Jungle Fever - Anna & Ian Go Wild

Trip Start Oct 02, 2012
Trip End Mar 31, 2014

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Where I stayed
What I did
Tham Lod Cave
Prehistoric Cave Art
Prehistoric Wooden Coffins

Flag of Thailand  , Mae Hong Son,
Sunday, October 28, 2012

Leaving Mae Hong Son we catch a bus 2 hours down the road to a place called Soppong. We have read about a cave nearby called Tham Lod that you can catch a bamboo raft through. It sounded cool so we are on our way.

Stepping off the bus in Soppong we wonder if maybe we have made a terrible mistake. Our accomodation is 9km away. Too far to trek in the midday sun with our half ton backpacks on. We look around for some sort of transport. It doesn't take long to look as Soppong is a collection of about 6 shops on a dusty road. We are told that taxi-bikes could take us, but there are none around at the minute. Anna is not happy about the prospect of getting on a bike, with her backpack, down some questionable roads, with a driver who probably has no concept of motorcycle safety. We stand around for a bit. Lost. Secretly wishing we were back in Mae Hong Son. We start to get desperate. Then, just when it seems we will be either spending the night on the side of the road or dying under the weight of our packs on a 9 km hike, our saviour arrives! It's a miracle! A Thai lady approaches us and asks where we want to go. We say, 'Cave Lodge' in our most hopeful voices. She says, 'Okay 300 Baht'. We restrain from crying and hugging her. We are saved.

Cave Lodge looks like it has grown out of the jungle. It is a great place. The owner (and builder) is an Australian who has been living in Thailand for 30 years. He is a caving enthusiast and settled down here as the region is littered with lots of incredible caves. The Lodge is located in the jungle, near to the river and about a 10 minute walk away from the awesomeness of Tham Lod cave. We are welcomed by another Aussie called Steve who advises us that if we walk down to the cave in about an hour then we can get a guided tour through the caverns and exit just before sunset. He tells us that everyday, just before sunset, a flock of about 300 thousand cave adapted swifts enter the cave to roost for the night. Truly a sight worth seeing. We are sold, we pack a bag with water and torches and head off to the cave.

Naturally we get lost, but on our second attempt we make it to the park at Tham Lod and hire a Lantern Lady (a local villager who will act as our guide through the caves and carry a lantern as it is pretty dark in there). We walk to the cave entrance and board a bamboo raft to ferry us into the jaws of the earth. Once inside we disembark and set about exploring the vast cavern. Our guide points out interesting rock formation, giant pillars, stalectites, stalecmites and pools of milky water. We climb rickety wooden steps to higher caves and hidden treasures. The river flows all the way through Tham Lod and we board a few more bamboo rafts which carries us on to further exquisite caves and formations. As we travel deeper into the cave the noise of the bats become louder and louder and the floor is thick with guano (poop). The river below us is thick with huge pale fish which thrash about madly as we drop in food for them. Nearing the end of the tour, our guide leads us to some deep caverns which contain the ancient remains of prehistoric wooden coffins. The bodies and bones have long ago turned to dust but the remnants of the coffins remain. Some of them date back over 2000 years, long before the Thai people inhabited this land and on one of the walls is a cave painting. The painting is of a man with a spear and a deer like animal. It is a strange, wonderful feeling to be looking at these ancient objects and artwork. Ian is starting to feel like Indiana Jones again. For reasons unknown the cave art was intentionally damaged (they tried to wash it away) but fortunately it is still possible to see the image.

Due to some crossed communication our guide takes us back to the entrance at the end of the tour when really we wanted to be at the exit (the exit is where the vast number of birds enter, so we plan to come back tomorrow and have a look), but it's getting dark, we are covered in crap (literally), and all the adventuring has worn us out. We head back to the Lodge for food and sleep. It is dark now and the noise of the jungle surrounding us is loud and non-stop. It seems that after sunset the creatures go mental and shout as loud as they can for the whole night! Oh the miracle of earplugs....!

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