Saturday, July 23, 2011

Week 10 Pt. 2 - Tubing and Tugging


The night before exbarking on the river adventure, Dan and I found it necessary to prepare ourselves for tubing. We bought the two essential items; a small, waterproof pouch to hold our monies and a pair of yellow, gym shorts stamped with the official tubing logo. We passed out early imagining what our foray into party central was going to be like.

The next morning Dan and I woke up with some serious wonky belly. But we couldn’t pass up this opportunity, so we met up with the other cyclists, a bit tardy and still a bit wonky, but ready to go. The others admired our new gear as we signed a waiver and grabbed a tube. We informally agreed that we weren’t going to get wasted and just wanted to check out the scene. I think that pact lasted all of the 5 minutes it took us to get to the starting point.

We hopped out of the tuk-tuk and were met by a young Laotian standing at a small table. He presented us with a tray of shots to get us going. I’m pretty sure we all needed that shot of confidence which tasted a lot like hot Redbull. We crossed the rickety bamboo bridge and eased ourselves into the water.

It was only 11 a.m. and we had the river to ourselves. But just seconds after getting in the water, we got back out at our first stop. A barman threw me a bottle tied to a rope. I tried to open the bottle, thinking he was throwing me some rice liquor. The others peed themselves laughing as they screamed, “Don’t drink it!”. I’d heard a lot of stories about all the booze and thought that this could only be one of the ways they get you drunk fast, but apparently this was only a tow rope used to pull people towards the dock. I clumsily popped myself out of my tube and scrambled up the ladder.

And then the drinking began…

Mudpit tug-of-war

singing YMCA
Blob - jump

Blob - landing 
Emily discreetly pointing out a spray-painted drunky

Dan on the rope swing

young kid doing the pole climb

panorama of the surroundings

An Organic Mulberry Farm and Some Goats
We spent a recovery day working on resumes in one of the dozen caf├ęs in town that shows “Friends” all day. We were not alone.

In the afternoon, we took a 10km ride just outside of town to the organic mulberry farm, It’s actually located right where the tubing begins. I’ll be honest, it is a bit odd to sit in this beautiful farm and hear pop music being blasted throughout the day and night and watch drunkies stumble down to the river. I think it would drive me crazy! We’re pretty sure the farm was there first, but they’re trying to reach some sort of agreement about the music volume. We’ll see.

We’d read about the farm’s infamous goat cheese and delicious food. After some mulberry tea and about a pound of goat cheese, we took a quick tour of the farm. We decided to come back the next morning around 6 am to help care for and milk the goats.

The Vang Vieng Organic Farm is committed to “preserving ecological diversity and providing people with accessible and sustainable technologies to earn a living.” Some of their projects include; organic mulberry tea & wine production, homemade goat cheese, a local run restaurant, education programs, farm-stays, and the construction of mud houses used as community centers for villages.

We were most interested in helping care for the goats. The first two goats on the farm were dairy goats from France. Overtime, a Vietnamese goat was added to the family and breeding began. With a grant and donation of several more goats from Thailand, cheese production was able to begin.

Eventually, the farm plans to distribute goats to local farmers and teach them how to raise the goats and produce their own yoghurt. Through a goat bank, local farmers will receive goats and over time, pay back the number of goats they have received to give to other farmers. Since Laotians don’t really eat cheese, the farmers will learn to produce their own yoghurt. Another plus is that little real equipment is needed to make yoghurt. Hopefully, the increase in yoghurt production will help better farmers’ diets which mainly consist of grains and lack protein.

We spent the morning cleaning the stalls, feeding the goats and finally, milking. It’s a lot harder than it looks, but Dan was able to empty a couple goat utters. I was more interested in tasting the fresh milk and cheese. After a few hours, we finished work and walked around the farm. We stumbled upon the slaughtering of a goat to be eaten during the up-coming New Year festivities and I discovered my interest in butchery. Hey, it is a farm.  

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