three days in the jungle

i might have mentioned before that as soon as i got to chiang mai loads of people tried to sell us trips into the jungle, i wasn’t really up for it at first, but when got t the place i’ve been staying here and talked to the owner to find out what the deal wa, i thought it could be fun. i signed up for three days and two nights in the mountains and jungles above chaing mai. proper ray mears style some of it!

the trip didn’t start so well; in the way to thdrop off point we were only about 30 seconds behind a crash involving a double decker, vip bus and a small two seat truck. we heard the impact only just around the corner infront of us and drove ahead to see what had happened.

the bus was lying on it’s side, glass everywhere, the truck was barely recognisable having been crushed against the barrier and pushed down the road. myself and two other people on our trip had brought first aid kits and we set about helping the people from the bus with their grazes and glass cuts. some thai people were getting the two people in the truck seen too; the woman in the passenger seat had died upon impact, the man driving was layed out on the road under banket to keep the sun off him and was seen to by the emergancy services who seemed to arrive in no time. he didn’t look too good to be honest , we later heard that he died the way to the hospital. sorry to bring such harsh news but it was a big part of the day.

after about an hours drive from there and with spirits raised a little we arrived at the drop off point; a dust track leading away from the main road up into the hills. the day was hot but there was a breeze, we had plenty of water between us (us being two czeck, two welsh, three canadians a spaniard, myself and two guides) and we set off upward. the scenery was beautiful; large green fields of corn and soya, dusty terraces where rice would grow in season and teak and pine forrests. the hills were steep, some of the climbing was hard going as we had to carry our clothes for three days, food for the same, water and our sleeping bags (i also had camera bits and a tripod of course :)).

our first stop at lunchtime was at a red karen hilltribe village. loads of smiley peope and houses on stilts. we watched as a woman of about 80 worked age old ‘machinery’ to seperate the husks from the rice they’d harvested then sieve the rice in wicker pans and let the husks blow away in the wind to the waiting pigs and chickens to eat. beautifully simple and totally effective in the hands of a master.

from there we walked further up hill into the mountains, the views were awesome, you could see for miles across wooded hills. it took about 2 hours to reach the next karen village where we would eat dinner and stay for the night. dinner was traditionally cooked red curry with noodle soup and rice and loads of pineapple and watermelon to finish off. some of us had the foresight to bring some rum and whiskey and we were soon sat around a roaring campfire with a guitar singing whatever we could all remember the words to. the lack of artificial light gave way to more stars that i’ve ever seen in the sky before; the milky way was so clear.

we woke early…i have an ever lasting hatred of cockerels…to breakfast of toast and eggs (you can get more free range than here; we saw one woman follwing hens about looking for where they’d layed eggs! all over the village!) and on to the next part of the trip, the elephant trek!

these elephants seemed much better treated than the ones in k’buri. they were chained up late at night but when they weren’t ferrying tours about they were allowed to roam free only to be located by gps whenever they were needed. we were given bananas to feed to the hurd as they arrived. it’s quite as experience feeding an 8 ton elephant a banana and realizing that despite the size they’re very gentle. the trip took us about 5km further on through the jungle to a clearing where we continued walking upwards :s

this was then the point at which the 2 day trek and the 3 day parted. they went on to do the rafting which we would do the follwing day, and we headed off, downhill luckily, to the waterfalls where we’d set up for the second night. we didn’t have to walk far, maybe an hour or so before we heard the waterfall. the setting was beautiful; three bamboo and leaf huts at the bottom of the cascade and wonderfully refreshing (freezing) water in which to get cleaned up. dinner that night was cooked by a shan tribesman, green curry with chicken and eggplant and loads of coconut rice. i woke in the morning to a perfectly framed view of the waterfall through the door of the hut, something i may never get to do again.

we were allowed a little more of a lay in that day as the next stop was only a few miles away and we had some time to spare. we set off, downhill again, my legs getting sore by this point to a waiting truck to take us to the lunch stop and then on to the rafting center. we were told to leave everything behind in the truck, all bags, clothes other than what we needed and no cameras! i was a little disappointed at first as i wanted to take some shots of course, but upon seeing the method of transport i realized it would be best to leave it behind. the rafts were ten long pieces of bamboo lashed together with bicycle tires that were partially submerged but still floating perfectly when the five of us got on. i was given a smaller bamboo stick and instructions on how to steer. off we went, gentle at first but the water soon got wilder, never proper white water but certainly fast flowing. at one point it was more like surfing and we all struggled to stay on. i thought we were doing really well to stay dry until we rounded a corner to find hordes of waiting thais ready to splash us…soaked to the skin we were but we retaliated and got them just as wet!

so the trip finished, we sat in a roadside food hall and took on plenty of water before boarding the truck and making our way home listening to bob marley and reflecting on the past few days. myself, jeremy and his girlfriend tara arranged to meet up later on in the evening for some food but lack of energy had me going to bed not so long after we’d eaten and had a few drinks. got to be refreshed for the trip to chiang khong and on to luang phrabang in laos.

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    • Mowgli
    • February 26th, 2007

    It sounds like you have the jungle bug young jedi! I got it first time I went and its very hard to ever get the place far from your mind. I want a full report on my desk when you get back.

    You cheesy old sod. Was it your idea to get the guitar out and start woo-ing people with American Pie? Did you keep your eyes closed and look constipated at really poignant parts? You greasy little yank!

    Well done on dealing with the crash mate, it takes a lot of guts to be accountable for such things in these situations (many people just stare) and this will be a very good grounding for dealing with high pressure situations in the future.

    I have to go now, Baloo needs his back scratched, so stay in touch and I’ll speak soon old thing.

    I’m on the phone if you need to do the ‘trick’ again.

    • Jen
    • February 27th, 2007

    Sounds as though the Jungle was all fun and games. Axl was right then!! Great to read the finer details of some of your stories. Enjoy the few days in Laos and stay in touch. Maybe we need to get one of those GPS thingies for you if you insist on loosing your phone ;P Have fun x

    • King Louie
    • February 28th, 2007

    I wonder if you can get extendable dog leads that reach 8000 miles….

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