Swallows at Sunset
The adventure continues...
A few days ago my friends and I decided to take a weekend trip to a nearby cave. Lod Cave is millions- if not hundreds of millions of years old and over 1,500 meters in length. Early humans used the cave for shelter and burials and some of their artwork still remains. The trip to Lod Cave would be my longest motorbike journey thus far. At a little over an hour away from Pai and filled with windy roads and bumpy dirt paths, a trip to the Cave is what gives most tourists their “Pai Tattoo” meaning an injury the receive from crashing their bike. It is so common to walk the streets of Pai and see every third person with a bandage on their arm or leg. I was determined to come out of the trip unscathed.
We were traveling with friends new and old which made the trip all the more fun. However, halfway there one of Wesley’s bike began to fishtail horribly. We pulled over on the side of the road under a steep curve (certainly not the best place to stop) and figured out that the bike had a very flat tire. Three of our friends went on ahead in search of a mechanic while the rest of us stayed behind. We were stopped by loads of nice bikers and truckers asking if we needed help. Finally, just as our friends arrived back to tell us they had found a mechanic shop, a truck pulled over and asked if we needed a lift. We put the bike in the back of the truck with Wes sitting on it and the truck drove off. Us on motorbikes tried to keep up but the truck was racing around the tight curves and we all lost each other.
After that little diversion, our entire crew managed to reconnect at the entrance to Lod Cave. The entire point of our trip was to stay all night so we could watch the swallows fly in the cave while the bats flew out. As we set out toward the mouth of the cave, sunset was just approaching. We crossed a rickety bamboo bridge, passed a buddhist temple set deep in the rainforest, and finally wound our way down to the mouth of the cave, a huge cavernous opening with a river and adjoining beach flowing out of it. The beach was dotted with fallen swallows and bat guano. Before we could see it, we could hear the masses of birds flying and cawing in the distance. When we approached the cave, the entrance was practically black with the animals, swirling about in the sky and diving into the abyss. We sat on the beach for awhile (at some point a bird pooped on my shoulder) and took pictures before seeing an intriguing look-out place from afar. After a few minutes we made our way to this lookout place, giving us a front-on view of the cave’s sunset activities. Someone had built a bamboo lookout structure that my friends and I climbed into. We sat and watched the sunsetfall over the hills and turn the water orange and then deep purple all while telling stories and laughing with each other.
After the sun set we made our way back to our bikes and rode to our hostel. It was a welcome relief for tired and very hungry travelers. The hostel was called Cave Lodge and it was essentially a treehouse overlooking bungalows and the river. The food was incredible and our hosts were absolutely lovely. We spent the evening chatting it up with our new friend Kent who is an American ex-pat biking his way around Southeast Asia, and playing cards against humanity. Truly a great evening. Then came precious sleep and a relaxing morning before setting off on our cave tour.
Did I mention the cave is massive? Our tour took almost an hour and we only saw a fraction of the cave. I was completely drenched in sweat by the time we finished but it was an incredible experience. You walk through the cave with guides who have gas lanterns to show the way. At certain parts the only way to continue the tour is to cross the river. Though only waist deep, the tours provide locally crafted bamboo rafts. As we floated down the river, I shown my flashlight into the water and saw massive fish swimming all around us. Looking up, the entire cavern roof was covered with bats. Sometimes hundreds would be hanging together. I was in awe during the entire tour.
After a small hangup (Casey’s bike wouldn’t start), my friends and I made our way back home to Pai. Exhausted and exuberant from my adventure, I took it easy the rest of the day. The best part is that there are still so many wonderful places to explore! More to come.