Gibbons + Ziplines = Awesome, Laos – The Smug Monday Series Ep. 15
Well, this adventure really started on Sunday as we got on a two hour bus ride from Luang Namtha to Ban Don Chai where we were dumped at the side of the road, opposite the petrol station with our bags right next door to Mr I Daeng’s house. Six days ago, we had been to Houyxay where we were told that we could stay here so that we didn’t have to get up at stupid o’clock in the morning and get on a bus to come here, the closest town to the Gibbon Experience. The rooms were wooden, basic and awesome. There was a river just down the road and visible from our room, so me and Evan went snorkelling, dam building and generally mucking about.
At 11 o’clock, three utes turned up (one empty, and two full of tourists), so us and a lovely French bloke called Auriel jumped in the empty ute and we set off for the bumpiest ride of our lives. Forty minutes and three or four head bangs later we arrived at a remote village, got out of the ute and began hiking. After 20 minutes we stopped for a break, and then continued onto “kitchen one” where they explained how to use and put on the harness, and told us which tree house we would live in.
Once that information was acquired, we headed to our first zip line. It was 270 metres long and, like most zip lines, it was mad high! After that, we had two minutes walk until our next zip line to “The Tower of Terror”, a small wooden platform on a tree acting as a junction between between the path to tree house one, tree house seven and the village. One more zip line and a thirty minute hike later, we got to treehouse seven. We got the top floor as a bedroom, and everyone else got the middle floor (the bottom floor was where the toilet, shower and zip line in and out points were) 😎
Besides Auriel and us, in our treehouse we had Dorothea from Switzerland and Hannah, Ellana and Mom from the USA. They were all great fun and generally lovely people.
On Tuesday we were up at 7 am, hiked for half an hour until we came to treehouse three. Compared to our treehouse, it was tiny, fit for four instead of eight. An hour of trudging through towering trees, carpets of leaves and bamboo kingdoms saw us at the terrifying treehouse five. As we zipped towards it, treehouse five loomed from the forest canopy. Like an egret above a fish, it towered over the valley with the treehouse perched precariously within its branches. To get out of the treehouse you had to jump through an open doorway, 50 metres above the ground. To re-enter you had to zip in through an open window. Only Evan managed this. We then dragged our weary arses back to treehouse seven for lunch and a rest.
An hour later we wandered through the jungle for five minutes before veering off the path down a slippery track no wider than my boot until we came to the suspended and stretched treehouse number one. For the rest of the day we zipped around the forest before we went back to our treehouse to have a game of Uno with our treehouse chums. Finally, we climbed up to our small rooftop tent thing, and slept with Lancaster bomber beetles, Spitfire bats and fat Sherman tank tree-rats attacking the tent.
Today we got up to our last day at the Gibbon Experience. We didn’t do much today, just going home really, although I did manage to zip across a line and not have to pull myself half way across though. We did zip in a circuit and when my mum went to find Evan, she zipped across one line and saw him zipping back across the valley on a line above her!
So, finally we had to stop zip lining and had to hop back into a truck and bounced for 40 minutes back to Ban Donchai.
So, The Gibbon Experience. If you have a choice of reading a book, or doing the Gibbon, do the Gibbon! It’s packed with wildlife, zipping and treehouses, but sadly, no hot tubs. It felt AMAZING to go ziplining, jumping off “The Tower of Terror” was scary but awesome. Oh, by the way, we actually saw some of the critically endangered gibbons too. Black crested gibbons to be precise, and we saw them swinging through the trees, eating breakfast and singing their magnificent songs which echoed magically around the forest and were as loud as a jackhammer.
Black crested gibbons mostly eat sugar rich fruit such as figs, but add to their diet with insects and leaves. They are about 50 cm long and weigh about 8 kg. The male is almost completely black, and the female is a golden colour with a black streak across its head.
They shriek and woop for 20 – 30 minutes in the morning from the tallest trees on the highest ridges. It sounds like a mix between an ambulance and a video game. They sing so that the bond between them stays strong and to ward off enemy gibbons. Sadly, they are critically endangered due to being hunted and habitat loss.