Fishing Loas style on the Mekhong
I consider myself witty, handsome, and generally good at things. Though I have proudly freed myself from the shackles of personal hygiene, I consider myself (despite my odorous nature), someone people generally like to be around. There are a few realities of dirtbagdom that one generally doesn’t like to face, 1) sometimes it’s trickier than one might hope in attracting members of the fairer sex (maybe the smell?!…nah.) 2) Comparatively to the rest of the non-dirtbags, cleanbags if you will, dirtbags as a matter of fact, are more likely to shit themselves. It is a fact that having shit in your pants certainly renders you into the category, of someone; people don’t want to be around. No matter how witty and handsome.
After a long day of climbing, you sit down around a camp fire with a crew of your fellow dirtbags, cook up the classic staple of noodles and red sauce, and mention how you had a “fart that almost went a little too far today.” Everyone chuckles a bit. But watch out. This is a dangerous comment, as it starts a chain reaction of storytelling of escalating tragedy in which everyone readily admits too some wild circumstance in which they, their partner or some poor friend of theirs, hilariously shit their pants. These stories are fantastic, fun to tell, but hard to live. The time my friend was climbing alone in the Peruvian Andes and accidently drank downstream of a dead cow. The result of which was being so sick, he shit himself multiple times. Found himself unable to hike, was trapped, alone, and hallucinating that he was conversing with the higher power. This was wholly disconcerting as he is an adamant atheist. When he recovered enough to hike out, unbeknownst to him, 4 days had passed. That the stuff of legend, right there.
I too prefer my deity to maintain a jaunty pose.
There are essentially two points in your life when it’s expected and generally accepted, you get too shit yourself. We get the joy of diapers and having someone wipe our ass, at the beginning and at the end. This is something we should all come to embrace. This is the joyous and heart breaking reality of a human life.
It’s the in between pant shits that are truly disconcerting. My first encounter with the fun of adult pant shitting was when I was working up in the Yukon in the deep dark of the Canadian bush. I was working on a soil sampling project looking for gold. An end of August snow storm rolled in, such that our helicopter support was unavailable, but we still had to work the project. Day one I got sick. I had a glorious three day fiasco of projectiles quickly escaping the back end of my body. As the snow made a clear marker of distance, a 4 foot spray pattern was something I was particularly proud of, granted it was shooting down hill, and against my better judgement I had eaten some of the ptarmigan my co-worker had shot the day before. Still a record in my books.
Usually when you shit your pants in those in between times of being, very old or too young, it invariably reflects poor decision making. Watching my partner squirm in our hanging belay, three pitches up a vertical sheet of ice, he conceded that he should be regulating his morning poopies with coffee. That are just some things you never forget, no matter how much you want to. Sharing a hanging belay with him as the worst case scenario finally came to fruition is something that still brings tears of laughter to my eyes.
My poor decision making is reflected in my love of meat. Street meat in particular. No matter how suspect. A delicious looking stick, filled with meat (well… an indecipherable piece of what appears to have once possibly been…duck?!). Who can resist?!
Jungle living in Loas.
So I find myself on a climbing/motorbike trip through Loas. I started outside of Thahkek staying at the Green Climbers Home. This is place is all that a climbing destination should be. Good food, good people, epic climbing. If you like steep limestone in thirty degree weather, this is the place for you. This place kinda made news a few years ago for making the unfortunate combination of New Years, Alcohol, Fireworks (yup… so fa,r a classically great combo) and thatched roofs. They sadly burnt themselves down to the ground… happily, they are back now, up and running with new and improved less flammable roofs. Go there, you won’t regret it.
My trustee chopper… by that I mean unreliable piece of crap with brakes that could be described as, unreliable at best.
Done with climbing for a bit, I started heading North on my chopper. By chopper, I mean small, yet brave little scooter. I found myself cruising through the wild combination which is Loas in the dry season. Poverty and smiling people. Long empty dirt roads that seem to go forever, yet don’t seem to connect anything. Epic limestone towers and dried out rice paddies. Oh, and delicious looking roadside bbq’d meat on a stick.
In life there are subtle and disturbing points that are often incredibly difficult to discern between. Love and hate. Danger and safety. A fart and a shit.
I came to a grinding halt on the side of the dirt road, cursed street meat for its devilish deliciousness, and dove for the ditch while pulling my pants down as quickly as possible. Something more resembling a chocolate milkshake evacuated my body. At the same moment I look up. It appears that in my haste, someone didn’t manage to engage the kick stand. For a moment, my motorbike looks like it will defy gravity and miraculously balance upon itself. The moment seemed to last forever. At this point my chopper decided to join me in the ditch. As I scoot out of the way, it comes to a slow and heartbreaking stop in my chocolate milk shake. Reality checks in. How delightful. Please, kill me now.
I do a quick assessment. Well, Crap. On the bright side it could be worse, I could have been eviscerated by a pack of wild monkeys and left to die a slow painful death. I decide, this is indeed slightly better. I quickly consider suicide, but realise I lack the appropriate weaponry to proceed down that line of reasoning. My undies are soiled, but I can shed them and my pants are clean enough. I’ll wash them in the water of the ditch, and dry them off by riding my motorbike real fast. Life isn’t so bad. A tiny bit of dignity remains. I’ll swap out my underwear, and ride on hanging free and easy. Now this is a good plan. I’ve got life by the balls again.
I switch out my undies and begin cleaning my pants. It’s at this point, with my ass hanging out, scrubbing my pants clean, that a concerned Loas citizen, kindly pulls over to investigate what I’m doing in his ditch. The Loas are a people who love to laugh and tells stories. Well, based on his pointing, incredible laughter and sheer joy, the sight of my shit covered bike and white ass, will make a good story for him to tell. I consider laying down in the ditch to die. It’s at this point, with all pretenses of dignity gone, my sense of humor kicks in. In a disgusted self deprecating kind of way, I begin to share in his laughter and mirth. A stranger in a foreign country, with no common language, helped me pull my shit covered bike out of the ditch. We exchanged smiles, and laughs. I did not escape me that we were both laughing at my expense, at the hilariousness of my pain. But, if you can’t laugh at yourself, something has to be going a whole lot worse than merely shitting yourself. I guess it’s just a taste of what I’ll be facing down the road when I call it quits on caring about wiping my own ass, and move into the old folks home. If I can laugh at it now, I’m sure I’ll be able to laugh at it then. Being a dirtbag and shitting your pants, it’s just a step in preparing yourself for the realities of life and learning to laugh about it.
Big Caves with rivers through them.
Big caves with flags through them.
I went through Bangkok… this is what’s happening there.
They park funny in Bangkok.
That’s right Petzl/Scarpa/Black Diamond. I’m now wise as shit. Get on the ground floor, you could be the sponsoring me right meow! Now for the love of all that is merciful send me some new shoes! Pretty please.
This is what 8,000 Kip will get you in Loas. Or roughly $1.10… ok, perhaps the path to wisdom is an on going one.