With a driver perched on the front and one at the back, the tiny wooden boat zipped through the darkness, the only light coming from our inadequate and dim headlamps. Through the semi darkness you could just make out the scale of the cave. One minute there was barely enough room for the boat to pass through… the next you where in cathedral-like caverns over 100m high, with water spilling through the limestone roof and pattering on the river (and us) below.
A little bit of context… the Kong lo cave (or Than Kong Lo) is a 7.5 km long cave carved through a mountain by the Hinbun river, and hence only accessible via boat. To get to the cave we first had to make it to the small village also called Kong Lo, 1km from the cave. The journey itself was fairly easy with a direct bus from Vientiane, but the final few Km’s of track had more road sized potholes than I care to remember. We were, however, rewarded for our bumpy ride, as at the end we found a small village nestled in a beautiful valley, surrounded by vibrant green rice paddy fields and breathtaking mountains. Laos really does know how to do green rice paddies and striking mountains, but Kong Lo might even take the prize for the most amazing yet!
The next morning, once the guest house family’s children had shown us some puppies and made Ryan pick them up using only one arm (the children not the puppies), we walked the one kilometer to the mouth of the cave where we hired our drivers to take us through. After a few minutes on the small and unstable boat, we pulled up on a sand bank and our driver asked us to get out. With the flick of a switch lights started turning on, illuminating the cave roof, several rocky outcrops and a path where we could walk through and explore. It was like walking into an alien, moon landscape of stalagmites and rock formations…. With this much geology Ryan was ecstatic!
With Ryan having exhausted his camera battery taking pictures of rocks, we jumped back into the boat and headed of through the cave. No doubt one of the most amazing parts of the journey was still to come. As we approached the end of the cave the light started to spill in through the exit, lighting up the entire cave, rendering us temporarily blind as we readjusted to the light, and bringing huge smiles to our faces. Due to time restrictions we couldn’t spend too much time at the other side of the cave, however, there are some villages which you can walk to and stay overnight… maybe next trip.
As we sat down that night with a cold beer and talked about the day, we realised that this experience had been one of the highlights of our trip to Laos. Sure we have all been in caves before, but the sheer length and scale of this one took our breath away…no wonder the rest of the community didn’t know there was a secret village at the other end for decades.
The next part of our journey was long, involving busses, flat tyres, mopeds, hammocks and coffee….until next time