A stumble in the jungle

Trip Start Jun 04, 2005
Trip End Apr 05, 2006

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, July 9, 2005

From the waving palm trees and coral seas of Phi Phi, we headed for the hills on Wednesday 6 July. After a ferry trip to Krabi and a two hour minivan ride north (during which the minivan broke down... however was fixed within 25 minutes) we arrived in the unspoilt, jungle-clad and mountainous paradise of Khao Sok National Park. Here, jagged limestone hills rise steeply from the sea of emerald green forest... breathtaking.

Our accommodation at Jungle Huts was basic but cheap. The rain set in shortly after our arrival and we relaxed with our books for the rest of the afternoon. In the early evening we explored the cluster of palm-thatched homes, lodges, shops and eateries that make up the 'village'; and strolled to the Park gates.

The next day, well fed and rested and carrying a packed lunch of fried rice, we set off for a nice long hike in the Park (following a well marked trail). It started pouring down just as we entered the park gates, but we persisted and tackled the 7 hour day walk with gusto. The wide track narrowed to a muddy, narrow footpath with a few tricky river crossings (I got my boots wet a couple of times!).

All the while, we were surrounded by a wonderland of dense, lush rainforest - Khao Sok is a remnant of the ancient rainforests that once covered much of southern Thailand. Many species of graceful palms, bamboos and flowering shrubs form an understorey beneath a soaring canopy of tall dipterocarp trees, most of which are supported by magnificent buttress roots at their base.

Our enjoyment of the forest was marred somewhat by our first encounter with blood-sucking leeches... yes, those yucky, slimy thingies synonymous with jungle trekking. We'd been checking our legs for the buggers all through the walk, and managed to escape unscathed for half the day. However, when we reached the top waterfall, our furthest point, another check revealed we each had about 4 or 5 parasites glued to our legs. I screamed hysterically, as any self-respecting woman would, but we managed to get them off by dabbing them with insect repellent wipes (info in the visitor centre recommended this as the best way to remove them).

The rest of the walk back was unfortunately steeped in a haze of paranoia as we constantly checked our bodies and removed the blood-suckers. It doesn't hurt, but the thought of them hitched to your flesh, feeding themselves fat, is simply horrifying. To my terror I discovered at one point that I'd been playing host to one on my bikini-line! At least it had already finished its meal and dropped off by the time I discovered the travesty - I think I would have gone completely mental if I'd actually seen it stuck there.

We returned to Jungle Huts just after 6pm, feeling a little violated but overall really satisfied, and heard the news about the London bombings. The locals were all huddled around their TVs watching BBC World, and at our lodge a small cluster of British guests were doing the same. Needless to say we were worried about everyone and have since been pleased to hear that everyone is alright.

By the next morning, the weather had greatly improved and we took up the chance to go elephant riding. The two of us were perched together on a little bench on on top of the elephant's back, while the handler sat on her neck. We set off on a two hour trek through some lovely jungle scenery with two other elephants (one carrying four people!).

What a marvellous feeling - the patient beast provides the perfect vantage point from which to appreciate the vegetation. We spotted a lemur during our trek, and enjoyed a stop-off at a waterfall and small pool with a Tarzan-style vine swing over it - of course we all had a go and got quite wet!

Though I feel that this sort of use of such majestic and clever wild animals is cruel, it was interesting to do the ride - one has to remember that in Asia elephants have been used as working animals for centuries and all of them are born into captivity. The handlers used virtually no force - all the cajoling was purely verbal.

In the afternoon we headed down to the Sok river for some tubing. We floated peacefully downstream sprawled on inner tubes, and watched the landscape go by - steep limestone cliffs decorated with stalactites, and tall trees draped with epiphytic ferns and orchids. Later on, our host at Jungle Huts took us early evening sightseeing spin in his bakkie (pick-up) to see the troop of monkeys that hangs out at a nearby cave temple.

On Saturday, we were up at 6.30am to hit the road again - this time by bus and train to Prachuap Kiri Khan, the next stop on our way up to Bangkok. More about that in the next blog!
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Khao SOk on

Khao sok<br /> is a great place. I was their in January and stayed in the jungle on a tour.
An experience I would never forget

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