Gibbons and me Flying Through the Trees

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Where I stayed
Jungle Tree House

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Saturday, December 17, 2011

Day 1 – Entering the Jungle
Down to the office at 8am where I dropped off my bag, watched a safety video and then jumped into the back of a pickup. Cold morning and bloody cold sitting in the back. Had the wind blasting us in the back due to the car moving. Happy I had my fleece on since not much protection from the wind in the pickup and wind had a high chill factor. In the end ended up putting on the fleece hat to keep my head warm.

Along the way had a short stop at a shop before getting off the main road onto an even rougher dirt road that lead to a small village. Once at the village expected to be off into the jungle but ended up sitting around for almost two hours. As seems to be the way with the organisers of the tour not much information given about what was happening. Just left to sit around for two hours. Didnt even get lunch which we could see our guide (only assuming this at the time) was holding.

Found out later that a couple of people who were suppose to go on the tour were running late and we were waiting around for them to show up though we finally gave up and left before they arrived. Guess it wasnt all that bad since had some time to spend watching the local village life pass by. Two hours though was a bit to much, especially since we had no idea just how long we would be kept waiting.
As in most Laos villages, saw both lots of pigs and kids running around the place with half the little kids running around naked. One kid in particular had a tire and stick and was running with a stick and using it to keep the tire wheel going round and round.

One other thing that stuck out about the village was the number of dogs. Over a dozen running around, sniffing butts and having the occasional scuffle breaking out between them. At this point the locals may have shouted something or just left them go for a while. With so many dogs in a group cannot think it would be particularly safe to be wandering around. Especially given the session.

As I said, after almost 2 hours, eventually took off on the trail and had a short walk through some fields until we reached the edge of the jungle. At this point found that we started walking through large clumps  of bamboo. Up hill of course.

Reached a stream crossing and though we hadnt been walking long stopped for lunch because it was getting late in the day. Only had half a sandwich each (though I got a whole one which was spare) since they seemed to not have enough for everyone. Again says something about the organisation skills and not the best way to start (but things got better).

From here keeped walking a little further to reach the main camp site and the first of the kitchen areas. Also saw a net and some people playing with a rattan ball here but not so acrobatic as the guys I saw in Luang Prabang. Hanging from the hut ceiling saw a map of the area which showed the ziplines, connecting trails, huts and kitchens.

Had only expected 8-10 people to be on the tour but had double that number. Ended up being broken up into two groups and I ended up in a group that had an ozzie couple (Cassie and Megan), an american couple (Carl and Kaitlin) and four swedish guys. All in their early 20's.

From here headed to the first zipline where we were told again about how to use the gear and reminded about what we had seen on the video. Given the level of instruction we were given compared to the last place I ziplinned I am happy I had done it before.

Here the zip line had one cable, one saftety and a tire connected to the back of the pulley system that was to be squeezed in order to brake the slide. The more friction from the brake, the quicker the stop. Didnt have to good form on the first few runs and didnt quite make it so had to pull myself along the wire for the last bit. Guess I can blame it partly on me not being able to keep my body straight.

From the end of the first zipline it was another uphill hike to reach the next zipline. Makes sense but for some reason I was thinking all the ziplines would be connected and not that you would have so much walking between them. As they say. What goes up must come down but that also means you need to go up before you can go down. Guess as long as it along a zipline going down isnt so bad.

Found that after the second line ended up at a central tree where you had two long lines and one short one running in and out from it. This was the one place where having the safety rope connected was a good idea though I think you would still end up pretty damages (but not dead) if you slipped. Found the safety rope a good idea here mainly because the platform around it had multiple levels, the stairs were narrow and in some places didnt feel particularly stable.

Took the second line out and from here we headed downhill a fair way before reaching a short zip line to the tree house we would be staying at. Big treehouse. Bigger tree. Found out later that this was a new tree house which might also explain the increase in numbers that are allowed to do the tour.

Cant image how they go about building these but I guess someone must climb up, a zip line is then set up and materials ferried to the tree where construction then starts. Definitely need a structurally sound house plan before you start with enough wires to make sure that the thing doesnt get blown down in a strong wind.

Once in the tree house picked a bed and had some hotwater ziplined in since no fires allowed in the tree houses. Guess having an accident here wouldnt be a good thing and might possibility of been something that had happened in the past.

Due to the late start, was pretty close to getting dark. It was a pity we had started the day so late otherwise would have had some time to go out and do a bit of ziplining before dinner. Prior to dinner we did get a bit of noise in the nearby forest as a troop of monkeys came through. Werent sure at first if they were monkeys or gibbons but have the feeling gibbons dont do rampaging through the forest with the same vigour as monkeys. Couldnt see them but definitely could definately hear them.

After that bit of excitement dinner was brought in by zipline and we ate. Also had plenty of fruit and snacks in the eski which was nice. Especially given that lunch had only been half a sandwich.

Ended the day playing cards. At least we kept playing until the power cut out on us around 9:30pm.
By this point we all decided to call it a night after playing one hand by torch light. Interestingly a rat decided to visit us after the lights went out. We could here it in the bin and see it by torch light before it scurried away. Funnt thing about this was that once of the swedish guys had a phobia of rats and jumped up on the table. Just like you see in the movies.
Also at this point we were wandering if we would have any power the following night.

Before heading off to sleep I did spend some time trying to see the stars in the sky. Unfortunately with the big leafy tree branches above the tree house this wasnt really possible. Instead of seeing a sky full of stars saw leafy branches full of twinkling lights. Guess that it looked a bit as if someone had put some christmas lights up on the tree branches.

Day 2 - Gibbons and Ziplining Between the Different Tree Houses.
Was up before the sun and since I had to go to the toilet, decided to get up once the sun was starting to rise. After doing my business spent the rest of the morning looking at the sunrise and out into the trees in the hopes of seeing some gibbons. No luck unfortunately though this may have been in part due to me not looking in the right spot when there was movement going on. While I did hear a few calls that were most likely gibbons didnt hear as much noise from the gibbons as I had expected.

Had breakfast ziplined in a bit later than expected and after finishing it we headed out of the tree house for a day of ziplinning. Seems that the plan for the day was to go around and visit some of the other tree houses in the park. In order to do this needed to do a fair bit of walking and ziplinning. Had been told we were only going for 2 hours before lunch and foolishly didnt change my battery or bring a spare memory card.

From the tree house it was an up hill walk to the central tree we had come into the day before. While ziplining I attached my camera to the harness and tried taking some photos and videos while ziplinning and while I got a number of them during the day, the internet connection is slow at the moment so only some of them have been upload (not neccesarily the best ones). These videos definately need some editing and all will appear at the end of the list of uploaded photos for those interested.

First tree house we visited was tree house 7 where the other group of people were staying. In order to get here we did a few ziplines and a lot of walking  through the jungle. While you could hear a few birds around there wasnt a lot of noise coming out of teh jungle during the day.

Found tree house 7 to be smaller but unlike out tree house it was surrounded by mountains and had a bit more access to the open sky. While here most people had a quick look and sat down . I though wandered around a bit more and decided to stare out into the surrounding jungle which turned out to be a good thing. Was lucky enough to be looking at a patch of jungle while some gibbons were moving around.

Let everyone know and spent the next 20min watching, photoing and videoing the gibbons in the nearby trees. Some binoculars definately would have come in handy here. am definately happy I have the 12x (16x with image processing) on my camera. If I hadnt I would have had no decent photos of the gibbons and certainly none of the good video I got.

All the good gibbon videos from today were uploaded and I especially like the ones where the gibbons are jumping between bamboo stalks. Its just a pity I didnt plan. Hadnt thought (foolishly) that I would be taking so many videos or leaving the camera on continuously for so long. As a result the memory card ended up filling up to quickly and the battery went flat a lot quicker. Definately would ahve a lot more good video for editing if I had brought a spare memory card and battery. You would think I wouldknow better by now.

While watching the gibbons found that they came in two colours. Black and brown. Got the impression that this was significant but the guide wasnt particularly knowledgable. Seems that most of the guides come from the local village we had passed through on the first day but that their training seemed a bit lacking.

Ended the stay in the tree house with a photo in the bathroom. As you can see its a room with a view though the shower is a bit to cold for me even with the view. Should be noted that all the tree houses have running water. My impression was that there is some water source further up the mountain and the water is gravity fed through pipes to the trees houses.

From Tree house 7 it was onto tree house 5. More ziplining and more walking to get here. Lots of fun. This tree house also had great views. This was mostly because it was a single large tree sitting out in the middle of nowhere. Whereas the other tree houses we had visited had the tree house sitting in branches, this one had it wrapped around a single branch 30+m above the jungle canopy. In one photo you can see the tree trunk through the slats in the floor.

This tree house I found scary. I certainly wouldnt of wanted to have been involved in climbing this tree to set up the original zipline or been involed in building the tree house for that matter. Dont really like hieghts where I am by a cliff like drop (the whole tree house was basically sitting over such a drop). Though for some reason it doesnt seem to stop me going up, even if my stomach does somersaults while I do.

Upon leaving this tree house you had to sit on a step and then basically drop off the edge. Thankfully, even though I dont like hieghts, I am willing to put my faith in the equipment (otherwise I wouldnt be here). Am willing to assume that since no equipment failure up to this point has lead to anyones death or injury, there is no reason for me to be the first. Maybe a bit naive but it gets me by.

Did here later that one of the girls from the other group were crying when they had to leave the tree house and it took a while to cokes them out. Given doing the other ziplines made them nervous it wasnt really much of a surprise. Like I said, your basically dropping off an edge over thin air.

From here headed back towards our tree house, past one of the local kitchen areas and with a small side trip to tree house 3 along the way. Lots of walking, lots of ziplining, lots of fun. Also did the longest zipline in the park as one of the return ziplines.

Once back at our tree house we found the other group visiting and having spotted some gibbons. Unfortunately I was one of the last people from our group back and missed out on seeing them. After that last bit of excitement sat down for a late lunch.

After a bit of a break a few of us headed out to do a bit more zippling around the central tree since it was a bit to late in the day to walk back to one of the other ziplines. Besides, you had the option of two return runs here where you could get some nice videos.

After an hour or so of this, headed back to the tree house to find dinner. By this time it was starting to get sark and we found that we had no power. In the end spent the night playing cards by torch light which was a bit of a challenge. Candles at this point would have been nice but given the location probably would not have been a good idea.

Day 3 - Leaving the Jungle
Once again was up early but not quite as early as the day before. Once again spent the morning looking into the jungle but didnt see anything. Thankfully though Kaitlin also woke up and spotted the gibbons in the same spot (which I didnt know) as the day before. Once again grabbed some nice video (not uploaded) of the gibbons jumping around in the trees.

Had the gibbons fairly close for just over 30min before they started to move away. Had been hopeful at one point they might get closer since one started moving towards the tree house. In the end though werent so lucky as they moved along the mountain side and around eventually around it. Getting smaller and smaller as time passed.

Did have some interesting views though as they jumped around the bamboo and trees. Most interesting, and funny thing, though was when of them was walking along a branch. Arms sticking up in the air. Got lucky with particular activity since I got it on video. Once again grateful for the powerful zoom on my point and shot.

Unfortunately no video from this day uploaded due to slow internet connection.

Again had breakfast ziplined in and then started heading back to the village we started from. Had a couple of ziplines along the way and stopped off at the main kitchen area for a bit. Here some of the locals were playing with the rattan ball and some of the guys joined in.

After sitting around waiting for the other groups to show up we continued onto the village where we once again sat around a bit before getting on the truck. Once again some nice views of the locals roadside villages along the way.

Back in town grabbed some of the gibbon photos taken by Carl and Kaitlin and then checked into a hotel near the docks. Didnt do to much for the last part of the day except head out for some dinner. All in all a very enjoyable trip out to the jungle. Also probably lucky with so many gibbon siteings since it would have been just as likely for us to have seen none as to have seen any. We had three even though I only had two.

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