Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Walk In The Woods

On June 27th I went to Finnegan's Irish Pub for a farewell party to my friend and fellow teacher Hayden. Hayden is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. He's one of those people who is always smiling and has nothing but good things to say about people/things/life. When I first started teaching Hayden was my go-to guy for any questions I had and he was always more than willing to lend a helping hand.

Here's a picture from Hayden's party that I took of Chi, one of my favorite Language Link employees, and her friend (Welcome to the blog, Chi!).

(PICTURE: Chi on the left. Her friend who owes me two beers for beating her in Connect Four on the right)

So why am I posting a picture of Chi here instead of one of Hayden. Well two reasons:

1. I didn't take any pictures of Hayden that night.

2. Chi comes into play right here:

A week ago when I walked into school Chi came up to me and said, "Ben did you hear about Hayden." "No," I replied . The last I had heard about Hayden he was headed to Laos before going home to Australia. Chi then let me know what it was that I needed to hear: "Hayden got lost in the woods in Laos. They found him. He's in the hospital." "What? Lost in the woods? Is he okay?" Chi just looked at me and said, "That's all we know."

Over the past week I've asked quite a few people whether they had an update on Hayden. Nobody did. The only other information I found out was that Garth, one of the other Language Link teachers, had been in Laos and was supposed to have a drink with Hayden. Hayden never showed up for the drink...and well, Garth heard about Hayden being lost the same time I did... BACK IN HANOI.

So tonight I just got an email from Jessica with the subject line: "I think this is Hayden." Here's the article that a link took me to:

Aussie survives 11 days in Laos jungle

August 19, 2008 - 6:23PM An Australian man missing for 11 days in the jungle of Khammuan province has been found alive, but is in a critical condition.

The Vientiane Times has reported that the middle-aged man was transported to Bangkok for treatment, but remains critically ill.

Australian Ambassador to Laos, Dr Michele Forster, told that the man was attempting to walk to the well-known Tadsanam waterfall in Hinboun district.

He left on the afternoon of July 31, but the Australian embassy was not notified he was missing until August 8.

On Sunday, the embassy and the Red Cross organised a helicopter search and located the man at a different waterfall in the district.

"At the time, it was raining in the village, quite cold and the conditions were every difficult," Dr Forster said.

"The village community and local government had done a lot to try to find him but they had been unable to locate him."

The helicopter could not land in the jungle and the man had to be carried out over land.

It took villagers almost four hours to transport the man on a stretcher, cutting their way through the jungle.

"When they found him his condition wasn't good. He was very weak and sick and obviously cold because he had been exposed to the cool weather over the last few days," Dr Forster said.

The man was brought back to the local village and transported to Vientiane by helicopter, before being taken by ambulance to a hospital in Undon Thani, Thailand, and then later transported to Bangkok.

Australian Embassy Second Secretary, Emily Russell, said the area contained thick jungle and it was easy to become lost. She said rising water may have covered the main track in the area, causing the man to lose his way.

Khammuan Tourism Department director, Thaiyaphone Singthong, said the waterfall was a beautiful and well-known site which attracted a lot of visitors, including foreign tourists.

Mr Thaiyaphone said he thought the man may have wanted to go upstream from Tadsanam waterfall, but was warned against doing this.

Dr Forster said the embassy planned to support a small tourist development office with guides to lead treks to the waterfall and the surrounding jungle.

"We will be looking at different ways to support the community, particularly the office, in terms of possibly putting up signs or providing training to the local guides to thank them for all their help," Dr Forster said.

"We feel deep gratitude to the local villagers and authorities that assisted us."