Featuring Hill Tribes, Elephants and Rafting
09.05.2012 - 11.05.2012 35 °C
Sorry there hasn't been a blog for a while, I've not really had much wifi access and had no access to a computer to upload photos until now, even now the computer is so old and slow it's taking forever. Anyway...
On Wednesday 9th May I set off from Chiang Mai on A Hill Tribe Trek to go deep into the Thai jungle for 3 day and 2 nights. Wearing my walking boots, khaki trousers, explorer hat and my day pack filled with essentials I felt just like Bear Grylls. In actual fact Chiang Mai is awash with companies offering Trekking trips so it's maybe not quite as adventurous as it might sound. My trek was booked through my guesthouse for 1500b (£30).
Our group of 14 plus guide and a driver crammed into a pickup truck for the 2 hour ride into the hills, it was a good chance to start getting acquainted. In my group where 2 girls from Salford - Lisa and Vicky, a group of 5 friends on an epic journey across Asia after finishing uni - Lucy, Louise, Luca, Emma and Alice, plus 3 Koreans and 3 older (and not very sociable) french people.
Before starting out to the Hill Tribe village we first had an elephant ride, 20 minutes sat on the elephants back as its trainer (sat on the elephants head and using his feet on the elephants ears to steer) took us down some terrifyingly steep hills to a river for the elephant to drink. I did have a few doubt about the ethical nature of riding an elephant whose sole purpose is to give rides to tourists, but it was still an incredible experience to be so close to such an immense creature, plus they are all ex logging elephants so would probably just be abandoned if it wasn't for this type of activity.
After the elephants came the start of the hard work, a 5 hour hike, all uphill in the the scorching afternoon heat, or as our guide Moonshine, liked to call it, exercise time. Stopped of at a waterfall half way up and everyone got under the water fully clothed in order to cool down and freshen up. Further up still we stopped at what the sign called a '7 Eleven' but what was in actual fact a Father and his three boys by the side of a stream with a few bottles of water and cans of coke for sale.
With the sweat pouring from everyone we reached the hill tribe village just before the thunder and lightening started and the rain came down in bucketfulls. Perched at 1000m up and with spectacular views across the surrounding hills it was well worth the effort.
Meeting with the tribe was slightly underwhelming as they're clearly very used to having westerners passing through so there was no amasement at the sight of 14 bedraggled westerners arriving. We ate Thai curry and rice as the sun quickly disappeared and the thunder storm continued all around, then sat around a fire and were entertained by one of the locals surprisingly good renditions of several western songs on his guitar. A large spider crawling amongst us caused some alarm but it was quickly scooped away by our guide with guarantees that it wasn't dangerous. Still, I was slightly on edge for the rest of the night in fear that a huge spider could be crawling all over me. The rain was so heavy that the tribes woman host had to do some emergency patchwork to the roof of our hut to stop the rain flooding through, she very resourcefully used the cardboard from the box of Chang Beer we were all drinking.
After a slightly sleepless night, what with the fear of spiders, the lashing rain, the bamboo floor sticking through the bedding and the snoring French, we were greeted with an incredible view of surrounding mist shrouded mountains.
Ate egg and toast for breakfast then said goodbye to the people only doing one night and headed deeper into the jungle in search of some waterfalls. The second day was less uphill, but more challenging terrain requiring bamboo walking sticks which our guide chopped for us using his machete. After 3 hours the first waterfall was bliss as we all dived into the water to once again wash off the sweat and cool down.
Another hike and another waterfall but by this time it had started to rain so we quickly went on to our stop for the night, a bamboo hut by the river. The toilets were no more than holes in the ground with a little bamboo around for (very little) privacy. The shower hut was similar and consisted of a bucket to pour water over yourself, I had no problem with this and was quite getting into the spirit of it all until the giant spider was spotted in there. I had a wash in the river instead. Bet Bear Grylls isn't such a wimp when it comes to spiders. Another meal cooked on the open fire by our guide was followed by a few beers around a campfire. Slept much better on the second night because I was just too exhausted to care about creepy crawlies and the uncomfortableness. The final day mercifully only involved an hours trekking as the heat was back to scorching. A spot of white water rafting and bamboo rafting were a great way to end a brilliant 3 days.
Memorable quote from the trek "Oh My Buddha" as said by Moonshine every few minutes to express his shock, just as we would say oh my god.
Overall the trek as a great introduction to the jungle at a bargain price. So I didn't see much wildlife but I'm hoping that will come on my next jungle expedition in Laos, and the white water rafting was quite basic but there'll be plenty of opportunities to be more extreme in New Zealand.
Upon returning to the guesthouse I claimed my free massage (for booking through them) which was bliss. And a proper Thai massage this time with the masseuse using her feet, knees, elbows and all sorts to relieve my aching muscles. To top everything off I was then invited to join the guesthouses staff and Dave the English member of staff for a night out Thai style ... lets just say it involved copious amounts of whisky and a club where you get a massage as you use the toilet!