Nam Wa River Rafting
Marissa and I live across the street from Kathy's home, a Christian home for hill tribe children. Kathy's home was founded by two American missionaries when they realized that the education of Hmong children often ends at grade 4 or 5. Hmong children now have the opportunity to live in the city of Pua where there are better schools. There are currently about 30 children who live in Kathy's home and five of them are my students! Marissa, Beverly, Paul and Justyn also have students living at Kathy's home. Tuesday night is English tutoring night at Kathy's home, so us farangs try to go there every Tuesday.
During a long weekend, the student at Kathy's home were able to go home to their families in the mountains. On Saturday morning, we had planned to go up to visit them in their village. The fathers of our students wanted to take us fishing, so we woke up at 6am and drove up into the mountains. It took one and a half hours to reach their village. When we got there, they loaded us in a pick-up truck and started driving up and down these insane paths in the mountains. An hour later, we arrived at the river and were told to leave everything in the car. We were going rafting. Having brought a backpack of things I might need, I was confused, but went with it.
If there's one thing I've learned in Thailand it's to expect the unexpected. Plans are always changing and you never really know what's going on, but if you can accept that with a positive attitude, you won't be disappointed.
FYI: I used my friend's camera today and couldn't get rid of the damn [incorrect] time stamp. I'm sure it doesn't bother you as much as it bothers me, but I just wanted to let you know that I know it's wrong.
Four dads and six farangs divided up into two rafts. The first few rapids weren't too extreme, but we were told there would be "anterai" (aka danger) ahead. We parked our boats a few times throughout the morning to swim and fish. They throw nets with chains at the bottom to catch fish. One of the dads is the best fisherman in the entire region and proved himself when he caught a dozen fish within the first few stops- it was incredible. The guy is a savage he catches fish, bites their heads to kill them, then tosses them in a basket he wears around his waist.
After two or three hours of rafting, we stopped for lunch. The dads went to work preparing what would be one of the best meals I'd eat in Thailand. They prepared a fire and used bamboo to create a grill over the fire. In addition to the fish we caught, the men seasoned and grilled the most amazing steak I've ever had. We ate steak with rice and this spicy sauce made with red pepper flakes, cilantro, garlic and fish sauce. They also made this amazing lemon grass and vegetable fish soup over the fire. We ate everything with our hands off a big banana leaf buffet. Even 10 hungry adults couldn't finish all the food they prepared. It was time to raft onward.
In the background, I'm attempting to go fishing using this net method. The net is so heavy that I fell in while throwing the net. Maybe next time I'll actually catch something...
We paddled hard for about an hour when the rapids started getting crazier. The dad in the front was nimble AF and jumped on and off the boat pushing us around and sometimes off rocks. The dad in the back called the shots and steered the raft. When approaching a rapid, he'd yell "jum" which means paddle. It took me a while to realize he wasn't telling me to jump...classic farang mix up. Once we got the hang of it, our boat dominated the other boat...not that it was a competition. "Kang" means strong, so we called ourselves Team Kang.
It had been a long day in the sun and we didn't have any water so around 2pm we started to wonder how much longer we had until we reached our destination for the day. Four more hours, they said...and they weren't kidding. Nam Wa river has some class four and five rapids, but these guys were familiar with the river and knew the best routes to take. It was SO MUCH FUN!
We finally reached our students waiting with pick-up trucks at about 6pm. I will never forget that drive back to their village. The sun was setting into the mountains and my feet we hanging off the back of the pick-up truck as it zoomed up these ridiculously steep dirt paths. There were no houses, cars, or people, just mountains and valleys on either side of me for as far as I could see. I didn't have anything with me- no shoes, no phone. I felt like I was floating in happiness. There was absolutely nothing to worry about. Nothing to think about except how awesome our day was.