a moment before quickly returning, ever northward, toward the second place inhabited. For, with my long stay among the Akha of Ban Phousoung I lagged behind, although I have in any program or defined route.
I do not recognize a word from those given by the villagers of Ban Nang Noy where I just spent the night. Only a few men I speak a little Lao but I do not understand much. They say they talk daily or Lao or Chinese. Here nobody is traditional costume, even women who now permanently adopted the style "Chinese countryside, dress pants and a blue blouse very bad Chinese manufacture. Only older have retained a large black turban wrapped around his head, that of Ho and Lolo.
Check out alone for the next village of Ban Cholikang announced. I'm full of leeches on the road and met no one during the hour and a half of walking required. Only cross ten minutes before arrival, a dealer in hair for his part just left the village. I guess his business and asked me to show her booty are just four kilos of capillary material harvested in twelve days journey on foot through several villages. I wonder if these dealers are a little hair held between them because there is so little material to be collected in each village, only a few strands at a time, they certainly can not afford to board very often, too high frequency. Whence this merchant, that's where I want to go to the extreme north-east towards the border between Laos, Vietnam and China.
The fruits in the domestic season in the mountain villages, are threefold: watermelon, tasteless but juicy grapefruit and one which I do not know the name but would be between pear and the passion fruit. There would be at least one tree in almost every garden village Ho and sometimes also planted at the edge of rice fields near the shelter is ready. Like many other fruits and berries throughout the country, villagers consume couples, while relatively sweet, or rather then hard and green, still tastes sour and bitter and shall then and have a cathartic role. I found property on the mature way, a real bargain for after my meal vomited yesterday and my lack of appetite this morning, they will be beneficial.
Check Ban Cholikang. While we just talk about edible fruits in season in the mountain villages, now here I saw for the first time in the land of orange trees in small orchards comprising three to twelve trees but many of the fruits they bear seem a little too green, though here they do not ripen in the color orange as we know them in Europe.
I am invited to eat in a house. There was the pig's intestine. That, with the rind, they know well and prepare it every time a treat. The house is basic but of a type still new. These are two pieces of land and plants, protecting them from the outside but on only two sides, an extension of bamboo walls forming a third bedroom, a living room in the shape of "L". These coarse bamboo walls are perforated and the outer light then easily filter through. Then the whole is topped by a thatched roof. When the rice granaries, here adjacent to each house and not elsewhere gathered outside the village to protect them from potential home fires, they are also novel. They are made of planks of wood and designed with a square base but round, forming large cylinders topped with conical thatched roofs. Their walls, made of flattened bamboo and woven, are then sealed with mud, earth and crushed straw mixed. They have the look and some traditional African huts. As everywhere, to try to protect their content from rodents but also soil moisture, they are raised on stilts but here are very short, thirty to fifty centimeters in height only.
The pig that has just eaten, it was actually the soft phases, the "forest pig, wild boar, shot only yesterday. There were three dishes, plus soup greasy. A treat, and everything was hot. It's tempting to want to spend the night here because women are in the process of preparing sausage. It then eats the little green oranges, finally good to yellow-orange pulp. And then there's a huge turtle living attached to the door frame and it will end up on the fire that one too and then be sold to a traveling merchant.
Out now at all costs towards the northeast. I was talking to several more villages in this direction, so that the borders should no longer be located very far now, maybe six or eight hours, or slightly more. The next village is one of Ban Laoxang, beautiful little town about fifteen huts. If I am now disappointed by the almost total lack of port costumes by Ho Village and Lolo, I'm not the architecture of their habitats. It has yet changed. They are now of little houses full of earth. There are more than any wall of bamboo poles and roundwood, numbers four and six, are joined on the front facades, they support the frame and thatched roof and compose and forward the necessary thereof, which allows the awning to stand outside while being sheltered from the weather or the sun. And, almost every house, they are still new types of rice stores, the cylindrical, made of bamboo and mud.
Now a sense of deep South China. Some doorways are even adorned with posters of famous traditional New Year greeting Chinese calligraphy on dark red background, the few notes I see that sometimes money is exclusively yuan Chinese babies are dressed in these very funny hats, adorned Two little ears to bear, the Miao of the Chinese province of Guizhou use. Even the food dishes of wild boar for lunch for example, were prepared "in Chinese. Moreover, adults no longer understand my poor vocabulary Lao and they sometimes bring my remarks by a young boy. But even if they assure me do not speak Chinese, their dialect has strong connotations.
A boon for all young children is to be worn on the back of their mother or their sister while they, for the shelling, pounding rice with a pestle to balance: a heavy beam of three meters and placed on a central pivot. At one end is fixed pestle, wooden stick which strikes the paddy rice and husked not yet placed in a drum of wood hollowed out half buried in the earth floor of the house. At the other end of the beam activates the woman by the pressure balance of the foot and help of all the weight of his body, thereby to maintain its balance, it bears against a nearby wall, or clings to a rope suspended high or helps himself to a pillar planted in soil. The baby carried on her back is then swung up and down, all the way from the action during long periods and swinging rhythm sounds Deaf ram crashing into the rice. All seem to love these moments.
Just before dark, between 18 hours and 18 hours 30, several small convoys of two to seven horses are arriving in the village, each flanked by two stupid sacks of rice about sixty pounds each. They brought in small courtyards to unload and loosen. My family seems to be having more of these little horses, eight animals in total.
I did not choose the family's youngest, not one child is present tonight but after the meal, fish and fat buffalo smoked, more men are "me" visit. The house across the street told me being a father of ten children, but have also lost four others before.
Day 29, Ban Pa Kha Tay, Spirit River
The landscape is changing. They are now more mountains, less steep and then offering unobstructed views over more distant. The extreme north-eastern Laos, too far from the capital to be in any of his influences. I can not communicate, I understand almost none of the words spoken by the villagers and must be derived from mixtures of Chinese dialects and other more local. I find myself more on my cards that are just too "outdated". Not one of the villages crossed in recent days is mentioned, then I sailed completely "visual" in trusting only to the compass. This morning, after an hour's walk down to the bottom of a wide valley through which flows a large river, I lost the trail. A peasant met there told me a vague direction, along a tributary stream of the great river. It must first run its course, in bed, until you see a path up again toward the heights, leaving trail that I did not notice. So I have long walked in the river, too far, too far even finally able to resign myself to turn around. And hard as it is constantly crossing pass from one side to another to avoid too large holes and water crossings flooded large rocks difficult to overcome. The current is strong and the rocks slippery. Then, finally, a passage, but passage of beasts, and route taken by livestock. Phew, it joins a path of man, then a hamlet above.
Large Root Flare (backpack bottom left for scale)
The stream is reassembled the latest streams of north-east, then it will be too high, it will be the border, geographical and physical line of the watershed. All those that are paying to reach the South China Sea, via the Nam Ou River and the Mekong river, after crossing from Cambodia and a passage through South Vietnam. On the other side, on the other side of the early string Annamitique which separates Laos from Vietnam, all water will end up in the same sea but by a much shorter route, shortened to five times less, and much more north in the Gulf of Tonkin. From here, the small village of Ban Pa Kha Tay reached today, it still tells me the presence of two places inhabited by these boundaries, each located in a different direction but still both in the north-east.
I dragged a lot in recent weeks, are really slow rides that I make here, and I'm going later "biting fingers' because I want to do then one last trip in the far north-west province, where I suppose the presence of Yao especially remote villages, people that I definitely want to meet again this year.
The village of Ban Pa Kha Tay is disposed atop a hill, a mound of bare earth and facing a magnificent landscape. The houses of the same material, then ground, then give a character a little "moon". But there remains much more here than forests in other areas previously traversed. Probably the last decades, the Chinese were grossly exploited timber resources of the region, totally out of control of any administration, then finally turning large tracts of primary forests dense savannah.
I am invited into a house. A woman, though she takes it alone with two children in the yard to dry in the sun of paddy spread on huge mats of woven grass, accepting my request. I'll go quietly against me too keep me waiting outside the arrival of at least one man. One of them comes and is really pleased with my presence. He assures me that I am the first falang, the first foreigner West, it has always been seen in the region. I was immediately ready to eat some buffalo meat smoked. Then other men accused in my presence, visit us. One of them, no doubt addict, takes me a long speech but incomprehensible to me drawing on the dirt floor, using a piece of blackened wood, a large circle and different symbols and different Chinese characters, each drawn after a few seconds of reflection necessary, inside or outside of this geometric figure.
It's decided, I have achieved my goal. The three borders between Laos, Vietnam and China, which will be only virtual and not represented by any particular sign or control whatsoever, and still here over long distances in the wild and remote regions, can now be more than two hour walk. Certainly even less because the villagers, telling me this time, speak very likely time to reach the first inhabited place in China, not the border itself is not visible and will fall soon. So tomorrow I'm going to change course, my way now to the west to join two or three days, the only track northbound carriageway of the province; track that I left very early in this journey, he are now twenty-five days, then I re-noticed two weeks ago at Ban Nong village of arrival of the famous sailing day on the Nam Ou River. Hence, when this track reached, I will leave immediately on the other side, to go over a supposed isolated country that Yao should exist in the area.
My grandmother's village of Ban Pa Kha Tay smokes opium. Her bed facing the mine, to isolate it comes modestly to lay a rectangle of thin tissue forming a curtain. But the necessary small oil lamp to create a charming set of shadow, revealing precisely all the characteristics of smoking gestures.
Very early this morning around 7 am, an old man with a girl, down to the stream. On the one hand he carries a magnificent cock alive, the other a basket containing a small vial of alcohol, two small pots of bamboo filled with uncooked rice, egg and three sticks of incense. The girl, for its part, is a little low stool bamboo. A ritual is prepared and the "spirit" of the river will certainly be involved, will be applied instead. Not knowing absolutely not be but having already seen elsewhere this kind of meeting, I know roughly how it will unfold: the bottle of alcohol, then tied the rooster pots of rice which sticks of incense burning there have been planted and the egg deposited, will all be placed on the ground just beside the River. The old man held at this table, sitting on the little stool and directed against the stream. It will start to recite his "spells", his long, slow and monotonous "songs" chanted; it will last very long, an hour, probably two more, during which he will stop briefly from time to time to make some cl d alcohol in the stream. When the rooster, he will not be slaughtered on the spot but upon returning to the village, where home might require assistance or intervention of any kind of "spirit" of the River.
30 Day Ban Khaokhio, The Merchant of hair French
Other equally funny story that the game of Chinese shadows "opiate" of my grandmother yesterday, I have a few balloons that I distribute sometimes sparingly always the youngest children of families who have welcomed me . Each of the three young boys in my family that night, aged 3 to 7 years, have had one last night. So this morning while I was washing the source close to three neighboring households of children came to meet me, handing me two locks of hair. They believed me, because balloons seen in the hands of children, merchant hair! Unable to disappoint them, we then of course haggled a bit and finally exchanged our booty: three balls against the two strands. And so what if I take off and a little bread from the mouth of the next capillary Chinese merchant who cover the region!
Departure from Ban Pa Kha Tay, with some apprehension because I lack sorely landmarks. No sound man does with me because it is currently a great time working here in the small rice terraces in the valley bottoms is the harvest and all absences each day. Then start one, south-west and west. More than five hours without any error of course because the trail is pretty well drawn. And then I found the dense forests so adored. One hamlet crossed, only three houses. Only women and children held there. It does not seem to want, or rather power, get ready to eat at that hour. It serves me just in a bowl of grapefruit segments, stripped of their membranes and seasoned with soy sauce and pepper. I would have preferred nature, but too late, it's ready.
I realize that now, near the border triangle, I succeeded far enough east and that I will have three days walk to reach the north-south runway of the province. Check-in five hours of brisk walking, to the village of Ban Khaokhio. If Ban Takhao crossed it are now twenty days, was the village Ho "pivotal and central to the right bank of the Nam Ou River, Ban Khaokhio would be that of the left bank. Still absolutely no village shop but solidly built with Chinese characteristics. They are now brick walls, sometimes extended by planks or bamboo woven for the floor, and tile roofs earth whose edges are sometimes doubled, forming two overlapping parts. It's exactly the same habitat type that occur in large numbers in rural Chinese provinces in the south, those in Yunnan, Guangxi and Guizhou.
The village overlooks a valley and to the entire horizon are eight chains of peaks which succeed in blue curtains, more and more blurred with the distance for sure that those at the bottom are in China. Late afternoon walk through the village, accompanied by some kids who make me also visit orchards. Here is a new fruit, which would have amounted to khaki but is larger and much more is especially sweet. And here too, but much more numerous than anywhere else in this great town in the evening several caravans of five to ten ponies, each laden with two bags of rice, are entering the village, each convoyed by several farmers.
The Ho store on the floor of the central part of their habitats, earthen jars, between ten and twenty of them in all sizes, but still not exceeding a height of eighty inches. The covers of those not yet initiated their contents are hermetically sealed and grouted with wax. I asked my mother to go and inspect. There are bamboo shoots chopped, seeds soy sauces in nature and undefined compositions, all with strong hints as smelly fermenting in brine.
It is high time that I leave this second country for Ho communication challenges me too problematic and even difficult to overcome. Too much frustration for both parties, for me and the villagers who greeted me, not to answer our questions and take. I managed anyway to describe my journey, crossing south-west/north-east the northern province of Phongsaly I can enumerate them as perfectly from memory the names of all villages crossed in twenty-five days walks in the region. To say that everyone is impressed, even if it is by no means an achievement as any I move slowly, do not finally walking a very large number of hours each day. I often tell more with gestures and mime than words, my famous expedition sailed on the wild river Nam Or two weeks ago, they adore terribly this "story".
Day 31, Ban Ou Neu, Ethnicity Sila
This morning at breakfast there are five dishes, all excellent. Sauces and food fermenting in the storage jars used by Ho therefore lose their aroma abominable during cooking? Small fried fish, fry well, we toasted whole is bold and crisp at will; mashed soybeans seasoned with some sort of spice, bamboo shoots also seasoned and a little meat pig on bones that are eating away and then a soup of grass.
Check Ban Khaokhio in the morning mist, just after the small convoys of horses returning to the rice fields. My mother insists that I stay here another night but this time it is not possible because it takes seriously I say. I would logically still three days to reach the vehicle track because I originally wanted to join in its northernmost part, to where there are two villages where I have to submit photographs taken before. But the distance is too long, then too bad I decided to cut off further south to try to win one day.
The trail is now well marked and even motorcycle, this is a rare secondary runway in the province but has never taken any regular transport. I also saw two motorcycles in Ban Khaokhio, I interviewed their owners but none of them wanted to carry me, I later understood why. The path descends to the bottom of the valley and along there for a moment the small terraces of rice farmers in Ban Khaokhio. It's harvest time, all are for harvesting. Mowing is done entirely by hand using a fine pruning, backbreaking toil. The small horses, they graze on the outskirts and in the bushes until the end of the day when they will once again all dressed up two bags of rice to bring to the village. Then climb up and then it was again the dense forest, wild, unspoiled, uninhabited. We must reach a small pass, way up there. Now I understand why they did not bother me driving motorbike: the track is in many places destroyed, washed into the ravine or otherwise overwhelmed by landslides from above, landslides often accompanied by entire trees. Even walking passages are dangerous, he still sometimes more than a narrow passage of a few centimeters wide at the edge of the ravine. Mopeds Ban Khaokhio they serve longer, and probably long since come down to the rice fields of the valley.
Alone, isolated, positioned just before crossing the pass, stands a poor and tiny hamlet of four houses that I dare to visit. Only women and children seem to stick. Upon seeing me, the three of them who stood outside immediately lock themselves in a house. He did not then have to go away. I am a little frustrated at not being able to meet them as something amazing to me, the fact that these houses are built on stilts. It is now over two weeks since I've seen this type of habitat. Staying in them, it can not be people of "Chinese" as the Ho, Lolo, Hmong or Yao as they build their houses only put directly on the dirt floor. These are not the Tai because it is far too high, nor Akha because even if these women were seen not attribute any traditional dress I'd still immediately recognized their physical. So the mystery, which lasted until a little later just that, shortly after the neck, held me for a meeting "historic", that of ethnicity Sila.
It began with a hut by the roadside in the bushes. Four piles supporting a frail bamboo roof of dried banana leaves. One man, three women and three young children themselves are arrested and will now take a meal. They make probably a collection of output in the forest. They unpacked the ground inside their bags very broad front, which are worn on the back strap and which relieve the burden does not rest on the shoulder but on the front of the skull. Everything was wrapped in vegetable leaves: an impressive amount of rice, mashed vegetable unappealing, then these kinds of green beans giants who eat raw, and salt and pepper mixed in which is dipped all these ingredients, eaten with hands. What immediately strikes with Sila is their language, unlike any other heard so far. The impression that very few consonants are used, the lips that close and just above the pace, the sensation of listening to a recording that would be rebroadcast at a slightly faster speed, it's very surprising. The set is also very singing and this so strangely modulated. Less surprising are the clothes very little traditional vestiges remain here. However, a blouse for women, sleeveless, close to the body parts and patchworkée colored fabrics. Two women had their teeth coated in black and then smiles reveal "hollow". They wear earrings characteristics of ethnicity and already seen on a photograph of metal cylinders at the ends extended through the earlobes but committed so front, while extending the overly.
They invited me to share a meal. Yet I very hungry but there will not be possible, I'm not picky in terms of food but this time it's just too disgusting. And then my presence intimidates nevertheless strongly, especially women and children, so I do not linger, especially as I still have some way to go. Now I feel ready to walk the nine hours apparently would allow me to reach the vehicle track. An hour later, that's where lies the village of Sila gatherers encountered previously. Little emotion as it did some years I learned about this very very discreet and minority ethnicity. Apart from a previously visited another village in the neighboring province of Luang Nam Tha, but moved one, certainly transmigrated from here, this is the first Sila village I visit in its original region. This village and its inhabitants are not visually "typical", they are even very acculturated, so as minority was influenced strongly by neighboring ethnic groups, whether in architecture or their habitats in the clothing for this I can for the time being observed. Some women in overalls feature of ethnicity, however, then the famous earrings. It is also surprising hats babies, large and pointed white hoods falling down behind the neck and decorated with embroidered edgings, tassels of wool and small cups of silver. These caps are strongly reminiscent of those worn as babies, but also adult women, another small minority ethnic group, that of Jinuo living in Xishuangbanna neighbor, the deep south of the Chinese province of Yunnan nearby.
My presence embarrassed him terribly. Nobody made any effort to come to meet me or ask me any questions, not even the usual and almost obligatory elsewhere consisting quite sure that I am alone. Yet I am announcing two or three men to where I want to go and only the finger, it immediately tells me the direction to take, as if they wanted me to go away soon. I dare not even beg for food. The meeting, through the village Sila, lasted less than thirty minutes. But I spotted a departure path that leads to other heights. Two men assure me that he joined any inhabited place, but I highly doubt because two signs are unmistakable: it is too much plot to be a passage of cattle or a simple path to crops then it takes about starting a small tributary of the river flowing below, here are two signs of life upstream. One day I'll see ...
March down a little plain, towards the village of Ban Tai Lü Bhoupang. The Tai Lue ethnic group, well administered, economically relatively easy, at least compared to other ethnic groups and nearby mountain, not seeking, like many of the latter, a fierce independence of any state authority, with beautiful rice fields irrigated plains, not a farmer or a consumer, very rarely at least, opium Lao speaking a perfect Buddhist religion despite some trailing remnants of animism, with beautiful homes, wide ribbing solidly built on sturdy stilts in short, good people properly. It is not among the Tai Lue I feel most comfortable, they are too "wise" and suddenly all too often distrustful against me as a bit paranoid, even if the advantage is that here with them, I find it easier to communicate with the Mountaineers.
Not wishing to dwell too long because there has still some way to go is in a house chosen at random that I immediately invited me to eat. But it imposes on me to go meet the nay ban, the village head (when I say they are too wise ...). Then go to meet the chief, but eventually absent, only his wife being at home. She still prepares to eat while I wait outside, under the gaze away from some other villagers who are not in the rice fields. Then I go eat while the woman waits to turn to outside; hey yes it is the immutable rule here: to my dismay it is beyond question, in a village that is that I am alone with a woman in a home, even if for only a few minutes.
As the village of Ban Khaokhio left this morning, I have also spotted two motorcycles. I asked a man can make me move to the town of Neu Or, located near the vehicle track. I finally offer me much this little luxury for your legs start to suffer and there is still a little more than twenty kilometers to go, besides I save a few hours or a full day. The man agrees to take me (want? So I'd stumbled upon one of the few owners of motorcycles in the village?) 100 000 kips for the trip by passenger, slightly less than eight euros. It's a good price but, after his explanation, there seems to be a hazard on the vehicle, we'll see. It first passes at him because he has to eat before. The accompanying I then nourishes me again, boiled fish, some fried, others grilled on skewers, then freshwater crabs also boiled. Windfall for the chief's house, his wife had just used me as cold leftovers and uninviting food.
Can my landlord from seeking what I believe is the motorbike, but returns with ... a tiller, one of those tiny two-wheeled tractors, wide handlebars and a small permanent trailer, built around the engine block versatile which we have already spoken (day 26 ). Ouch, ouch ouch! I've already tasted a bit this mode, but over very short distances only, it is unbearable slow but still shaking terribly, we all suffered bumps in the track, it jumps to each of them because there is not any suspension provided on these devices. Me in the small trailer, standing as it is less dangerous for the back end, but still clinging with both hands to a crossbar, and off we went. Two hours and forty are required to perform and twenty two or twenty three kilometers separating us from the town of Neu Or, the few necessary stops to tighten bolts fugitives took us less than five minutes each time. With him during the meal, my host-driver complained of chronic headaches and showed me that he absorbed the universal regular aspirin Chinese powder to be found everywhere here. Upon arrival I submitted my hypothesis: These headaches are probably due to exhaust gases of the tractor which are projected in the face. I think it sparked in him a certain reflection. In short, arriving at the town of Neu Or when our convoy that event, I stand at the back, one hand gripping the top edge of the small trailer and large umbrella closed another as brandishing a scepter. It makes sense, especially as a Westerner can ever happening here, even in the north-south runway of the province that I found there. My driver took the opportunity to make some small purchases there before quickly turning around.
Night at the head, but nevertheless suffered after several refusals. Because in this village, Tai Lue people, we do not want to compromise vis-à-vis the authorities, harboring an alien in private is always so far theoretically banned in Laos. Since my last visit in 2004, it tells me that they saw no other falang stranger Western stop here in this town yet situated on the track, and even then my arrival had caused great event. While I was sleeping in the small cell communal cement that I had been allocated for the night, several men came to wake me to check my papers. They had just asked about the reasons for my presence here and had noted my only name, nationality and date of the day on a battered exercise book used to identify all those passing by. In this book, however, opened some years ago, he was not there any names other foreigners but only Lao and Chinese people, assured me my "police".
But this time, no question of sleeping in such places. A small hotel was built since my last visit but it has not yet opened, and for good reason, for which customers? That falls well because I promised not to sleep during this stay exclusively in private homes. But many refuse me home, but finally a lovely young family who have not yet had enough time to build, still lives in a wretched little house, a shack instead. And here most houses are of traditional types Tai Lue, large, massive and solidly built on high stilts, it is made of planks that planted in soil and topped with a few sheets of metal. My little family is adorable, he is a young couple and three young children all of whom the eldest was only six years. We play, then eat the fish, the staple food of the Tai Lue, after rice, of course, that accompanies it. Here in this town of respectable size, there are some shops, which are the materials that are accessible to me for over two weeks now and I can finally satisfy my thirst again frustrated consumer buying some cakes all Chinese, as of habit and without exception, obsolete, but not more than three months.
Day 32 Ban Khaofang, miscellaneous
This morning, for the first time in twenty six days, I'll borrow a vehicle, a bus or a truck to go through the track, until the far north, near the Chinese border. Here I must submit photos in two villages, one population and one Ho Yao, photos made three years ago. The only regular commuting will increase by between 10 am and noon and it is very doubtful that a truck appears in the meantime. So in the meantime, I sit beside the track to complete my script pages, watched intrigued some peasants passing, some leading their buffaloes and stopping to watch me for a few moments and question me about my intentions.
The young father of my little family home yesterday, who understands that ethnic Sila interested me greatly, told me the location of one of their few villages, somewhere up there, while north. So today, after rebates photos, go visit them there and then probably spend the night. After that I "plunge" in the west, in a country very likely Yao ethnicity that particular fondness and I suspect the existence in this region. It must however now that I watch very closely the timing, only twelve days remaining available to me before having to necessarily engage the return trip by bus to the capital, which then route that will require him to only three or four full days.
The vehicle has passed. This is not always a minibus carrying out transport on this stretch of dilapidated track, rutted, rocky and dusty, but a songteaw, type of vehicle that is still found throughout the country: vans of all sizes whose rear bins were equipped with two side benches, which are topped by a steel frame supporting a roof. You will eat the dust in quantity and we jumped at every bump.
Submission of photos in the Ho village, but everybody in the paddy fields, even children who for once-strong workforce necessary forces, not school. Then I put the pictures in two grandmothers, they transmit. Then pass by the Yao village, three years after my first visit. As I often do not recognize almost any face, two men only. Unfortunately here also people involved in the pictures are missing.
This village is probably the most degenerate and most miserable of all ethnic groups, I have never visited. Degeneration of houses and bodies. Many physical defects are clearly visible, cretinism is omnipresent. The typology of the village has changed a bit since my last visit. Three years ago it was there that tiny mud houses but now some are boards and one of them has even adopted a roof of corrugated asbestos cement sheets. And some have disappeared while others were built. The houses, with very thick but very cracked walls of earth, are tiny. Four feet by six inside, not more. Uniquely, except dogs, is the first time I do not see a single animal in a village. Not a buffalo, not cow, pig, not one, not even a hen, not short of meat. A terrible misery. The pictures are however of all the joy, the laughter ring out. They will be given later to those concerned. I do not linger just long enough to eat a little, warmly invited by a woman. Rice and beans chopped, all cold, they are leftovers.
En route to the village Sila promised. It is to the west that had previously planned to direct me when I reached the runway, but the village Sila I just learned that there is in the opposite direction, toward the east, along the Chinese border. The father of my family that night I had planned an hour walk but it took me three, and still advancing very quickly. Inevitably, he could not because there is never gone; the information he has only heard one day. First I missed this trip because it starts with a crossing monotonous planting sugarcane, belonging to the Tai Lue and spread over dozens of hills. Hardly a tree has been preserved here. Then, after an hour, is again the dense forest but still not announced the village. So they could potentially be achieved after nightfall, he must walk very fast.
Then it is there. Surprisingly loud, we hear even before seeing the large village of Ban Khaofang, which covers a whole wide hill in espousing forms. From large importance, it brings can not be far from two hundred houses, all types, made of wood, bamboo, bricks, dirt, cement, sheet metal, asbestos cement sheets, thatch and tiles. Upon approach, I immediately feel a sort of nervous excitement throughout the village. All are outside, gathered in many meetings, it discussed much, so very lively. Many people go from one group to another, sometimes moving current.
Upon my arrival I immediately begs the village head, it leads me. It is among the phouti Noung nay ban (the primary) that it takes me. There are a small feast in his house, several men whose second and third nay ban them are gathered around a table. It explains that the party is related to a certain stage of the rice harvest is underway. I guess it's already been drinking a little time here as there are plenty of food laid on the table, but everything is cold and started a long time and the bottles that we fill it again from jerry cans placed on the ground are already almost empty. It also drinks around the village. I walk.
It is located close to the Chinese border, probably in less than five kilometers of it but that is here, and elsewhere in the province, not at all controlled. They are almost everywhere mountain peaks that define the administrative separation between theory and any two states, China and Laos, and one tiny border post, not accessible to non-nationals of both countries are for the entire province; It is located right at the end of the line taken today. Elsewhere in the wilderness, little known and completely uncontrollable border villagers cross the border on foot, desire, illegally and with impunity. Thus it is certain that many of them go absolutely never on a lowland Lao market but only in China. A degree of tolerance in any way required, must be accepted by the authorities, the more easily these people, rather deprived of all resources, are unlikely to operate traffic very large.
The village of Ban Khaofang is mixed ethnicities and Sila Kheun are everywhere. Both are very unknown to me but it is likely that they have in common a certain degree of "kinship". I am a little disappointed because there is almost here any more traditional dress attribute visible in everyday life. I notice only a few women Sila lacquered teeth and / or bearing the famous earrings and expanding their overly distending the lobes. Some of them bind together the two loops of wool son going under their throat. Funny, I found again by the Nam Ou River, sailed there are now seventeen days, and much farther downstream. But here it is almost more than a creek, because it is now not far from its source.
The night is long since fallen. Is very surprising when I walk in the village for the first time my presence goes almost unnoticed. All seem to have other more important concerns. Besides, when I arrived, I already felt as a stirring "electric" in the village. Many are drunk. A woman dancing alone, barefoot on the mud, it seems "elsewhere", as in a trance. In some places there are altercations, some even fought violently with blows from fists and logs. And a gun.
Everything went very quickly A woman screamed, a man too. A shot was fired. The woman was shot. She fell in the mud. The bullet went through his neck, blood spreading on the wetland. It screams, it screams, it runs in all directions, stirring a circle is formed around the event. Me in any way not already very comfortable since I arrived in this village at the strange excitement, and many more now shaken with alcohol, I feel myself starting to fade. I managed just to hang onto a fence and let myself fall into a dark corner to sit a few moments to get over my emotions. Then I go to bed because I did anyway nothing to do in this village and among these people. Outside, until very late at night there are lively conversations, and also further altercations. Men come into our house, then leave, and others arrive. Everything happens in the large living room which is installed on the visitor's bed, mine and in which, facing the wall, I pretend to sleep. At one time we talk about falang, ie me, witness the drama, but I think it does not last very long.
Day 33, Ban Ou Neu Day rockets
Wake up at 5 o'clock, after only two or three hours of restless sleep. I immediately go in search of a moped. There are three in the village but there remain a single drop of gasoline to anyone and in any case the villagers are even less concerned by my presence yesterday, and for good reason. I do not return to the home of drama. Yesterday arrived too late to enjoy the light, I'd say I take photos this morning in the fog this morning very photogenic village, but after the murder yesterday is obviously no question of what would come out the camera bag.
Men gather again outside this debate. Some are returning to the town of Saly, the capital of the province. I do not dwell, I will not even wait for the meal. I ask a little rice take away my family, annoyed to see me go without eating, but I no longer wish to stay one minute longer in this village of fools. I hate them all. Departure on foot to perform in reverse the journey yesterday. Very unattractive because it is the first time this trip I have to make a journey retracing my steps, visiting this village has definitely been a total failure.
But should not I train if I want to intercept the songteaw time, the only commuting which pass over the runway. Because I finally decided today to use again to descend to the town of Neu Or, where I have spent the night before last. Indeed, in the Yao village visited yesterday in which I presented photos, the peasants have assured me, contrary to my predictions, there was not here or farther west " Yao countries, but this area was completely empty and wild. Then I'll go down further south to board or Neu to beg for information and from there, leave immediately in the mountains.
I finally joined the track too late, the songteaw was already past. Yet I market very quickly. Then start again walk along the trail this time to browse the twenty-two miles that separate me from the town of Neu Or. This route is also repulses me because I've already done once in register. An hour walk, then a farmer beats me with his small tractor-tiller and invites me to climb back, but only until his village, located three kilometers away. At this point, negotiations eventually go up or Neu; negotiation conducted smoothly because I know now properly assess the cost of this unusual mode of transport.
Arrived in the big town, it is finally too late to try to reach today a mountain village, besides I do not know of any place where there may be potential trailheads who would lead. That's the main problem here: to leave the main track to win the first villages isolated as discrete and narrow access roads leading to them are usually well hidden. They are almost always outside the lowland villages in the countryside where nothing shows, sometimes well hidden behind the rice fields, small mazes that must first pass through.
But until tomorrow, the good news is that I'll be here my merry little family before yesterday. That ultimately falls to the point because it goes well change my ideas rather morbid since yesterday evening. My dear family is pleased to see me so soon reappear. I even bought cakes for children. Well, the only drawback is that here he'll have to eat fish at every meal tonight and again tomorrow morning. Just now, just arrived in the village before joining my family, I had the idea to try to find a little meat or pork then buy a chicken to any household for that 'they eat the family tonight. But I finally decided, doubting too much how this could be interpreted by my hosts, as always, will be a great honor to prepare food.
It's party time in whole village, probably again related to the harvesting of rice has now held everywhere. It started yesterday and it will last another two days. Many large rockets Bake in cups, for hours of explosive powder in huge bamboo tubes and very thick walls. Around the large village, they are hammering continued throughout this time. A man holds the pestle engaged in the tube, causing it to rotate a quarter turn between each keystroke to equalize property and render homogeneous compaction of the powder, while a second man hit him with a log of wood. A little powder is steadily added to the tube. The making of a rocket needs to perform these monotonous gestures for hours. Finally, each well should contain between three and four kilos of powder. I know we organize similar events with rocket launches, just before the arrival of the rainy season in order to symbolically start them but the party today has no connection with it. We'll go tonight to watch the show as a family. A little show, it will be good because the nightmare of yesterday's murder haunts, and she is not ready to fade. Today many also organize festivals, with music, taking place under tarpaulins stretched in small alleys, before the houses on stilts. Meals, alcohol, music, noise.
Midnight. I was deceived about the rockets, which were in fact not. Or rather, yes, but rockets reversed somehow. This took place in two small enclosures of the village temples. The "rockets", the huge bamboo tubes loaded with powder packed length, are planted in the ground by two or three of them each time and so widely spaced. Then they are put to fire. This created huge and very powerful geysers of sparks, sending them vertically to eight or ten feet above the ground. Those with the powder was packed longer are both more powerful and those who last the longest, they cause floods spark by which men most adventurous dance, naked torsos and big drum sounds and pairs of cymbals frantically plowed through five or six "players". All this happens in the middle of the crowd, the rockets are lit one after the other, two or three simultaneously each time. It is a staggering sight, a vision of hell, which is volcanic and sometimes, for sure, cause big accidents because sometimes sparks fall on the heads and bodies. There are also fireworks launched by more conventional children, always in the middle of the crowd, using long, thin this time, a bamboo tube.
Day 34, Ban Thong Tay, Rice Cultivation in the Mountain
This morning, for the third and final day, making new rockets again. What I had not seen yesterday, is that huge quantities of explosive powder also are needed made on the spot. I know nothing about the fireworks but the early morning many men in many households began to pulverize the old cast iron woks broken and unusable, using hammers and anvils or more often on mere stones. Long job, it takes several hours to obtain a few grams only. I suppose that these residues are then mixed with sulfur. Then in the afternoon, new large tubes of green bamboo are harvested, then loaded and length of the packed powder. Since yesterday, each "neighborhood" of the village will ring again when the continuous pounding and rhythmic.
Yesterday evening some friends of my family have visited. Thanks to the rocket festival, and also perhaps because of my presence, they did not eat fish, but four other excellent dishes: pork, buffalo liver, Laap (minced meat salad and spicy) and algae the Nam Ou River. These friends told me a gateway to a country Yao. It must again go back to the north runway, but for a few kilometers to a little hamlet they have written the name Lao characters on my notebook. Shortly after this point will find the trailhead, the villagers should be able to show me exactly. No way to wait until 10 o'clock or noon on the passage of songteaw daily to make those few miles. Departure on foot very early on the track and on the path indicated to regain the heights around Yao villages.
The Yao people are very needy and who, in the present state of things, not be rich without ever mention that, as in others, it will end one day for sure and in the near future, by prohibiting them cultivation of opium, the only real source for them to present a minimum monetary gain. Other than that, for Yao as for most other mountaineers is the cultivation of rice fallow is practiced, cultivation technique is called exactly "on fallow shifting cultivation" which we will speak here.
Recently arrived in these areas, fleeing China, Tibet and Burma, there fleeing the robbery, famine or persecution, they have had here in Laos simply the only remaining land available. The few and very beneficial plains were already long occupied by other people, they only remained then only the hills and mountains to settle and cultivate rice on some incredibly steep slopes. To better understand the drudgery of hill rice, crops "on fallow shifting cultivation," then we must recall the main advantages of plain rice.
The greatest risk for accidental rice is being invaded by weeds because their presence, whose development is in competition with rice, causing an immediate drop in the yield of grain. The first of three major advantages of Plains farmers to grow rice is irrigated plane that they were flooded during the greater part of their growth, preventing completely the thrust of these invasive weeds can not grow because then they are immediately suffocated by the water that submerges. This water does not pose any danger in contrast to rice plants because they have germinated and grown in nurseries and annexes have been replanted, rather transplanted in paddy fields flooded until they have reached a stage "solid" . The second major advantage of irrigated rice is being fertilized continuously: the water that is constantly made, always renewed, who travels constantly, deposits while continually new alluvium. Most fertilizers, they are drained by the rains since all forest lands upstream, land charged humus, organic matter and minerals. The third major facility offered by the flat lowland rice is the possibility for them to be tilled by animal traction (plow pulled by a buffalo), while on the slopes, inaccessible to these methods, plowing will be done entirely the force of arms, with one pick.
The technique of cultivation on fallow shifting cultivation of mountain, practiced on the slopes, can not benefit from these three great advantages. It then calls each year to make huge work carried out entirely at the sole force of arms, without any outside help whether animal or mechanical. It requires also to respect a timetable, without taking any delay, to be perfectly synchronized with the rainy season, which will be essential to the emergence and growth of corn. Here is the description of this work.
A parcel of forest is cleared, with the month of February, using only axes for larger trees with machetes and then for others. Large timber holdings if they are needed for various construction underway or planned (houses, shelters rice fields, bridges and gateways, etc..) Have skidded on the outskirts of the future plot, others have reported possible the village and stored for later feeding the fires of home cooking. More importantly, many large branches will be necessary to firmly close the future plots. A few weeks later, when the slaughter plants left behind are sufficiently dry, the whole is ignited. If the parcels are relatively nearby villages sometimes it does this burning night to more easily monitor the sparks flying, flaming twigs that may reach the habitats of children fitted with water containers are held while on the thatched roofs, ready to extinguish the departure time of fire. These few days causing burning whenever immense suffocating fog of smoke across the regions concerned. The ashes of the burning plot which will be buried later in the labor, participate significantly to its fertilization. The larger trunks are not completely burned, the heavier, are left behind. That's when we close the plot, with large branches that have been set aside before burning. This is effectively protected against incursions wild or domestic animal (wild boar, buffalo, cows and pigs) which would inevitably come later to devastate crops. The job of protecting large tracts requires much effort very difficult because these fences should be heavy and very sturdy, impenetrable by animals. Then plowing can begin. The first of routing since the land is completely congested roots of all trees and other plants of the forest already destroyed. These labors are entirely made in the pick and the only force of arms because the steep slopes banned, unlike irrigated lowland rice, the use of a plow pulled by a buffalo. These slopes are so steep that sometimes the larger trunks and branches left behind charred become necessary to cling to power and does not fall when they are working or moving there. And then there is harrowing, the hoe, breaking the larger clods. The seeding was then held in the hand too. Requiring considerable time before but both happen on a very short period so that all ears then grow simultaneously, without time lag between them, this work requires so much labor at once. It then runs through mutual assistance among many families, dozens of villagers coming together to plant the same plot. Hand hoe for digging small holes for burying seeds, they are scattered by pits of fifteen or twenty to make sure that sufficient seed, among those who may already previously or will be attacked by rodents, birds and insects. The rainy season arrives, we must now hope they will be abundant. But the bulk of the work left to do early in the growth of corn. This will make the weeding, the only real guarantor of good returns in rice plots.
Hoeing, fighting weeds, weeds, at any price and on time, is the main concern of villagers throughout the growing ears of rice grown on the slopes. If these weeds germinate and this will be the overwhelming profusion impossible to fight there and in all other plots around which they then propagate immediately. Because it does not here a single gram of pesticide or herbicide, Roundup and other carcinogens, we do not know. The weeding is done three times during the growth of upland rice. The second time around July, is the most difficult and one that requires most able-bodied. The entire parcel must be bined, by hand, using hoes, short hoes, or as often as machetes, digging well for the parasitic weeds with their roots. The task is so enormous and laborious than the surface of rice cultivated by a family depends less on the number of mouths to feed that number of people who will be valid and able to work weeding. In other words, it is absolutely useless to try to grow too large, too much surface as they may not arrive in time to fight invasive weeds. And when these weeds are present in too many plots, yields of rice harvest drop immediately.
The surge in corn has performed well during the rainy season from June to September and for better or worse depending on weeding more or less successful and achieved on time. From there the rice will eventually ripen and the harvest will then take place. They are so enormous additional tasks that are not described in detail here but are also fully realized the only force of arms. Mowing using sickles and making fine sheaves, threshing them to loosen the grains of corn, winnowing to expel waste, inedible plants, storage of paddy obtained (the paddy rice husk) in the rice granaries of rice or immediate transportation to the villages, carried in bags on their backs if we do not have small horses (most of the mountain, except for Ho, did not have). It will also then in the harvested plots, collect the straw left there, then store it or burn it on site. More domestic work done then daily in the villages before being cooked and eaten, the rice should still later, as and when required, be shelled (for shell) and then winnowed to clean it of its non-edible and finally cooked.
Finally, to end the description of the technique of cultivation on fallow shifting cultivation carried on by the mountain slopes, it must be said that the same parcel is rarely grown for two consecutive years because of lack of additional fertilization Yields fall when the second year and above the thrust weed becomes so important that it is virtually impossible to combat. We prefer then cleared each year a new patch of forest and re-do all the steps described above for its clearing. A cultivated plot will then be left fallow for several consecutive years, between twelve and twenty, before being re-operated, cleared again, until the soil is recharged mineral capital, as the forest regenerates, that it reconstructs a biomass burning sufficient to increase soil fertility. Sometimes, in some areas that people do not have enough usable land for by environmental measure, they now prohibits the clearing of new areas of dense forests. The villagers are then forced recultivation of fallow too high frequency. But they did and not enough time to regenerate, the yields are very poor and people can no longer operate the food weld between two successive annual harvests. They must compensate for these deficiencies by collecting forest foods less rich and less nutritious. This becomes dramatic, feeding problems are recurring in these villages.
Day 35, Ban Thong Neu, Harvesting opium
Bad news, as I suspected Yao a country where I could make a loop over several days and through several villages, I learn that I'd actually engaged in a deadlock, this path leads only to two villages and then probably then to China, outside the border post. Arrived at the second village there would be no alternative but to turn around. Disappointment because I was convinced, after reading my map of 1969 only paths I would then win over the mountains in a few days and through several villages, the village of Utay, chief town of the district located more south. So here I am in Ban Thong Neu, second Yao village located west of the province at the end of a valley where one would separate the height of China, available in less than an hour walking. It is a very narrow path leading up and then, before arriving there, we say that the village will be equipped with any industrial material too difficult to carry on this way. But, on the twenty houses comprising the village, only two are of earth, bamboo, wood and thatch. All others of the same materials for walls and partitions, have now definitively adopted for roofs of corrugated light, brought back a man from the town of Neu Or, to five hours walk from here, or asbestos cement sheets, also carried the force of arms but, for them, smuggled from China told me, at my request, the villagers.
The setting is beautiful, green, even if it is wet as he started to rain a bit since yesterday and the sky is gray since, and closed down. By cons contact with the villagers is hopeless. I can explain it but my very presence intimidates. I can not at all approaching children and women. Already in the first village Yao crossed yesterday, for one example of contact difficult, I could make one photo of five young girls, but this has not been easy to obtain their consent. So, for the first time, I miss even a little.
I had seen it as among the Hmong people in the extreme east, in the equally remote than Phongsaly, Xam Neua Province: gardens of opium poppy are installed inside village, every family houses or even to multiples thereof. They are currently in this period, albeit on the condition of salads, also edible, because the harvest of the drug will take place during the first quarter of next year, during the month February or early March of that.
Once, when I lived in a village of ethnic Lanten province of Luang Nam Tha, the peasants allowed me one evening and the next morning to accompany them for harvest. The poppy plant from which opium is derived, is identical in appearance to our Poppy Western countered. But the poppy is much greater, especially bigger. The plant reaches a mature height of about four feet. The flowers, the number three or four per plant, red, white or purple and the "fruit", they leave the capsules apparent once all the petals fell to the ground, are the size of walnuts. At harvest, which usually held in February, the capsules are incised in the afternoon or evening with a small tool-shaped claw, with two or three thin blades bronze. Next in size each capsule receives about half its periphery or otherwise distributed ways around it, two to five "bites" of the instrument, carefully made from bottom to top. The white sap oozes fluid droplets immediately and caused scarring. The harvest itself takes place the next morning, when the sap has oxidized and has coagulated into a brownish resin. It is then harvested, gently scraped directly into capsules, using a blade or a small steel spatula. The same process is repeated for three to four days and then for the following mornings on the same capsules until exhausting and completely emptied of their rich and highly prized substance. All these operations must be accomplished with extreme care because it should not damage either the capsule or the stem of the plant before the final morning of harvest has had place. It's a job usually assigned to women. But so it is at this stage that the harvesters, insidiously contaminate, poisoned, accustomed to the drug by his skin contact, by impregnation of opium through the pores of the skin of the fingers. The raw opium obtained is reported in the village. There, for it to finish completely oxidized, it will be exposed to direct sunlight for about two days, usually placed on vans rice placed on the roofs of thatched houses. Then packaged into balls in green plant leaves or bamboo paper that backen women, it can be stored longer without risk of damage or decay. A large portion is consumed in the village, the rest will be sold immediately or else later if it wishes to capitalize until a period of years later, when demand will be larger and therefore higher prices. It seems that the price of kilo of opiates and can vary widely during the year. Buyers will often merchants Lao, Chinese and Vietnamese in the province of Phongsaly, and Chinese, Thai or Burmese in other provinces located further west. All these shops are well in hand to purchase their territories but occasionally some of them prefer to be very certain to retain their hold on these territories, live almost permanently in the villages most productive opium , a phenomenon already seen in the past few villages Yao.
Here at Ban Thong Neu, there are many opium smokers in the village. The fragrance can be felt by simply brushing the houses but only few of them, greyish skin, hair morphology and look ragged, leaving outside from time to time. I sometimes innocently asked about this but most deny, naively it must be admitted, the facts.
When the diet of the poor Yao, he is almost exclusively plant: bamboo shoots, squash and pumpkins, tofu (the "cheese" from soy), plant leaves of undetermined origin prepared soups, poppy seedlings also boiled in soups, etc.. In all this we add a few tablespoons of fat pig, for "pretend". The meat is very rare. For the slaughter of a beast, he must wait an event, a festival, New Year Yao example, or even a marriage, death, etc.. But there is still hunting, using long guns and folk handicrafts which are loaded with gunpowder and bullets also made up in the villages by hunters. And then practice as much trapping. There is no doubt that men take pleasure but these activities are not entertainment, they are a real necessity because they are the only dietary intake of animal protein more or less steady for the villagers. But we can not see here as among the Akha and the Ho center of the province, for example, traces, relics of big game shot: hides, skulls, teeth and horns, etc.. For that Yao will usually birds and rodents, or even small mammals like civets or these kinds of huge squirrels in the streamlined look also doing a little look at very large rabbits, but with long tails and much more agile because tree.
Yao and Ho, both groups "Chinese" are masters of manipulation of the ax. Where eg Akha would use the saw or machete, here most of the plates and structural beams are cut by using this single instrument. They are experts in their use. Observing a man Yao splitting a log of dry wood with an ax is a true spectacle, each blow is very precise, no unnecessary or is missed and time will be obtained all the same size, same size and without bursts. Axes, heavy, forged in the villages, like all other cutting tools needed daily, machetes and sickles mainly small.
I expected much of this journey in the company of Yao, I expected a good time, like many past experiences at other rides in the province. But extreme isolation of these villages and loss of some of my good mood, but here permanently, following the murder of four days ago, I now make it harder to remove warm relations and gay . So I do not know what to do with my eight or nine days of availability before having to return the capital.
36 Day Ban Nanoy, Parure Women Yao
Last night my host father wanted to "make a splash" of my presence in his house. In two of us were emptied a jar of rice wine but is rare, it not distilled in the village was a Chinese spirit assured me THERE. Then his wife went to find somewhere a piece of smoked meat soft phases of "forest pig," which accompanied the soup in leaves. During the meal my father taking me a long speech which I did not understand then, for both drunk, we went to the nay ban, the chief. It was not there but up in his house, four or five men were gathered around two other Chinese border lying on the floor on a mat laid on the clay, and smoking is the Opium with a wealth of material: simple bamboo tubes drilled for pipes and tinkered with small lamps turned bowls in which the flames are fed with a few pieces of candle. I do not always know what those Chinese in the border villages as these, for sure, not dealers anything either buyers of opium. The reasons for their presence is then perhaps a cost of less opium in Laos, easier to procure and especially less risk vis-à-vis the authorities here do show a broad tolerance against villagers and farmers or consumers of drugs.
I finally solved the "mystery" of the making of charming dresses Women Yao, who are elegantly showcase their pretty faces. Caps still looking a little church, also Egyptian, Pharaonic more precisely. The woman of my house is dressed this morning in public without shame, in my presence. For not only is it very rare to see a woman or Akha Yao bareheaded, but it is even rarer to witness at the time it takes or leaves her cap. For women Yao therefore, is primarily a bun, perfectly spherical and rigid, although still holding up, which is spun to the back of the skull. This rigidity and strength are then reinforced by a long cord wrapped around its base. Then a thin, lightweight metal disc about eight inches in diameter is fixed at the top of the bun, holding in place by a large needle and using staples. This database is then ready to receive the cap itself, a large rectangle of fabric or black and indigo blue for edging embroidered fuchsia pink wire, it will completely cover, as extending the head backwards, forming a cylinder fabric flaring up.
This headdress and robe is made entirely of cotton cloth, material grown, woven and worked by women in the village. Thick fabrics dyed very dark blue, blue indigo, a natural mixture prepared from leaves of the indigo tree macerated. The garment features a classic trousers and long tunic falling to the feet. It is split on the side, forming two large decks, anterior and posterior, but whose ends are permanently recorded and attached to the fine woven belt, thus expanding the pool very prettily. The tunic of young children to when it is much shorter and is not relieved, it simply remains pending.
Worn on the chest is a very large "tie" composed of dozens of son silk fuchsia pink almost fluorescent contrast violently with the dark blue background, almost black tunic. Last year I discovered by chance that these "ties", in addition to their undeniable decorative role, possessed a far more functional, a function showing the sublimely subtle and discreet yet highly refined top women Yao. This concept had so much that I copied here the description given at the time:
"I found that large species neckties worn by women and girls Yao, formed by two or three hundred son of braided silk fuchsia pink almost fluorescent and suspended in front of their chest had two functions: to embellish still course (so it was possible) but also when they are sitting near the house to embroider under the canopy formed by the roof, call a reflective surface, reverberating daylight outside their throat, below their chin, within their hands, the heart of their needlework, subtle and elaborate embroidery. When I came to realize, I really thought the girl had a small lamp placed between legs. "
In each population group in the region, women wear a costume so universal and characteristic of their ethnic group. Apart from slight variations are usually visible in the embroidery and distinguish the various clans and sub-clans, all women of the same ethnic group will therefore have the same dress, and always exactly the same without any special ornament or even more personal. For jewelry is the same, they are universal to every ethnic group and are always exclusively made of sterling silver heavy metal from small ingots with which these people have long been paying only the sale of opium product, still very much today. It was described earlier (day 17) earrings Women Ho. These Hmong women comprise a small decorated cone whose base is pressed against the front lobe of the ear and is held from behind by a simple but very pure and elegant arabesque forged in a thread of Silver tapered. When those women Yao, are three long but tight little spirals all contiguous and forming a triskele then a large ring suspended for this reason lobes.
I already told once that it is in the villages that I saw Yao habitats most sordid, is generally occupied by a single senior, a disabled or a single or widowed. The fact is confirmed again in this village. Three "houses" of not more than ten square meters consist really in a pile of logs of wood clumping together and umbrella plant dry of all kinds. We do not even think of shelters for the pigs.
Like yesterday, this morning I still had the right to "forest pig, good chunks of fried pork rind. Then phouti Noung nay ban, the first head, absent yesterday, came to see me and invited me to dine with him too. An invitation to a ban nay, it can not refuse. Then second meal, even if I am already more than sated after the first. But it was mostly drunk, and not just a little. Six men are there, besides my two Chinese opium addicts, already installed on their couch and have therefore begun their work before 9 o'clock. All have required that I stay there a second day, and have used alcohol to keep me. But for me it was clearly decided since that night, I went today. So I slept off my Lao Lao, my rice wine, walking and the first hours were epic. I even managed to lose myself when I borrowed the roads that had already conducted here yesterday and the day before ...
Just yesterday, before reaching this village, I met a group of hunters on the trail, craft carried long rifles slung. In more than five or six men there were two children, one two, also armed, immediately threw his gun into the bushes when she saw me. Today again a similar meeting, but they were only children, armed with a rifle for three of them. Although far is I who saw the first but once they turn detected my presence, three of them, like frightened, jumped into the thick bushes and then fled into the forest. I think especially as all have fears that I am an "official" and that I could witness their illegal acts, perhaps hunting of protected animals or unauthorized possession of firearms.
Since this path, since two days, I was definitely engaged in a cul-de-sac, a path that leads nowhere further, so I decided this night I'll try to reach the town of Utay, chief town of the district in one day. Descent of the valley, beautiful state of intoxication during the first hours, down again when the vehicle track, great luck, I reach the exact moment when a songteaw password, I have just run the last hundred meters to the intercept. Convinced that this can happen even before I had resolved to have to try to find a moped or, at worst, a tiller to make the journey on the track.
In a village near the town of Utay I found my family Yao three years that I reported, and many other villagers, hundreds of photos taken a year ago. Rejoicing because my relationship with these villagers, sealed since 2004, are excellent. Excellent point that when I arrived, the parents of my family being absent, left for several days work in the most remote areas, children did not hesitate a moment to greet me for the night, then it was no adult in the house! That's really as exceptional situation, even incredible, unheard of in any case. Even a single woman with children never cleared of a man, let alone a stranger. Children present are four in number, two boys under ten years and two daughters, the eldest is fourteen years. These girls are amazing, they manage the entire household during the absence of parents. Meals, housekeeping, care of the toilets and two boys, preparing food for pigs, etc.. This almost astounding to me, no adult is nearby even come to see if everything went well at night. Thrilling, I was convinced then that they would ask me to sleep elsewhere and they locked themselves in the main room we stayed there all five. An amazing confidence, no fear, no doubt. We laughed a lot while watching the pictures and jokes. And then it was the perfect evening to give the two young girls my two little gifts "Special Yao" I stood up in store: two small packets of twenty grams of glass beads, pink of course, the favorite color of Yao. This is a situation that makes me the greatest long after the events of recent days, killing the village of Ban Khaofang and the mixed reception in the last two villages along the route. By cons, coming here, I relied heavily on the reunion with the father, he tells me access routes to other countries Yao. I will then have to get by without him.
37 Day Ban Tashiluang, Woven cotton
This morning early, back to the village of Utay, where I just wandered in search of information on the geographic region. This is the area to the west that interests me because I know only to find there may be other villages Yao. An old man gave me good information and I confirmed the existence of a path, in truth I suspect a bit already. We must track down a few miles up a hill where a tiny hamlet of just three or four huts. That one I know, I once noted during a reconnaissance on foot runway. There the villagers show me a passage that would lead again to China and through at least one village population Tai Lü Yao and several others.
But from the beginning, the trail has split several times and then I had to move forward with flair "and using only compass. I still made some games on the road, people who have just helped me identify and make choices: re-hunters Yao Tai Lue women to sell down Utay inside hoods responsible plants of all kinds; Yao lame man suffering from a huge boil on the thigh and at the last limit of suffering, was determined to reach the village of Utay for treatment then women Kheun other group ethnicity of the region but I know little, going into the forest to gather bamboo shoots and other edible plants also.
Many paths, many possibilities. I have not crossed the Tai Lue village whose Utay old man told me this morning, I missed a junction. In return, after a steep climb of more than two hours, here I am again in the very country Yao. I stopped at the first village and learns that the paths leading in many directions, many other hamlets, which criss-cross for many days. The grandfather who invites me to eat me also illico stay with him overnight. It heats a bowl of bamboo shoots. The grandfather is alone in the house, his wife is in the field for a few days and no more of her children seems to live under the roof.
The village of Ban Tashiluang is very brief. It brings together a dozen flimsy thatched homes of which even made entirely of bamboo: the crushed stalks and plaited to the walls and half pipes for roof tiles. That of my grandfather sagging dangerously. He has supported the side where it will inevitably collapse, but there's nothing to do, this is a matter of weeks or months.
Most women spent the afternoon preparing bundles of cotton yarn, miles integers they themselves have spun the wheel before, possibly during hundreds of hours of work. They have now made up of small bobbins, small rollers adapted to the dimensions of shuttle looms, which are contiguous to the houses. Then some of them are coupled to weaving, long hours to do the same monotonous and repetitive gestures: the shuttle launch from one hand to the other between the son of the chain, operating the pedal to the interlacing son after each passage shuttle and then every three or four cycles, operate the separator comb, strike against the son of some fabric just fabric integrated training to properly tighten against each other. The paintings found on these very hardy and summary looms are thick, heavy and rough. These are large parts of thirty-five centimeters but twelve to twenty meters in length. Before being used for making new clothes they will be dyed by being immersed in baths in which the leaves of indigo (the tree) will be soaked with lime. These baths are many, they will place every day for about a month to get this color blue, almost black finish. But before all these steps, there were many others that are not described here, since the cultivation of cotton in the fields until it is dressed to be woven. The manufacture of clothing, among people who grow and still work on cotton, made a monumental task for women, a work very long term. More Women Yao because this group comprises only one of which even the men still wear traditional dress much everyday, pants, jacket and cap, also made in the same canvas.
After three methods already observed in the mountain and set on day 10, the mode of water transportation is still new here. It is contained in large bamboo tubes, like those used by the Akha, but who are here this time transported to the yoke, set alone or in pairs at each end of the flexible but very solid bamboo rod resting on the shoulder . Here the water for the whole village, it is one and the trickle flowing down the ravine at the bottom of the valley, which is reached by a steep path, always muddy and slippery due to unavoidable losses of water are on the trail acrobatic back. Of fetching water, women and children down there several times a day and it is each time to accomplish a great feat of balance and to convict without falling back, shoulder charge from the yoke . Myself, however, without a load, I sometimes helps me with my hands gripping the ground to be sure not to slip and fall into such risky crossings. My grandfather told me that the problem of the missing water is recurrent but increasingly worrisome to his village. If it is heavy for three or four months of the year, while those of the monsoon, it lacks cons cruelly by the rest of the time. Indeed we are in October and I pledge that between December and April, in the heart of the dry season, the trickle of water can be reduced to zero this year. It has happened that this serious problem is the cause of complete removal of villages to areas richer.
Day 38, Phatoum Ban, Untitled
Rodents climb a lot that night around our beds, between the sacks of rice and corn scattered on the ground and those hanging on by many clusters to the frame. And this morning, to finish the night with great fanfare, two roosters also present in the record, from 4 hours 30, participated in the first Choral Morning all their congeners village that has "trunk" these beasts! Upon waking, for the third time since my arrival, but not including some history, my grandfather was once again warmed the same bowl of bamboo shoots that we then continued eating.
Check early for a good day's walk. I finally have a marker on my map: there is mentioned a village where I was talking about yesterday and which is again close to the Chinese border. My grandfather said to me a little direction to follow. So I have a goal, an idea of a beautiful loop feasible in four or five days that I have available. On this day, crossing three villages, population Tai Lue to the first one and then Yao for the next two before stopping in a third. The road was magnificent, along incessantly and recrossing a wide but still shallow stream, aware nonetheless alive. Dense forest, huge trees. Along the stream I saw surprised rather, a kind of lizard freshwater, a beautiful beast, a beautiful "lizard" of more than five feet in length and, in my view, immediately immersed in water before emerging on the other bank and then escape into the thickets. Some human encounters also on the way, hunters and gatherers who were able to get information about directions to take in this maze of possibilities. Lunch stop in the second village Yao crossed; fast break late for food, the only dish served was truly infamous fermented tofu and seasoned with fish sauce, inedible, it was a stench of carrion. It has however been necessary to absorb a few bites because the grandmother who greeted me kindly stayed with me to watch me, attentive to my every need.
Long day, which leads me tonight in a half-hour from the Chinese border, the beautiful village of Ban Phatoum overlooking a valley and offering a full panorama in every direction. In these remote areas, still I bullied as the villagers and no pictures of them I am no longer possible for that I would have to stay two or three days in each place. Home in one of the poorest households where a couple and two young children live. A few square meters of dirt framed by walls made of very openwork woven bamboo. I no longer has any of my personal photos to show for all have now been distributed. But I still have my map, a large format that I bought in the capital Vientiane before starting these walks and always a lot of interest throughout the world, as well as my photo album "ethnic". These two documents are whenever pretexts to heated discussions and, during these festivities, we tamed somehow.
Several men and women equally, trying to make me understand that the miserable household that I chose for the night is just too much for welcoming me. Too poor, too small, too dirty, and I am invited then also it makes me change the foster home. Hey, no! Because it suits me perfectly for me this little house. Then I am here to entertain two kids who have nothing and are rarely benefit from any distractions. Then we play. Then we eat rice and boiled grass. Then we play again because it is with children that is ultimately the most universally easy to "communicate".
Day 39 Ban Tchikhao, Traffic butterfly
Out very soon, because I have already ventured far enough west and we must now not only do I surprised by the timetable. Indeed I must absolutely find the vehicle track in four days later. The landscape changes, turns instead. Like those seen ten days ago near the village of Ban Pa Kha Tay in the extreme north-eastern province, a vast area of forest has disappeared, probably operated by the Chinese in recent decades, when this region was isolated under no control whatsoever. In place of these forests are then completely covered hills of savanna, the so-called "grass hut", Imperata cylindrica. Trees remain only in the deep troughs, the valleys inaccessible and unsuitable for crops. Then again it is the forest and along a stream in, often followed in its course because of shoreline impassable, dense vegetation and very steep. I walk very carefully along the Chinese border but is here in the wilderness, only "theoretical" is not represented, much less monitored course. The three people along the way, including two Chinese intentions undetermined, all I ask, having always as well assured that I am alone, if I go there in China. Then rice, and there a single woman, truly terrified at the sight of me and who knows how to behave because it is too late to flee. Further on is a group of very young children who play on the water. There's worse, they are immediately panic, hysterical crying, distraught leaks, falling. Fortunately, adults are not far away in a small rice field camouflaged behind bushes. In all these noises and screams they rushed like a whirlwind, and then I discovered there, squatting, as I sometimes do, to show the children that I see that I did not pursue. It was time for the scene took a dramatic turn nightmarish. The village lies just below. The farmers of rice, with whom I spend a few moments charge finally a young man to take me there.
The very isolated village of Ban Tchikhao is probably one of the last villages Yao what I call "primitive", all materials used in its construction are derived, without exception, the forest land, wood and bamboo, grass and leaves. Not a single corrugated sheet is present. Beautiful, photogenic, land and vegetation only component. The young man who "escorted me was instructed to conduct myself in a particular house, hut instead, but that is the only house in the village to be built on stilts. To sign I guess immediately that this is not a home Yao. Is that of the teacher, ethnicity Phounoy, fully integrated group in Lao society, which was sent here from the city of Phongsaly to try to provide a minimum education for children. But that's not possible for me because in this kind of place I absolutely want to live with the locals, in this case here with the Yao village. Then, while preparing a meal, I go in search of a ban nay, a conductor, and asked him hospitality for the night. It remains then to return to the teacher explaining that "I am interested in the traditions and culture Yao and I wish therefore to rub up". This added a few apologies, he seems to understand my request even if it may conceal a small feeling of vexation. But I had no choice because in the Yao village, staying in the company of this man Phounoy ethnicity, j'instaurais and clear up some kind of additional barrier between villagers Yao and myself .
The woman, met near the village on the road that led me here today, was "armed" with a butterfly net, crudely cobbled together with a long bamboo pole, a hoop of the same material and a bag plastic. I could not try to question its usefulness for this woman, standing alone when it was crossed, was so frightened in my view that the best thing for me to do at that moment was m 'away from it quickly. This afternoon, near the creek is again the same trick is repeated, children and women are engaged in the same activity. One might think a game they catch butterflies, very abundant and diverse in the region, especially near streams and rivers, and then wrap them each separately in a small envelope rapidly fabricated with a page of exercise book used . I have not got used to explain the purpose of the catch but is to return to the village that I understood. Here a woman crossing the purchase, the price of a piece jiao (one tenth of the Chinese yuan), slightly less than one euro cent butterfly. She told me to be Chinese and that she then sold in his country. There are very beautiful, very colorful and very large sizes. I do not know how to interview villagers about the legality of an action then generally, while mentioning the act or thing in question and taking a questioning, I make the sign of bound hand of man prisoner . The Chinese woman was terribly embarrassed in front of my "issue" at that point then I regretted having made. But the most troubling aspect of the story is the miserable price it offers to the villagers for their catches.
The Yao village is not located on the heights but at the bottom of a small valley beside a stream. There is no view but the forest is there, from the immediate vicinity of the hamlet is surrounded by walls of greenery. The houses are typical architecture Yao: mud walls halfway up and then flattened bamboo for complete up to the roof, this thatched falling very low in front of houses, sometimes within one meter of ground component spaces where we can stand outside while being sheltered from sun and weather.
Tonight, with the young nay ban, the young village chief just returned from a day in the fields, we emptied a bottle of Lao Lao rice wine. It gave me much "shaking" and then, inevitably, when we began the meal everything was cold because, as always, do not touch the rice as they drink alcohol. But oh miracle, fields he had reported a squirrel, that his wife has prepared for us in less than ten minutes. Peeling, cutting into small pieces, completely from head to tail through the legs and claws, then cooked, boiled in water. Between the river algae and fermented tofu nauseating, this saved me some dinner. Then for the evening, they offered me two choices: follow the leader to another house to continue drinking, or down with the tribe of young children in the village on the narrow meadow that separates the torrent. There, in the moonlight, a single balloon has all great fun until late.
Day 40 Ban Mosochang Prime falang for sixteen years
More and more I go I was told that the way back to the vehicle track is long. Today it is a narrow trail on the valley floor, and without gradient that travels back through the savannah and along a stream. The herbs are often high of more than two meters, cumbersome passages that must then be opened with the arm before frequently descend into the river for ever cross again. In the morning fog, then take these places look like fairy and "mystical". Some tiny irrigated rice fields are located on the edge, I stopped myself from time to time with great surprises and joys of the few peasants who work there.
My schedule is very tight. I can not allow myself any great mishap which would slow me. I was then resolved today to walk all day, south-east now. But through the first village is part of those that raise the heart, one of the most beautiful villages Yao never visited. Therefore size, he brings a good sixty houses, placed patchy on some hillocks of bare ground. It is those I described as "primitive", every home is only land, timber, bamboo and thatch. This is the kind of village that must imperatively be photographed under the light of late afternoon or even when immersed in the morning mist and in which therefore, despite demands but my time limit, I can not resist the pleasure of me stop for the night.
Many people are in the fields but a one hundred fifty of those remaining quickly gather around me and the old man who drove me home from nay ban. This old man of 71 years, temperament surprisingly strong, resourceful and engaging, has a culture unusual for this kind of place very withdrawn and isolated from the world. Around my beautiful world map that I did not take long to show and comment, he cites an impressive number of geopolitical and historical references. My book of photographs of different ethnic populations in the region like always and it also provided a real pleasure to "hear" the Yao watch and hear all their reactions of surprise, enthusiasm and amazement, reactions resulting modulated sounds they emit very often and so charmingly.
Eighteen people, all ages, live in the house who greets me nay ban it is the extended family. Tonight, in honor of my presence, they killed two hens. Then many villagers while away the afternoon came to see the stranger, the house was soon full to overflowing. My old grown man told me I was the first falang, the first white Western visible in flesh and blood, for many children and young people since the last survey in the village was only sixteen years ago it was also a French but he was not there for tourism, he "worked" and was accompanied by a guide, Lao official. Visitors tourists, I'd be here first.
Day 41, Pamlang Ban Mai Smoking opium (2)
Fantastic day, even if a little laborious. I got lost at the outset of Ban Mosochang and I then had to return to the village for more information. The road was then relatively easy for single without bifurcation and very beautiful. There is still a torrent along in the bed where we spend as much time on its banks. Savanna grass was again up to the forest, dense and beautiful. Very large trees, tree ferns, giant bamboo, papyrus and other higher plants. The trail is very narrow because too little used, incorporating vegetation around its inalienable rights. In the stream, deep pools of water translucent, where you regret not having enough time to bathe. Three hours in this setting, an enchantment. One can imagine also a strong animal presence, for sure a lookout would observe here beautiful and diverse mammals. Also today, great day, I learned yesterday through information of nay ban, I'll make the connection with another walk, a long loop made last year in another country Yao located further south . I therefore fully in these two trips, toured the wildlife area to the west of the vehicle track north-east of the province.
Ruling in a village not visited last year, the connection to occur in the next hamlet. Again, almost everyone is in the field, here are found only the younger children and some adults and the elderly. Surprise, some kids seem to recognize me. A sure sign it, they'll mimic the action of juggling, a little entertainment, using stones, I offer some villagers then welcome. Mystery. But short meal stop now because I have to hurry if I want to reach in time at the track.
We must now leave this valley, reaching the heights and then down into the adjacent. Before the climb, meeting peasants Yao, entire families who came to work for several days in their fields the most remote village and then staying there at night in small shelters that are always built. Even if, contrary to the Akha or Tai Lue example, people "Chinese" (Yao, Hmong, Ho, etc..) Never build their houses on stilts main, these shelters will be on rice for their part must forever. For the edge of the forest, it is imperative to protect the night to keep out of reach of vermin, snakes and other reptiles, rodents, leeches and dangerous insects, spiders and other scorpions.
Highest I lose myself again and that was by accident in a way that I make the junction with the course taken last year in the village of Ban Khao Pamlang (village Pamlang "to up "). Only now, desolation, the village has since been abandoned. Not a single soul there lives and homes of wood, bamboo and thatch are already in an advanced state of putrefaction, are no longer as "carcasses" of home. And then the forest begins to reassert itself, through "tongues" of vegetation that already spread on the ground floor many times before but trampled. More than the state of the village, I think the most confusing to me the silence of the place as having left full of life there is only one year. For once, I confess that I record a shock this show. But even if the light of the afternoon is not very aesthetic, I still carries a photograph of the exact spot where last year, when the place was still full of life, I ' had also photographed. The comparison, juxtaposition of two images should be amazing. If this village has transmigrated is again undoubtedly due to its lack of available water. Indeed I had noticed last year the very low rate of the single available source close to the hamlet. I wanted to see her back but the place is now completely overgrown.
So that explains the "phenomenon" of some children who have recognized in the last village crossed the Ban Mosochang because it is certainly in one where all or part of the village population now transmigrée death. Thus these children lived before here in this deserted village, a place I actually visited last year.
But I am lost, quickly descend to the valley, to continue to follow the stream. Small panic for once, even despite my heightened by the sight of dead village. I finally found the course fairly easy trail. Everything is fine except that, just like last year also at the end of journey, I have a big problem with my feet deep crevices were, suddenly and without warning, opened under their plants. It's very painful not to mention it is totally useless to try to apply any dressings that do not fit under the action of water and mud. It is rather serious because of the sudden I walk more slowly and, because of pain, am obliged to distort my approach, making it equally painful joints. I intended to join the track two days, he may need me to be three and it will suffer in the meantime. The day "emergency" that I had preserved my schedule will probably be used.
The next village, Ban Mai Pamlang (village Pamlang "from below"), and probably the other three that I will cross in the next two days, so I've already visited in 2006. I had absolutely not expected it back here this year and I did not bring the pictures of villagers made at the time. I hope they will not mind me.
Remarkably, since three days I could see no sign indicating the presence of opium in the villages. But now he has resurfaced, just outside the village on the road and twice, through two poor guys, two poor wretches moving between two hamlets. The first is in full operation in a small shelter for rice field that I encountered, where I decided to rest a few minutes. This is not the first time that I met on the road outside the village and meeting full of smoke. One day it happened in the forest, surrounded by bamboo groves where two women and a man picked the edible shoots. The man had shed a few leaves on the ground by way of the necessary berth. Another time it was on the roadside and around rice fields, in a ditch where the man standing alone this time, had used straw to insulate the soil. Today it charged me incomprehensible, long and slow litanies. I only started to understand some bits when it came to his state of extreme poverty, in any case widely seen, and his health problems. The tone was set, he expected a few thousand kip on my part. Ho is my friend! You're not a beggar, then we will make an exchange: some notes against three or four pipes of opium as you get ready, any more anyway because, like most non-aficionados, it does gives me absolutely no effect apart from giving me nausea and a serious desire to vomit if that number is exceeded. But I so love the smell. The small oil lamp was lighted and prepared, so we are both lying curled up, face to face, directly on the floor of bamboo flexible and changing this fragile little shelter of rice on high stilts. A large tube of the same material as a pillow, the ritual can begin.
"Capture" a ball of opium on the end of the long needle cooking over the flame of the lamp while the kneading regularly between the thumb and forefinger to assess the consistency and format; then rapidly insert the needle in the hearth of the pipe before it is withdrawn alive while there now, two fingers, the ball that matters. It stays there and then abutting the hole created by needle aspiration becomes walked. The pipe is ready, his mouth is pointed in my direction. Just now approaching the center of the lamp and directing the opium ball just above the tip of the flame, then suck the smell produced. The man responsible for continuously collecting the center of the home and using the needle remaining product, as and extent of liquefaction, its cooking and its final evaporation. An opium pipe is smoked in a single very long shot, a single continuous suction that lasts from thirty to sixty seconds without pause, expiration taking place simultaneously through the nose. Opium mud, it crackles, then evaporates. This is pure opium, first use, there is no dross, residue of the drug that accumulates inside the pipe and, once recovered, can be smoked again (see day 22).
The second smoking met today was the way it has crossed the middle of the stream. I did not understand his words. From his little grubby and shoulder bag beyond the mouth of the pipe and the big spoon of tinplate used to recover and to anneal the dross. Both were young men aged under 35 years, and had the "physical labor" grossly recognizable face dry, greyish skin, tousled hair, clothing lint and going barefoot.
The village of Ban Mai Pamlang is located in the valley on both sides of a promontory overlooking the stream. Of the fifty houses he has, a good third of them have now adopted the corrugated light replacing the traditional but more perishable roofs of thatch or grass. This is no longer a village "primitive". In contrast, the "neighborhood" of the west face is always full, he could afford to make a beautiful picture tomorrow morning, then it is still immersed in fog. For now the picture is too late, the last rays of sun had, since my arrival, prevented access to the village by the surrounding hills. One advantage is that we all remember very well of me, my last visit, made a year ago, and contact them again immediately warm and gay with most villagers.
Day 42, Soulane Noy Ban, Untitled
Little restful night. It began with the activities of rodents, very active under the bed and walls. Then, from 1 hour 30 am, a choir of all the roosters in the village sounded. At 4 hours, the mother who got up to open its domestic activities of the day in the main room, one where I slept: shelling corn, cotton spinning, housekeeping, food preparation pigs. When she finally calmed down around 5 hours, the cocks have resumed their deafening chorus which then have any more left until sunrise. Little sleep, not to mention he is cool under the single thin blanket and dirty allocated.
More and more laborious, I'm still lost, and that for over four hours. Huge jitters early panic even the kind of moment where you wonder what we are doing here. The villagers of Ban Mai Pamlang me but said: "It's simple, you loins for the torrent half past one ET there you will find the next village, the Ban Houaychoung. You do not have to climb the heights of entire journey. But after half past two, still no village and a cul-de-sac, the end of the valley, leaving no alternative but to ascend to the heights. And then the trail is becoming more confusing, disparate, they are more than beasts of passages through which he must constantly bend the arm and remove vegetation that incident. Then, emergency return, somehow, in the village of Ban Mai Pamlang. For five hours lost, in other words the day. Here I understand what happened, I followed a tributary of the river instead of one. Yet the direction controlled by compass was perfect, continuous eastward. Finally, Ban Mai Pamlang in rushing, he's not too late to leave. Fast food ban nay then load two kids guide me during the beginning of the journey, to be sure to go in the right direction. Strong kids, ten or twelve years, which no longer fear the stranger, leaving him out of town without any adult. During the march they ask me full of questions: "Is there any rivers in you? Any mountains? And buffalo? And rice? Etc.." Again we must spend so much time in the bed of the river on its banks.
Crossing in record time in less than ten minutes from the village of Ban Houaychoung already visited last year, which all recognize me and invite me to where many spend the night again. But the next village, Ban Soulane Noy, is barely an hour's walk further and there I will try tomorrow to make the last step towards the vehicle track. I prefer to reach the village today because I want to hire a guide to not only make the trip tomorrow. So last year on warnings of the villagers, I conducted on this portion of the trail and then I had done well because the trail was actually difficult to focus and recognition. Over seven hours of walking very fast today, very tired, not to mention the extreme pain caused by wounds on my feet. The good points are environmentally driven, beautiful nature.
I chose tonight to welcome me in the village of Ban Soulane Noy, a house at random, but a house "primitive", made of wood, bamboo and thatch. Bad pick, four family members were seriously degenerating, suffering from serious mental defects. In addition to this, as is seen quite often throughout the country, the two women of the house are goitres. Consequence of disability caused by a lack of iodine and / or consumption of rice sufficiently shed its shell, sound, the throat swells excessively, so shocking to have a huge "ball" projecting.
In the village we remember well from my last visit here, and because I was at the time the first falang, the first white Western visible from very long and there was no one else since. I show my picture book "ethnic" and the villagers are immediately referred to those I made myself here a year ago. But as I already said, these pictures I have not brought with me because I had not thought of everything to be back in these villages this year. It is useless to attempt to explain this fact because I am incapable and, anyway, the truth they would absolutely not credible. Then unfortunately I must invent a lie I told that several weeks ago, during a stop in a pension China, I did steal a bag that contained them all and money. The most credible hypothesis, the most expeditious as well.
Day 43, Boun Neua, last step
That is, it's over. For the first time in thirty-eight days, the night tonight will be priced as happens at school. Starting very early this morning in the village of Ban Noy Soulane because I want to catch the minibus now expected to rise daily from noon on the north-south runway of the province. Five hours walk to the menu but if not dawdle on the road. Route in two stages, the last crossing of a Yao village is inevitable about halfway through. The road, because of painful foot injury, becomes really tedious. I tell myself that this time is time that all this ends even though I know very well that tomorrow I regret that thought and that these paths, these villages and their inhabitants already miss me terribly. At Ban Noy Soulane I hired a peasant to accompany me on the first half of the trail to the village of Ban Yao Sakhan. It was not easy to decide since it is currently the midst of harvest and all hands "strong" is needed in the rice fields and also because the stranger nevertheless continued to intimidate and even sometimes a little afraid.
For this last step two paths are possible. The north track, the shortest means to cross the great river Nam Pakone wading like all rivers in the region and on a difficult section where the current is incredibly violent. I had tried last year and it failed me and my guides had then had to stop, turn around because there were real risks mortals and the day was lost. Villagers assure me that this time the water level is not as important as other years and that the passage is then easily and safely. Hesitation, but I give up anyway to take that risk because I can not afford to lose a single day with me still more that ultimate reserves, essential to keep in case something goes wrong during the three days of transportation bring me back to the capital Vientiane. So we opted for the southern route is the longest, but it can cross the river safely, in an area where water is deep but the current calm.
My guide does not speak the word only once in more than two hours, to proudly show me his beautiful rice fields. In step, the last village Yao, Ban Sakhan that I have to "fight" for not accepting the invitation to eat and hurry to convince a villager to accompany me, I remember well since last year, the maze of trails that make up this latest stage of this journey. My new guide is young, aged 25, he no longer does not speak the word. He took along his rifle and, by the way, on one occasion to use it presents itself, a large black squirrel I found. But it's too late, the beast fled.
During the last three hours of course, is the feast of leeches. Most of those "kiss me" are immediately attracted by the blood used in surface, and they quickly accommodated at the bottom of my feet deep wounds I have to then remove them regularly, trying to tear away at the 'Using only twigs.
The junction with the trail is a place where there is an Akha village and which arrived too late last year, I had to spend a night there. The photos that I had realized, these I've taken away this year with me because in this village, located just beside the runway so it was almost certain that I returns at least once, on foot or vehicle. It is seen from the top of the last pass but my guide Yao did not want to go. It then separates him there and then immediately turn around. During the descent, the vehicle track that crosses the bottom of the valley is visible over a long distance. Suddenly it happens, the minibus, I see very far. You must not lose a minute in the long run downhill, with the bag on the back and foot pain. Then through the village under the astonished gaze of the Akha and who see me tumble down the mountain, the most isolated areas. And it besides me most undoubtedly recognized because I am convinced that no other tourists had halted here since my last visit a year ago, and then there is the physical but also the attire I have won the same two identical shirts that I used already last year and especially the same giant umbrella, standing vertically in the bag and that always makes sense in each village.
Rewarded, I stopped the vehicle within seconds, or rather a grandfather does it for me, seeing me from afar waving his arms. Me, panting, perspiring, slovenly pace, the speed of the action I did not even think, before the vehicle will not restart, launch the villagers Package photos that I had yet prepared. With disappointment, I hoped to spend this much at least a few moments before the vehicle arrived and took me.
The ride is bumpy and dusty on the dirt track dry and bumpy, but I'm finally sitting down. The feet, they would go in any case not later. Rest. This type of buses which is scheduled for twenty-seven passengers exactly but may contain twice, is not crowded this time, we are only twenty people to borrow. Not too many surprises for the region, there are villagers from five or six different ethnic groups: Ho a couple and their child, a man, two women and two children Akha, Tai Dam women (that's a mystery I did not know that this ethnic group in the region), a man Yao recognized by its typical bag shoulder some Tai Lue villagers and it is almost certain that among the remaining men, some are Phounoy, minority strongly about this the small town of Saly located a little farther east, but no sign distinctive clothing or otherwise, can now be identified. They are quick to question me about my motivation and reason for my presence in such a place.
Overnight in Boun Neua, a poor Chinese pension. As often in this chamber two cents, instead of box, simply lift the end of dirty and torn tissue that protects a small wooden table to discover a long steel needle, essential accessory to smoking opium then, on the surface of wood, burn marks indicating that the equally necessary lamp, the flame was obtained in a rudimentary way with just a few scattered pieces of candles.
As always, the animals are free to wander throughout the village, animal wastes are everywhere and many here are those who walk barefoot. There is finally only in Ho that animals can not at least reach the thresholds of houses because the habitats are almost always individually closed with a stone wall or a fence of bamboo. As often observed elsewhere, too, to feed his pigs my grandfather made them enter the house and is impressive foray hungry, angry, violent and combative. As for dogs, only those of my neighbors tolerate me a little now but I am absolutely must carry a big stick and watch the corner of my eye the other when I walk around the rest of the village. The birds of my grandfather have the right to enter the house, even the fragile bamboo mezzanine where we sleep. And then there are cats, always one or two per household, required to control a little bit the proliferation of rodents.
A second hamlet of five or six households is located a few hundred meters higher than the latter. With my neighbors we went this afternoon to deliver a family full of bundles of indeterminate plants and just harvested still green. They told me they were edible for pigs and that we could also make clothes from the crushed stalks of fiber, but it was not hemp, perhaps it is this flax?