By now I consider myself a tough south east Asia motorbiker:
– drive in ice rain with fog on a deserted mountain pass: done it
– big city racing between 6 other motorbikes a massive truck and 2 tuktuk’s on a 3 lane way: been there
– drive for an hour to arrive at a dead end: so passé
However, I wasn’t prepared for this drive. Quickly after I left the village of Udumxai I felt the fever of the previous night return, with a vengeance. Stomach problems (for the first time since India) and dehydration at a temperature of 33 degrees without drinking water nearly completed the picture of a miserable physical state.
Not only had the road a total absence of traffic (=help in case of trouble) and villages an hour apart, the road was the most extreme until now. I will never forget the feeling of sitting on a nearly overheated motorbike, fully loaded with my backpack tied at the back and a daypack in the shopping basket on the front, driving in first gear up hill, losing traction and starting to slide backwards down the long muddy mountain flanked by cliffs.
Upon arrival at Chom Ong I had covered 40 km in 4 hours. I felt/was more dead than alive. I couldn’t find anybody at the who spoke more than 2 words of English (literally). The amount of effort for conveying the words ‘sleep’ and ‘food’ made clear that the locals aren’t used to visitors and/or that I apparently suck at even the simplest of charades.
The question arises why I go through all this trouble. That became clear the following morning as I left at 60% strenght for Chom Ong cave. After an hour’s uphill hike we arrived at the entrance of the cave, which has only been surveyed in 2009, came equipped with a solar powered lighting system. What I saw inside was the most amazing sight of this trip: a perfectly lit cave of 15 meters high and around 40 meters high. I leave it up to the interested spectator to Google ‘Chom Ong cave’ to learn and see more. I can only say that the combination of the size, the silence, the illumination (and the darkness when you turn it off) is truly amazing. We (obviously) went beyond the fixed lighting and explored a substantial part of this 13km cave with my $1 torch and the flash-function of my iPhone (my guide didn’t have a flashlight).