Documenting Endangered Species in the Remote Mountains of Laos

Expedition Laos Team in Forest

We have been in the mountains for fifteen days and the team is weary but triumphant. We have crossed lakes and traversed rivers, camped in the rain and trekked through the dense forest in search of the endangered Chinese swamp cypress tree. After adventurous road travel and even sinking boats, we have located remote forests and found the trees we seek.

Expedition Laos Team, locating the Swamp Cypress trees Laos Highlands

Our first location took our team up the Nam Xot River to the village Ban Nahou where we have information that ancient stands of the Chinese swamp cypress trees may be living.

Villagers celebrating the New Year at Ban Nahou Village, Laos

Our heavily laden longtail boat takes us right into a river celebration with the villagers gesturing and inviting us to a traditional feast. We are anxious to move upstream but the village head man – whose permission is required- urges us to stay. “We will anger the village spirits,” he informs us, so we make camp and join the festivities eating, toasting to the spirits and imbibing the local beverage called Lao Lao. As the advance guard, I take my camera to the island, crossing a bridge built of boats. Slipping, I wet my primary camera but have another and am able to restore functions to my camera using rice and a few tricks of the trade.

Up the Nam Xot with armed guard, Laos
Up the Nam Xot Headwaters with armed guard, Laos

The headman and another guide join us early the next day and we head upriver and hike up the first mountains and into a valley saturated with rain and muck. Both are equipped with automatic rifles and camo gear from China. These men are —> Read More