While investigating the rise in malnutrition among young women in Southeast Asia, journalist Corinne Redfern has been fed some of the best food of her life. So what’s going on?

The rough, steep track is scarred with cracks and crannies from the season’s heavy rain, and our small scooter’s tires are sliding wildly over the stones as we attempt our mountain descent. As passenger, my responsibilities are supposedly straightforward: Stay still; take photos of the Laotian landscape; don’t scream at the scary bits.

Mostly, I’m just trying to work out whether to hold on tightly to the back of the bike, or raise my hands to my face—ready to break a sudden slip and fall. There’s no mobile phone reception, the sun is setting, and it’s been over two hours since we left the last village. I look back over my shoulder for our translator and guide Mina. My stomach twists. The 23-year-old has disappeared from view.

We stop the bike, and debate driving back versus climbing on foot. Francesco, an almost annoyingly intrepid Italian photojournalist-suddenly-turned-off-road-moped-machine, is all for the former. Legs shaking and bum cheeks numb, I’m somewhat less inclined. Honestly, I’d rather brave the rocks barefoot than ride anywhere near them ever again. Then a drop of rain lands on my helmet, and we’re instantly agreed. The fastest option wins: We have to check she’s OK.