Sunday, 13 July 2008

Trekking - The report, finally!

We arrived in Chiang Mai early morning after getting the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok (14 hours). We booked the well recommended 3 day trek through the well recommended Royal Guest House. The next day we were picked up at 9:30am by our guide, along with the 7 other guests from the guest house. These were two Irish guys, a family of four from Holland (two children) and one Bristolian.

The trek was only 1500 baht, which is about 23quid, and included all food, two night’s accommodation and all travel (pretty much everything except for drinks – the huts had cool boxes with beer and water, etc!). The travel was to be in the form of truck to the national park, bit of an elephant through the jungle, a bamboo raft down the river before the truck back to our guest house. We walked the bits in-between, hence, ‘trek’ (about 9 hours in total).

So, first stop was a waterfall. Normally we could have swum in the pool but there hasn’t been much rain so far this year, so it turned in to a wade/paddle. The waterfall was very impressive though, like one you’d see in an Indiana Jones film. It also rained like hell whilst we were there, so there was no chance of getting/staying dry afterwards. After a lunch stop it was time to start walking. Almost immediately we started climbing a steep slope which continued for about 20 minutes. The unfit ones of the group weren’t very talkative at the first rest stop, but they were rather sweaty! The rest of the walk was fairly steady, with our guide ‘Sunshine’ stopping from time to time to point out edible plants, fruits, (and encouraged us to eat them) bugs, and to remove the odd leach which had attached itself to his flip flopped feet (everyone else was wearing trainers or boots!). Everyone did seem to get at least one leach (except me!), although they didn't hurt, just left a bloody stain in your socks.

The first village we stayed at was quite small (about 50 locals?). The hut/lodge was a cool timber building raised above the ground on stilts. They did this for hygeine reasons, and it also stops the animals (domestic and wild) getting in to them. Our sleeping quarters amounted to a dozen or so padded matts and mosquito nets. We all slpet like babies though, until the cockrels woke us up at about 5:30am!!! Nearly forgot the frog hunting before we went to bed. One of the guides mentioned earlier in the day to me that he liked eating frogs (but not the heads!), but I thought he was just winding me up. But at about they midnight they took the other 3 lads out in the pitch black to catch some frogs. Me and Jody watched from our elevated dining room as they dissapeared towards the paddy fields with torches and knifes (to deter the snakes and lynx'). They returned about 20 mintues later with a 2 litre water bottle about half full of live frogs. We all went to bed after this surreal evening. We woke, early, to find fried forgs for breakfast. I tried some, it didn't taste bad, but the fact they hadn't disguised the fact it was still a whole frog was a little offputting.

Anyway, the second days trekking was scheduled to take about 5 hours, and it was lashing it down, so rucksacks we're wrapped in plastic bags, etc. The trek itslef was quite cool, but not very eventful. The more surreal stuff started when we got to the next village. First off was an elephant ride, weird enough. But then we we're asked if we wanted to have fresh pig for dinner. We had to buy it of course, about 200baht each (3quid), and then they asked if one of us wanted to kill it too. One of the Irish guys, Cormac, jumped at the chance, claiming it was on his 'to do list' in life. So five of us and the guide (we left the kids, and Jody, at the lodge) walked to the other side of the village to get the hog. Basically the pig was tied up underneath someones house, and was led to the front of the house. Cormac was given a heavy piece of timber and told to hit the pig on the back of its head/neck hard, but precise. I thought we were about to witness the bloodiest slaughter ever seen in this peaceful tribe, but Cormac did a pretty good job (I'll upload the video one day). The pig did seem to cotton on to what was about to happen, and began running around like, like a wild animal, so Cormac had to chase it for a while before landing the carniverous blows. We carried the pig back to our loadge just like you've seen in the films, legs tied together, hung on a stick and carried by two people on their shoulders. In the end, it tasted delicious (you might have realised I'm getting bored and wanted to hurry the story up abit now!)

That night we got quite drunk on the beer and rice whisky which the tribe makes itself (legally?). So, in the morning, feeling a little bit hungover we walked down to the river to begin the bamboo rafting. The journey down river was planned to take about 4 hours. It was pretty cool, and it felt a bit like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, expecting an ambush from the river banks any minute. Some bits of the river were fast flowing, but we only had one problem. This was when we we're a bit late deciding if we were to go left or right around a big rock (Jody and Pat we're steering at the back, and the guide, Sunshine at the front - not paying much attention). We ended up sideways pressed against the rock, with the river threatening to snap the raft in two and send our belongings in to the murky water. Pat wasn't helping as he tried to push us out, but was instead pushing the raft further on to the rock! We all jumped in the river and pushed the raft off the rock, saving our blushes and dry clothes.

Not long after we got to the end, and had fried noodles for our reward. The journey back in the truck was pretty quiet as everyone tried to catch 40 winks of some much needed sleep.
All in all it was brilliant trip with numerous 'once in a lifetime experiences', and we'd recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in this part of the world.


1 comment:

Laura said...

Hey you 2!
Great to hear you're having a fab time - the trek sounds fantastic, not sure about the "kermit" episode though!!

Hope you have a nice relaxing time in the Islands and have fun scuba diving

Love you lots L xxx