Saturday, 16 November 2013

Letters from Thailand, part three

Part one here

Part two here

Chiang Mai - Jungle trek

8 April 2013 at 11:28
Sunday morning our overnight coach arrived in Chiang Mai. The horrific bus journey was the first time i've wanted to go home since getting here, I've been fine with the heat and the bugs but the air con has driven me insane. The whole night was spent shivering, at about three in the morning I realised I could turn the fans above my head off, but it was still cold. We then got a big tuk tuk bus to our guest house where we were split into two smaller groups, half doing trecking, half playing with elephants. After only 2 hours sleep I wasn't sure which one I'd rather do half asleep. I ended up in the trecking half. Another bus journey later we were left at the side of the jungle with a new guide, Sooty, which made me smile but miss my cats.
Trecking through the jungle was amazing and we saw so much of the rural lifestyle out here! Sooty carried a machetti and would just chop away at the trees and show us how to eat bits of bark. He also made us each big walking sticks out of thick bamboo cane and had us eating termites and wild growing chillis. We stopped for lunch by the river where he handed us each a little parcel wrapped up like fish and chips but inside there was warm rice and chicken. We swam in the water and it was warm but quite still and muddy. We then continued trecking through the farmland, passing skinny cows and water buffalo. The second waterfall we stopped at was gorgeous and there was a long skinny, springy tree growing down from the side of the cliff then inexplicably curving up again and wrapping round another tree and it made an excellent swing. The whole experience was just so peaceful and so beautiful it's hard to believe you're really there. I went exploring to take some pictures of the wild, criss-crossing tree roots and saw a little toad and then thousands of skinny spiders with white bodies swarming round the tree.
Eventually we made it to our home for the night, a rural tribal village at the top of a mountain. Skinny dogs surrounded you everywhere and there was an adorable puppy and I just knew it didn't have rabies and so allowed myself to play with it. The villagers are so polite and respectful, they cooked us food and served us when really it was us that respected them. Their way of living is so simple, no electricity or running water, and we watched them making fabric for their clothes. The young children dodged around us with a mixture of fear and fascination and sold us little handmade bracelets. Some of the older children were running around with big knives and one of them seemed to have a gun, but it would've been insulting to run away from their hospitality screaming so I tried to block bad thoughts out my head. We ate tea, delicious green curry again, out in the open watching the sun go down and you can see for miles. Once we were bored of card games a local man came over and broke a thin reed up into lots of little sticks and set them down in patterns and made a game of it, setting us puzzles. I was very good at this and he shook my hand. We all slept on the floor of a big bamboo cabin and I quickly made sure I had a bed with a mosquito net. It was covered in holes and so totally useless but I felt like I was in a safe little den, which was nice as I could hear the dogs howling and fighting all night in the pitch black.
Waking up and eating breakfast, which was tons of fresh fruit, on top of a green mountain was surreal. We soon set off deeper into the jungle and I loved it so much. The steep, slanted paths reminded me of the route I jog through the big woods at home and it felt nice and familiar. However at home home all the trees grow vertical, here they are growing in every direction. You'll be clambering over and under them, then balancing along one to cross a river. It was challenging but like an obstacle course and was totally rewarding as we eventually arrived at a massive waterfall. The sight was beautiful and the water was so cold and refreshing. There was a huge collapsed tree tactfully positioned over the centre and as soon as I saw someone else jump in this reassured me that it wouldn't kill me to do it too. Usually a million possibilities run through my head with things like that of all the bad things that could happen and all the ways I could die, but today I just jumped and it was amazing! Sooty chopped us up some fresh watermelon and pineapple and soon we set off again.
We then reached a little village where a pickup truck came to take us to our next adventure and we were all packed in the truck bit with the door hanging open which must be so unsafe but there was a lovely breeze. We arrived at the side of a river and were given more rice for lunch then were told to leave all our bags and shoes and follow Sooty down to the river. There we climbed onto these long bamboo rafts in small groups and went punting down the gentle river. Ours kept sinking slightly and the guy steering us seemed quite useless compared to the others so ours kept rocking and straight away my bum was soaked. We kept crashing into rocks and at one point he got out to unjam us and I stole his steering stick and got to stand up and steer the boat. Despite my weedy arms I think I was amazing at this, until we hit a rocky area with fast flowing water at which point I just screamed and sat back down leaving us to freestyle. But I have lived to tell the tale so no harm done. Pretty soon it's Thai new year which is a festival of water where they all just throw water at each other and to get some practise in all the thai people we passed on the river banks chucked buckets of water on us and shouted Happy New Year! They also handed us drinks and shook our hands so I'll forgive them!
We're now back at the guesthouse and I'm very exhausted but the past two days have been such new experiences and so much fun. The next two days is finally elephant time! After speaking to the others who have just done it I am very excited!!!
Bit of an essay but I've just done so much!
Love xx

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