Into the heart of darkness

Trip Start Nov 06, 2013
Trip End Nov 05, 2014

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What I did
Bats, Trees, Lychee orchards, cool mountain rivers

Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai Province,
Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ok so the title is a touch melodramatic… but we marched through the thai rainforest for a day and it felt like we were as remote and as far from civilization as anywhere else on our travels...

The day began at stupid O'clock when the tour company collected us from the hotel at 7.30am. we had a booked a joint tour with whoever else was around and it turns out that "whoever else" was two German guys from near Munich; Ollie and Ferdinand. So we made ourselves comfy in the air conditioned transport as our driver took us out of the city and up into the hills. 

 The hills quickly became mountains and the road quickly became a lane, then a track, then a sort of vague scrape in the ground. We passed thick lush jungle, paddy fields, fruit orchards, peanuts, plantations of rubber trees and other crops that I couldn't identify. After an hour and half, we stopped, seemingly in the middle of nowhere and Chen, our guide got out and grabbed us a few walking sticks cut from bamboo. He also disappeared and came back with a load of parcels of rice and other things for lunch - all wrapped in banana leaves! 

Our driver pointed out a white roof a few miles away across the valley and said that is where he will pick us from this evening. The thickly wooded hillsides all around were where we would be exploring for the rest of the day. We had aplenty of water with us and Chen assured us that as we walked we would visit places where we could buy extra water and other souvenirs. Of course, what is a day in Thailand without some one trying to flog you a souvenir? 

The going was easy at first - mainly along a straight path, but then after a while the heat starts to make its presence felt and the sweat starts to pour down your back, your forehead, and before too long you are drenched. The consistent high pitched chirp of crickets and cicadas is ever present in the vegetation all around and provides a constant soundtrack to our day. 

In the morning section of our trek, we passed through thick forest and head upwards; gently at first but the ground underfoot became steadily more arduous. Rocks and steep tracks had to be clambered up and I fell on my arse at least twice! All the while, Chen was pointing out things of note: tamarind trees, fire fruit trees, (not ready to eat for another week or so) and we generally chatted away to each other. Eventually, we started to hear the sound of a river and waterfall  - it seems as though it is all around you - imagine white noise like when you tune the radio between stations - that is a waterfall from about half a kilometer away. When we reached the falls themselves, there was a group of trekkers already there enjoying the cooling water… I soon joined them! It felt sooooo good to jump in the pool and submerge completely. The water was cold having come down out of the mountains the north but it was very welcome! After we'd all had a swim, we enjoyed our lunch of fried chicken with rice and watched the local wild dogs cadging for scraps. We then headed up to the village on top of the hill to replenish our water. This village was settled about a hundred years ago and started to grow opium. The King at the time stopped all of that and gave the village the task of growing food for the City of Chiang Mai. Consequently the are is now a major fruit and veg producing area. Chen pointed out a huge tree with what looked like a ladder up its 50 metro trunk. "its so that the villagers can climb up and get the honey from the beehive" he told us. Look at the pictures - would you climb that without a rope or harness and collect honey from a bunch of really pissed off bees?? me neither. But I did buy some honey for our breakfast and its easily the richest, tastiest I have ever eaten. 

The afternoon took us around the other side of the valley and through a huge lychee orchard. Lychees are so good in this part of the world - big and succulent and plump! Just like (insert your own Benny Hill gag here!) we ate lychees from the trees as we walked and despite seeing a number of banana trees, didn't eat no 'narnas. Wild narna's are too full of seeds to be eaten and the seeds are very bitter. 

 The rest of the afternoon saw us walking up a hugely steep and winding path. soon it got rockier and we came to huge over hang which smelt like Satan himself had used the area as a lavatory. Chen told us that bats lived in the cave and there at the bottom of the over hang you could indeed see dark cavernous opening. the smell was centuries of built up bat guano. i can't tell you ho badly it stank! we clambered down into the sunless deep below and in the light of a few iPhones, the odd fluttering thing was glimpsed. i pointed the camera up a couple of times and managed to catch a few on 'film'. we even saw a huge cave dwelling spider that feeds on the insects that venture into the darkness to eat the guano. don't you just love nature? massive spiders that eat shit-eating insects...

above ground the insects we saw ere all like giant versions of what we're used to back in europe - huge millipedes, giant woodlouse, butterflies the size of your hand. this is such rich and ecologically divers part of the world but if we'd stayed in the city we'd never have known.sadly, there are no monkeys or elephants in this part of Thailand - not any longer. they have all been driven away by the encroachment of humans. A sadly familiar tale.

 We continued up the steep hill and even now, two days later we are still suffering the effects and our legs are very achey. We eventually made it to our destination at about 3.30pm and were so glad!! Tired, knackered even, we downed more water and rested in the shade of a plant roofed hut before our driver took us back into town. A brilliant days trek! 
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Anne on

The world is an amazing place and your adventure is too. Shames so many two legged human animals are hellbent on its destruction.

Jo Griffith on


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