When I was a child, I used to imagine a zip-line that was so long it would run all the way from my house, into town. I thought it would be the most amazing thing in the world! It turns out that I was able to live this childhood fantasy many years later! The Gibbon Experience runs incredible adventure tours in the Bokeo Reserve, which support the conservation of the forest and the local communities that live there. They depart from Huay Xai, a town in the far North of Laos. We did the three day waterfall package and I would highly recommend it, especially if you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker.
On the first morning, we were picked up in a tuk-tuk and drove for two hours to a local village, where the tour was to start. Pigs and piglets wandered along the dusty, dry laneways snorting happily, children ran in and out of the shacks and the air was humid and sticky. We were given a beer for the journey and then the hike began!
The day consisted of a lot of trekking interspersed with zip-lines, which took us flying high up in the canopy of the jungle. We wore harnesses, clipped ourselves onto the wire and zoomed over the trees at a tremendous pace. The longest zip-line was 500 metres, with incredible views down into the valleys.
The most exciting moment was zooming into our first wooden treehouse for the evening! It was about 50 metres from the ground with two levels. On the top level, the mattresses lay around the trunk of the tree, and there were some small tables to eat on. Each mattress had its own tent, which draped from the ceiling like a mosquito net. Down below was the bathroom. The toilet was full of wasps and spiders and no-one liked to linger in there for a long time. The Europeans and Canadians were all terrified of the spiders, which I found most entertaining! I was more afraid of the wasps hovering around our bottoms as we tried to go to the toilet. Despite the magnificent view, I was out of there as soon as possible!
In the afternoon, we had some independent zip-lining time before dinner, where you could follow the circular route through the local canopy. At 5pm, the guides brought dinner into the treehouse via zip-lines. We opened up the silver canisters to enjoy a shared meal of sticky rice and a selection of vegetarian dishes. Later, Sompeg flew in holding a huge kettle of boiling water with a banana palm leaf for our Laotian tea and coffee. We mixed our coffee with whiskey and sweetened condensed milk for a pre-bed drink.
The next morning, we awoke at around 6.30am and soaked in the spectacular jungle views. We saw a giant squirrel in the trees, but no gibbons. We also heard a lot of birds, as the mist crept above the canopy.
Breakfast was sticky rice, vegetarian dishes and fruits, served in a similar fashion to the night before. The first zip line of the day was exhilarating and much better than the day before! The trekking was longer too. It was hot and the hills were long and hard but it was all worth it for the feeling of flying through the rainforest. We zip-lined into a fresh swimming hole before lunch, plunging into the ice cold water from a height. The waterfall was beautiful but I was happy to get out quickly and enjoy lunch before heading back to our new lodgings.
On the second night, we stayed in a slightly smaller tree house, with just as much charm as the first. I spent the afternoon on another independent zip-lining route, zooming around the forest at a tremendous pace! Started to get sick of sticky rice by dinner, as it seemed to appear at every meal and was rather stodgy in the stomach. But it was good for soaking up the rather lethal whiskey we had consumed and I knocked myself out by 9pm, falling asleep in my new tent, high up in the trees.
On the last morning, we ate baguettes, omelettes and fruit, a refreshing change for the stomach, before taking our final zip-line and a two hour trek back to the village. It was an experience that would create memories of a lifetime!
Have you ever done any zip-lining? Where did you go?