A Hot Bath.
The climbing alone is nothing really, but with this heat I have to seek refuge beneath that shade of a banyan tree or the rustic thatch of a peasants shelter. The peasants’ shelter is just off of the road in a rice field, and as I lay on the raised bamboo floor the scene looking over the valley is like of a fairy tale. The sight of elves and hobbits would come as no surprise at all.
I have found that in these hot and humid conditions once the body has returned to something resembling a normal temperature the lost energy soon returns and one is felling as fit and full of beans as when the day began. And so I press on, and before two I am at my destination for the day.
It is a lovely little spot, alone from any other habitation. There is a simple restaurant on one side of the road and five small bungalows in a row climbing a hill on the other side.
It is a popular spot for Lao lorry drivers to lunch, and it would seem that one of the things that the Laotians took on board from their former colonial masters was the lunch habit of the lorry driver. So far as I can tell from my casual observations the Lao lorry driver is a jolly chap who does not wish to be rushed when it comes to the pleasures of life. And if this is correct then lunch is clearly one of his primary pleasures. The company of fellow truckers and pretty ladies, good food, a beer to wash it down, talking, joking, and merriment. And perhaps for good measure one or two drivers (or their ladies) may be in the frame of mind to serenade the gathering with little karaoke.
I joined in this jolly luncheon affair, albeit from a distance and alas without the pretty young lady, or big lorry. But I did have fine food, a beer, and a bicycle.
As I crossed the road heading back to my bungalow the old lady who presides over events here points out the stream and pond, ‘hot water’ she says ‘ah, splendid’ I reply trying to seem enthusiastic. She is insistent that it is very therapeutic and that I look like a chap in need of therapy. Not wishing to offend I wander down to the water’s edge for closer inspection.
As I stand looking at the steam rising from the pool my mind wanders back to the hot mineral waters of the high Andes that I once bathed in; how soothing that water felt as the minerals and salt permeated my pores and aching muscles. We had been some days in the wilderness then. By the time we had pitched camp each evening the sun was setting and the temperatures had already plunged bellow well bellow zero rendering the idea of a shower with cold water from a bicycle bottle far from appealing, so far from appealing than it never happened. But on the day of the hot springs we had finished early. The sun was still high and strong and the day was warm. No sooner was the tent up than I was stripped off and in the water.
‘’Was it good’ enquired Sebastian when I had finished. ‘Splendid’ I said, “you really should give it a try”. And so he did. This was an isolated place. The road was surfaced with salt, it was an odd sort of a road. And when one day we saw two cars in 24 hours we thought the road busy. So you can imagine my amusement when, just as Sebastian was about to remove his underwear and climb in up pulls a car and out jumps a happy latino family. Not only did they jump out, but they made their way directly to the little pool, proffered their greetings and, in the fashion of the ever friendly Argentinians sat down for a good natter.
An interesting aspect of the Argentinian character is that a lack of common language acts as no deterrent to having a nice chat. Actually quite the contrary, the Argentinian seems to revel in the challenge presented by the language barrier. In due course the family finished their chat and set off on their way. Checking that the coast was clear Sebastian this time managed to strip off and immerse himself in the soothing waters just as a large orange adventure motorcycle and a film crew arrived; and where did they think would be the best spot to do their photo shoot?
Anyway, I enjoyed my bath there very much and so thinking that I may have a similarly gratifying experience here I decided to give it a go.
As I lay there in the warmth of the water two things crossed my mind, one was that this water was lacking the soothing minerals of its high Andean counterpart, and the other was why, having struggled and sweated and sweltered here in 40 degrees of heat, dreaming of a cold shower as I slogged up the relentless hill, was I laying immersed in a hot bath? Not normal.