01 June 2012

Start trek
First break
walk, and walk and walk  oh waterfall.
Walk vertically
village & Rooster catching
Singing with Mowgli

We were up early to check our bags and get ready for our trek.  8:30 we were all ready to go, along with the Japanese guys.  However the Americans weren’t.  They hadn’t checked their bags and were stuffing around getting their backpacks etc.  10 min later we were all set to go.  Our group consisted of One Aussie, one Semi Aussie, both in their mid thirties, two Japanese guys in their mid to late 20’s, and 5 Americans in their early twenties.

The drive to the market was long and boring, and as we were crammed into the back of an oversized tuktuk truck, with 4 down one side and 5 the other with all our packs in the middle, it wasnt the most comfortable.
At the market the guides stopped to get lunch for today, and we picked up some rain coats as it was looking a bit miserable.  Anna managed to find some pants to use as swimmers.  The stall we stopped at had some affiliation with the backpackers as it had everything on the list we needed, other than that, it was just another market.

The bees here make their own takeoff and landing tubes.

The second part of the drive was longer.  Uphill mostly.  We entered into a national park and came to a halt at the end of the road.  It looked like there was a dirt track continuing on, but had been washed out.  We were told we had to walk from here.  Assuming that the Elephants were not too far away and knowing we had to cross the stream a few times we decided to go barefoot.  For a while this was nice.  The stream was cool, but not cold, the sky was overcast, but dry, and it was a pleasant walk.  An hour into it we were wondering how much the road had washed out, as we were still not at the elephant camp, and we were now away from the stream going up into the hillside.  It was time to put the shoes back on!  Finding it easier to walk now, we started enjoying the beauty of the forest.  It was quite still, and there was not much noise other than the Americans ahead of us.  With their racket, we thought it highly unlikely to spot any larger wildlife.  The Americans were pushing on strongly, and as we are not as in shape as they, we lagged behind.  Occasionally the guides would stop and let us catch up.  In this way we made it to a nice creek crossing.  Here we stopped for lunch.  Anna asked “Weren’t we supposed to have lunch at the village?”  To this the guides replied “No village till tonight”  so what about the Elephants?  and the reply “No elephants until tomorrow afternoon”  Now this was not in our itinerary.  We were supposed to ride the elephants to the first village and walk to the next village for the night.  We were a bit put out about this and said so.  Apparently the plan had changed unbeknownst to us, and all the activities spread out over the two days were now pushed into the last day.  We were not happy about this, and made it known.  However we were at least an hour an a half into the jungle with no option of turning back.  The guides then disappeared for the next hour.  We were starting to worry that they had left us to stew when they finally reappeared to take us on.

The trek then took a harder turn.  It started going up hill.  We didn’t have a chance to admire the scenery.  The Americans were pushing ahead, and we were falling further behind.  Occasionally we would look up from the path and see something interesting, like a mushroom so big that you could probably sit on it.  It was at least a foot high and the top was around a foot long.  It was massive.  The biggest mushroom that I have ever seen, but we were so far behind that I didn’t even take a photo.  It was exhausting to have to do double pace to catch up every time, so we decided to stuff it up for everyone and go at a better pace for us.  Stopping for photos of weird bees nests where they built wax landing platforms in long tubes and many mushrooms.  This ment that the Americans had to stop more often, and when we caught up they were off again straight away.  This was annoying as we never really got to take a break, but we were moving slower than before.  There were light hearted moments like when the Americans had stopped to look in a hole and thought there was a crab inside (we were up in the hills by then).  The crab turned out to be a tarantula!  Their response to this was to grab a stick and push it down the hole, hoping to get a reaction.  Good luck.
(Anna’s insert : Hell.. It was hell. This was not a nice walk through the jungle, but a weird sort of military march.. not much time to look around, as we were mostly speed walking with our eyes on the narrow, slippery path).

Scorpion before being poked at with stick

The next thing we got to see was a scorpion.  It was quite a large one, but I had an effort to be able to take a photo of it before the Americans started poking sticks at it.  If they were slow and gentle it wouldn’t be a problem, but they approached this task like the walking.  quick hard and to the point.  Needles to say the scorpion was pissed off.  However we did get a good photo of it (If i can get WordPress working properly i will put it in.  however it has taken us four hours to put in the Bangkok photos in a somewhat decent order.  With it being after 11 in Chiang Dao at the moment).  More hiking, and we are more than seriously annoyed by now, when we finally get to stop at a piddling little waterfall.  In Australia I would have only taken one or two photos of it and moved on, but here it is a big event.  The Americans are under it in a flash.  The girls washing their boobs and the guys messing around. We sat there, glad for a chance to relax.  Little did we know that we needed to recover our energy.

When we moved on it was straight up.  Seriously.  For every metre forward we went a metre up.  It was that steep.  I was not happy and Anna had to stop frequently.  There was a local that had caught up with us, and was content to go up behind us.  I think this was because he didn’t want anyone to have a heart attack near his village!  We gestured for him to go past but he stayed with us.  Even offering a bamboo stick to help Anna up the hill.  With frequent stops we eventually made it up to the top.  Luckily for us it was very close to the Karen village we were going to spend the night at.  This was a blessing as the end was in sight.  Literally.  We had given up by this stage, but at the top of the incline you could see the huts.  This gave us the energy to go that little bit further and collapse at the village entrance.  Our legs were shaking, and we couldn’t have made it any further if we had tried.  Crawling to the seats at the first huts we threw down our bags and dragged ourselves onto the bench used as a seat at a long table.  This was the first village, and where we would spend the night.  The guides then announced proudly that we were at least two hours in front of schedule!  What?  we could have taken longer to get here?  Thanks.

Rice Paddies before the village

Karen Headwoman. AKA Souvenier Seller

For the next half hour we couldn’t move.  It was an effort to realise that we were being introduced to a Karen head woman, and that we would have the run  of the village.  It also went to show that the Americans and Japanese didn’t want to move either.  We just sat there as a group.  Not moving.  There were refreshments available for a price, and none moved to get them.  As it was about four thirty, and dinner wouldn’t be until six thirty we had plenty of time to recover.  We could walk around the village provided we carried a stick to fend off the dogs that lived in other houses.  Still no one moved.  Eventually people started going for the drinks, and some even had the energy to check out the accommodation.  Trying to show that we had the same energy levels, we dragged ourselves up off the bench and took our bags into the hut to claim our sleeping area.

Mmmm Cosy

The hut was bare.  Made on wooden pillars with split bamboo walls and half corrugated iron roof with the other half being banana leaves, the inside was bare.  One side was raised slightly higher than the other, and the floorboards were also made of split bamboo.  The bedding consisted of a small mat over the floor with “sleeping bags”  These were rat and insect eaten and didn’t zip up, so could only be used as a sheet.  There were also two blankets that I would call horse blankets (the type of blanket that you put under a saddle).  These were, how would you describe them, old?  We decided to use one as extra padding for the “mattress” and the other on top of the sleeping bag to protect from the chill air up here in the mountains.  The only other thing we had was a moth-eaten mosquito net.  And I really didn’t want to meet the moths that had made the holes in this.  The net was supposed to cover two people, but the only way this was possible was if your head or feet stuck out. All in all it was what we expected. This is also how the locals sleep.

Having made our beds and nothing to do till dinner, we decided to check out the rest of the village.  This Karen village was supposed to be traditional.  (The same as Mimili people walk around in body paint holding spears.)  No electricity was only for the tourists, as all the other houses had TV antennas and solar power.  OK, it was fairly primitive.  The pigs still lived under the house, and the chickens had the run of the place, but there was running water, an out-door toilet (asian style of course – with the bucket of water to flush) a shower that Anna took advantage of.  Even if i did have to stand outside to turn the tap on and off, and it didn’t have a shower head.  But all in all it was a place I could live in.  After getting used to it of course.  The view did make up for a lot as well.  In reality I am somewhat in envy of these hill tribes.  It is subsistence living, but you work for what you need, and you don’t need much.

Dinner was interesting.  It was a Thai green curry that I was rather suspect of, plain rice and a few veggies.  However there was plenty, and we were getting stuck into the beer and Spy Wine.  Spy is a sort of carbonated wine.  We had come across it before in Vietnam, but this was the first we had seen it in Thailand (we really havent had a chance to look before this).  With nothing else to do but drink and talk, it is no surprise that one of the essential items needed for the trip was 1000 baht each.  However this was to cover the cost of the touristy trinkets you are supposed to buy from the village as well as the alcohol consumed during the night.

Jungle Boy (English Name) AKA Mogli

The Americans had dubbed one of our guides Mowgli during the day (showing that they had some classical education at least) and he started playing games with us.  Some of these are the old matchbox trivia.  If you have x matches lined up like this, move y to create z.  We had to sing if we got it wrong.  He lost the first and sang a traditional song about a man in love with a woman, but the man has to pay the dowry.  So he promised to go work in the city for three months to earn enough to buy his wife.  on returning he found that the woman had given up on him and had married another that had a few pigs to his name.  Leaving the man heart broken.  A traditional love song in any culture.  Then we lost and had to sing the star spangled banner.  Again, and this time it was the australian anthem.  Then the japanese anthem, although i object to that one,as we had two solutions to the puzzle,but neither was the one Mowgli expected.  On finding out it was my birth day in a couple of days the group then sang happy birthday.  Thanks.  Needing some time off from this, Anna and I went away from the group.  Sitting on a bench in the dark we noticed that there were fireflies in the area.  These were different from the south american ones that we had seen in that these ones flashes.  Some were really short flashes.  Flash Flash Flash, and others were a lot longer.  Fllaaassshhhh                Fffflllllaaaaasssshhhh.  It was a pleasure to sit there watching them.

That sums up the day nicely, I hope.  Off to bed now.  (and then!)  At least this one is more comfortable than sleeping on the floor.  Although it wasnt too bad.  The trick to that is that you have to sleep on your back.  I am not used to that, so it took a bit to get used to it.  Then there was the bloody rooster.

I forgot to mention.  During the evening, Kyle, The self described fifth wheel of the americans.  (there were 5 friends.  Two couples and one on his own) had made a bet with another, that for 2000 baht he couldn’t catch a rooster.  He had no idea on how to do this so I gave my first pointer.  Buy a baggie of chips and use it as a lure to get the rooster close enough to catch.  He ended up eating the chips first.  Oh well.  Latter when we noticed the rooster going to sleep we told him to sneak up behind it, and catch it by the leg.  This was interesting to watch.  An american sneaking up on anything?  Still he did manage to catch the rooster.  I copped a lot of flack over helping him but it was worth it.  The Karen woman at our camp knew what was going on and laughed with us on the whole thing.

Ok.  Background done.  The rooster….  Read about it on the 2nd!!



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