Inevitably we were late to get going this morning - a restful nights sleep is not the description which applied. Feeling a bit late and rushed it was nice to hear that the 'late boys' (Richard and Wesley you know who you are!) as they became known between us had only arrived today. After a quick breakfast from the local bakery we jumped into a couple of minivans to leave KK behind and set off for Kampung Kiau Nulu - a small village where we would be spending the night in the careful hands of the locals and a few bottles of rice wine...... But first we had a hot hours drive in our mini-vans before the first stop to swap vehicles for more rugged 4x4 options. During the changeover most of us took the opportunity to top up our equipment with a poncho having been promised lots of rain - even our guide had one so he must know something! With green or yellow being the only options we all looked quite co-ordinated, especially for any Norwich city fans out there.The road to the village started off easy but soon warranted our 4x4 equipment. Arriving safe and sound we were dropped off at the church, where we would be spending the night. A crowd of children were waiting for us, as well as our mountain guide Sepingey (spelling !?! - se-ping-ey). Soon we sat down and the children introduced themselves in turn to practise their English, all looking as embarrassed as we were soon to become. Some traditional dancing followed, accompanied with traditional music from Idiofons and we were soon being given some hands-on, non-optional, instruction in how to dance local style. With all this focus on traditional values I couldn't help but smile at the site of several electric guitars keeping the modern drum kit company in the main church hall - something for when the tourists leave apparently. With the dancing task completed we tried out the musical instruments and generally showed why the locals should keep hold of them.
Once settled into our rooms at the church we were invited over to someones house for food. Generally locals are happy to sit crossed legged on the floor; a low bench (approx 4 inches high) was the only concession to comfort the westerners were allowed. Maintaining a pain free posture without stretching out your legs became quite a challenge. But as they say 'When in Rome..', and more weight is lent to this when you expecting to be fed. The food was good, plenty of vegetables and rice in the form I like to consume it. It turns out that Sepingey is a bad bad man with a wicked alcoholic streak which would make most students proud. With the food finished with Sepingey pulls out a bottle or four of rice wine, not the form I like to consume it at all. We were introduced to a local drinking game, Sepingey gives you a glass with a couple of fingers of wine to down after which you have to hold your glass upside down and even the most minuscule drop of moisture falling from your glass qualifies you for another round of rice wine. After each victim was assured that the locals would be dreadfully upset if you don't join in with gusto you were expected to introduce yourself to the group. Mostly I remember the taste of rice wine somehow obscuring my sense of hearing, it's that sort of drink, but it seemed that Australia were defiantly over represented on our group with only three other Brits to help keep madness at bay. With Sepingey getting a little drunk and constantly telling us to 'not think about the mountain' we were here to climb, thus ensuring that we couldn't forget about it, he told us a story about an English lad who had managed to take a wrong turn and miss the top of the mountain. Now this guy needs finding as he handed ample ammunition to the Aussies, given a choice between right and up or left and down he searched for the peak of the mountain down the left turn; the clue is in the question folks.
With more rice wine being consumed by locals and us alike the party stopped feeling so formal and the porters and guides joined us to practise English and of course cajole us to drink more wine. I thought a more pro-active approach to this was required and sat down with a guy called Morris and challenged him to keep up cup for cup and sure enough their enthusiasm soon waned when forced to keep up. Their numbers, however, did not dwindle at anything like the rate I needed and soon Morris was replaced by another guy who was in turn replaced by Neil - who it turned out had some No 1 rice wine to share - potent stuff. Eleanor, Wesley and I were the last to leave and that particular exit was probably about an hour too late for my liver damage but I was pleased to see Sepingey laid out on the floor snoring through the party by this time