Everyone was shin deep in mud and water. Rotovators crossbred with paddle steamers played alongside buffalo, straw-hatted drivers suspended out back on a cast iron tractor seat and splattered from shirt-tail to toe. Young men wade waist deep in the lake collecting green weed. Further East in China there is a drought.
We were riding through heavily forested mountains, down and up small river valleys and over low passes. Our collection of maps bore little relation to the topography at times but the network of roads was sparse and it was hard to get lost. There are remarkably few roads in these parts and away from those there are must be pretty wild. By foot across country would be the best way to travel. The tribal outfits seemed to change almost daily.
One morning we woke up in the tropics once more. The thermometer rose over 30 degrees and bananas fought with canna for space under the jungle canopy. Unseen armies of cicadas sharpened their scythes all around us and helped the fretting crickets to beat and churn the hot moist air into a soup thick enough to tempt hand-sized butterflies into braving improbable flight. The warm arboreal blanket pulled over the wrinkled, sleeping bodies of the mountains was torn in places by rice or tobacco farms. These tears had scoured away the Earths green skin leaving open and unhealing wounds to bleed the lifeblood of plants into the Devonian-red river. We followed this river for some days as it slid guiltily along the valley floor, laden with silt and the broken dreams of forest trees, drawn, inexorably toward the mighty, indifferent Mekong .
Traffic has been light this last week. We admired a passing motorcyclists bamboo basketwork safety helmet and were wondering about its pro's and obvious con's when we came round a corner to find said fellow and bike prostrate in the middle of the road. No serious injuries it seemed, lucky he didn't hit his head. We picked his bike up and hundreds of seedlings that had spilt from his over sized basket panniers. I think he had swerved too sharply to avoid a pothole and with so much weight onboard, lost his balance. Further along a truck-driver needed help tilting his cab forwards so that he could get to the engine. Our good deed day.