Gibbon Experience, Laos
Day one of the three day Gibbon Experience. We had heard fantastic reports about the waterfall tour from everyone we had spoken to, so we were keen to get going. After a short video safety instruction, the eight of us (3 Aussies, 3 Russians, 1 German, 1 Brit) were herded into the back of pickups for the two hour drive out to the village that we started our trek from. Let's just say it wasn't the most comfortable ride of our lives.
Once we arrived we were introduced to our two local guides, and then headed off into the forest. Ten minutes later we stopped in a clearing for lunch. I have no idea why we didn't just eat lunch in the village, where there were benches to sit on. We accepted the oddness of the itinerary, ate our chicken rolls, then continued on our way.
The next two hours were spent hiking mostly uphill. I'm sure the scenery was good but I was too busy trying to catch my breath while climbing non-stop through the hot and humid jungle. The tour guides eventually announced that we had reached the waterfall, supposedly one of the highlights of the tour. It was tiny, and was barely worth the effort. There was a decent-looking lagoon to swim in at the base of the "falls", and we all got changed to enjoy a cool-off after the strenuous effort. Once I dipped my feet into the lagoon I discovered how cold the water was (freezing) and didn't go any further. The others were braver than I was. We stayed there for an hour before getting dressed and putting our harnesses on. Then we hit the ziplines.
In a word: awesome. The ziplines were much longer than those at the Flight of the Gibbon in Bangkok, which made them a billion times better. The take-offs and landings were on solid ground though, rather than on unstable platforms in trees 50 m above the ground, and this removed some of the thrill factor. We needed to use a brake when coming in to land as we were travelling at high speeds, which we tried to leave until the last moment (there were only a couple of crash landings). The views were breathtaking. The other Aussie had the great idea of attaching his camera to the harness so he could take photos and videos while ziplining, which I then proceeded to do as well. For the next two hours we zipped and trekked until we reached the tree house, where we spent the night.
The only way to enter and exit the tree house was on ziplines; there were no stairs or ladders and we were about 100m above the ground. It consisted of two levels: one for the zipline entrance/exit as well as the open air, zero privacy, cold water bathroom (with the best views a bathroom could have), the other for sleeping and eating. The whole tree house shook when someone came in on the zipline - there could be no surprise intruders in the middle of the night. Dinner also arrived on the zipline, which consisted of sticky rice, veggies and stews. There was enough rice to feed 20 people, so no one went hungry. We also received peanut brittle as a snack and to my surprise, Danny, the peanut-hater, loved it.
Our solar lighting went out about 8 p.m., so that was it for the night. We slept on firm, foam mats under mosquito nets, listening to the animals in the jungle and one of the Russians who snored for the entire night.