In the footsteps of monks

12th February, 2016

Swimming in the Mekong river

OSS members swim everywhere – but the Mekong? When this image of a swimmer gliding by a hazy golden sunset in the Mekong River, Laos turned up on FB, swimmers were by turns envious – and fearful.

The Mekong is known for its pollution and ferocious waters. “We could see turbulent currents in places when we were crossing the river.  As with most countries in this part of the world a lot of litter finds its way into the river with the menace of plastic bottles a constant blight. The less visible pollution may be more harmful. We’ve had no ill effects so far, maybe we were lucky?” says Marcus Mumford, the swimmer.

Marcus was lucky that he didn’t get sick, although the quality of the water does, in places, make that a distinct possibility. In 2013 Remi Camus – French explorer-come-environmental activist, swam the full 2,700 mile length of the Mekong to highlight the damage caused by pollution and damming within it. He suffered rashes and at one point his leg swelled to three times its normal size.

The Mekong River is one of the longest in Asia, travelling through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, spanning 4,350km.  It’s used along its length as a food source, and for transport – and sporadically by tempted tourists for swimming. “The water was green/blue, about 20 degrees so very inviting after a day on the bike!

The biggest swimming race on it is the annual Mekong river swim, which takes place slightly north of Phnom Penh city, Cambodia. It’s an annual event which this year consisted of 180 individuals from 18 different nations ranging in age from 10 to 73, swimming from bank to bank. Whilst reports of the waters quality weren’t necessarily positive, it says something so many people wanted to get in it.

If you’d like to read more about Marcus and his partners’ adventurous tandem tour of Bristol to New Zealand through more than 30 different countries, you can visit their blog here!

The Annual Mekong River Swim which will be back in full force on the 24th April 2016 for its 20th anniversary! Details here

Read more on Remi’s Camus’ 2700mile swim here

Words by Naomi Moores