A very scenic 41km ride from our guest house, we arrived at the mighty Kong Lor cave. The fee was 55,000 kip ($7 ish) including boat trip, guide and entrance to the valley. Seemed a bit pricey at the time, but turned out to be oh-so worth it.
We kitted up in madatory life jackets – I’m not sure why these were necessary but they did help keep us warm inside the cave! We also hired head torches for $1 and, as I stupidly only had motorbike boots, I hired a pair of flip flops for $0.50 so I didn’t get my socks wet.
As we were led into the gaping mouth of the cave, the last light began to shrink behind us, conjuring up a combination of unusual feelings. I couldn’t decide wether it was more River Styx into Hades or Willy Wonka but either way, it was certainly different. “There’s no earlthly way of knowing, which direction we are going. There’s no knowing where we’re rowing, or which way the river’s flowing.”
As we were plunged into darkness, it quickly became apparent that our rent-a-head torches had not been charged for some time and therefore didn’t offer much relief from the encroaching darkness. “Not a speck of light is showing, so the danger must be growing. All the fires of Hell a-glowing, is the grisly reaper mowing?”
A few km into the cave, the water became too shallow for us to remain in the boat. A small section of rapids eerily trickeld over our feet as we traversed the impressively lit, stalagmite jungle.
Once we’d cleared the rapids it was back in the boat, motoring through the darkness, dropping in and out of pockets of frigid air, catching fleeting glimpses of quartz outcrops. “Yes, the danger must be growing, for the rowers keep on rowing. And they’re certainly not showing, any signs that they are slowing.”
After forty minutes of nothing but black, when the mouth of the cave finally appeared, it was more like a tippy hallucination than an a physical hole in the earth. The colours reflected back off the water with crystal clarity.
I have never felt so elated as the rayes warmed my face and brought life out of the darkness.
After a quick drink in the valley, we re-entered the cave, traversed the rapids and sometime later popped back out the other side.
In our best Lao, we thanked our boatmen and became re-united with sunlight in one of the prettiest places I have ever set foot.
Like something out of National Geographic, clouds of butterflies fluttered alongside us while we admired the vivid green pools that were rich with fish.
A final glimpse at the psychedelic forest and we were off. Back to the bikes and back to the real world.