17-Aug-2003 -- I tried to visit this Confluence during our bike tour between Hanoi and Phnom Penh. On the 15th day of our our trip and following the successful visit of Confluence 17 N 105 E, Guang was still having trouble with her feet. We stayed in the town of Paxe that day since Guang needed some rest to heal her skin rash. So I took off alone from Paxe. Since it was only 25 km by road to the turnoff, I choose to go by bike and didn't worry about starting late at noon.
From Paxe it was a 10 km uphill until the Route 13 turned south. After another 15 km on the nice, recently sealed Route 13, I reached the village Ban Sanamxaysouk. It consists of only a couple houses and is 10 km from the Confluence. There is a turn-off heading north, but during the rainy season it's a grass road. It continuously climbs but this is not the main problem. Some of the puddles in the road are half a meter deep. As a stranger, I didn't know whether the dirty water was too deep to pass through. Locals have some advantages by having a good knowledge of every single puddle. Fortunately, an old lady (also going by bike) guided me through the worst part.
After 6 km I reached the village of Ban Houay Namphak. Here the "road" turns away from the confluence point. Unfortunately, I had to find my own way for the remaining 4.5 km. Actually I had a lot of choices. There were many tracks leading further east, but which one should I take? I let the GPS receiver decide - which is not necessarily the best option. At the beginning I could ride my bike, but then after a while it got too muddy and I started pushing it, and finally the water got so high that I had to make exhausting portages over long distances. (For the next visitor: Don't try this point in the rainy season!)
Well, I reduced the distance to 3 km, but then the terrain changed from meadows and fields to dense jungle. At the beginning I was happy, because the change of vegetation went along with an absence of the water. But the disadvantages became obvious: I couldn't get a GPS position anymore and the path was overgrown with sharp, poisonous leaves and even the ground was covered with millions of biting ants making every pause into torture. There was not much of a path left - I had to climb over fallen trees and consequently had to leave my bike behind.
I wasn't happy about leaving my bike in the jungle not from fear of theft, but the high probability that I wouldn't be able to find it again (there was no possibility of marking a waypoint). But anyway, after a very difficult hike through incredibly dense vegetation, a river helped me to make a clear decision: I had to give up.
Before I turned around, I was able to find a spot to get the coordinates. On my way back, I saw some other tracks. Well, I thought I could try another track and see what happens. So I followed a second one. Again, the beginning was easy, but then the part with the water was harder. This time I couldn't even get to the jungle! I ended up at a farmhouse and had to go back again.
Still having some energy left for another trial, I went all the way back to Ban Houay Nahphak and tried a third path. This time there was foot and bike traffic on the track, a good sign. Some of the guys were carrying guns and looked strange to me, not really like hunters. I tried to give them the impression that it was perfectly normal for me to be here. After about 3 exhausting kilometres I had to leave the path again, because it wouldn't bring me any closer to the Confluence.
After hiking through jungle again, suddenly there was a big field. I was able to get another GPS position: 1.54 km to go. But I had to give up here. This may sound crazy, but I think I made the right decision to turn around. First of all, there was dense jungle ahead and 1.5 km can be a big deal. Secondly, my time was just about up: It was 5 o'clock and I had one or at most 1.5 hours until darkness when I would have to leave the jungle.
Right at dusk I reached Paxe again and told Guang my story. I was dehydrated, exhausted, dirty, and sore but not at all unhappy. Even not reaching my goal couldn't stop me from enjoying this great day.
This story is continued at 14N 106E.