A Walk In The Laotian Karst

At the heart of the extensive karstic landscapes of Khammouane Province, Hin Namno National Biodiversity Conservation Area is a 82,000 Ha expanse of wilderness.

Karstic landscapes are landscapes based on limestone, creating numerous jungle-covered peaks and caves, such as the immense Xe Bangfai Cave which is only about 9 km north-east of where this virtual tour was shot. The area shown in the virtual tour is actually an untouched small mountain range just south of Hin Namno, accessible from the village of Nonping on the Xe Bangfai River. The border with Vietnam is only 25 km away.

The road between Nonping and the forest.

From the village, a 6.5 km very pretty but very bumpy dirty road takes you to the start of a trail in the forest. The transport is assured by a pretty convenient machine that looks quite funny at first for people like me coming from the West.

We could describe it as a mix between a tractor and a motorbike, to which was attached a small wooden trailer to transport people. This machine makes work a little easier for the farmers and is slowly replacing the traditional buffalo – Hence the nickname of this machine: Chinese buffalo!

Yes, the road is not easy… even with a Chinese buffalo.

Once in the forest, the more you walk, the thicker it gets. And it seems that at the time of my visit, no one has walked there for months, because most of the time the path had been swallowed by the vegetation and the machete was needed to clear the way.

In the forest before it gets dense.

After a long walk in the jungle, you suddenly see the sunlight again when you reach the wild rocky river banks. It is called the Xiang Lue River, I have been told.

From there, it’s a 500 meter walk along the river to reach the goal of this hike: a set of small waterfalls, lost in the wilderness.

Waterfalls on the Xiang Lue River

The distances really don’t seem like much but it is quite unbelievable the time it takes to walk through a dense jungle.

In any case, this walk in the forest was a very nice complement to the visit of the Xe Bangfai Cave and it is a great way to experience the rainforest environment that is all around the cave; I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to the Xe Bangfai area.

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