Nov 14, 2020
Donna and I decided we were going to take an afternoon walk. Normally in the morning we just walk across the bridge a few times because it’s nice and flat but this afternoon we decided to walk up the sunrise Mekong path. We walked over, what has become known as, ’broken bridge’. Its name has been earned due to the negligence to do any actual upkeep here at the neighboring guesthouse that is our official path out to the island. We turned left past the aspiring karaoke bar that was shut down before it could get started due to COVID gathering restrictions, past the green watered swimming pool, and finally past the hovel of a soup restaurant and through the main gate. The path, while no longer muddy, has dried in ruts left by motorbikes that carved their way through the swampy mess creating a real challenge to walk in a carefree manner. Donna and I hold hands to keep each other steady as we navigate the treacherous landscape. A few more yards and we walk up a short incline which Donna refers to as “the mountain of Don Det” and we cross the rice field road. We wait at the top while a bicycle climbs the mountain. The cyclist jumps off to push the rest of the way up the short incline and we continue down the mountain to the Mekong path.
It’s not long before we reach Fred and Lea’s garden spot. Their excellent restaurant on Don Khone has been closed for some months now due to… yes, COVID. He felt he had to do something to pass the time and thought a garden would be nice. They also took the time to take his wife, Lea, to driving school in Pakse to get her license. He got a Laos license as well since he won’t be able to go to France this year to renew his. The garden is beautiful and lush with flowers and vegetables. He says Youtube taught him everything. Donna says that is my next project, study on Youtube and learn how to compost better than I have done so far. After a short visit, we continue on our way.
We pass the Mekong Dream guesthouse and a pouting 2-year-old. We approach Tawan Daeng guesthouse and just past we see a multitude of people. We figure this must be a party since Mama Daeng told us that the rice had been harvested a day or so ago. Lots of rice parties right now. There was whooping and hollering! As we got closer we noticed that everyone was excitedly looking over the edge of the path towards the Mekong. Then we saw what all the excitement was about. A large blue machine that makes its rounds on the island to remove the rice off the stalks had lost ‘footing’ as the shore gave way on the narrow path and had tumbled over almost into the Mekong! The small tractor had already been pulled out by the time we had arrived and the driver was taken over to the clinic on Don Khone. They told me he was okay but they wanted him to be looked at any way to be sure. There were long ropes tied to the machine one of which stretched across the field to a tree. Others, people holding to make sure the machine didn’t fall any further. I went back to get Fred, he had a phone for pictures and he would be a strong helper. There was quite an exciting buzz as everyone called out their ideas of what to do. Eventually, someone decided that removing the motor would make the large machine lighter. With great effort and working together lifting, pulling with ropes up a bamboo rail the motor was finally on the path and moved away from the scene.
Have you ever watched ants working together to carry a large object, be it an insect or other item, up an impossible incline and over a distance? That is what happened here. Everyone was the boss! Hahaha! Some pulled, some pushed, and not always in a common direction but in the end, the signals unified and the machine was turned partially upward. One wheel was not allowing it to be brought onto the path so it was removed. Through a tangle of ropes pulling from over and several people pushing it upward from under, the machine inched its way towards the security of the path. Jean Claude held some ropes, another tourist jumped in to help. This is how a community works! Fred and I moved to where we could be the most help at any given moment awkwardly holding the machine for the removal and then remounting the last tire. At last, the machine was back on the path and the whooping crowd of people cheered as the machine was saved. It was pushed back down the path to the neighboring house to be rebuilt and repaired. Many heartfelt thanks all around as the community dispersed, some not without a celebratory shot of Lao Lao.
Donna and I decided that was enough excitement and wandered back home before it got dark.
There’s never a dull moment here on the island!