Continuation from Part 1 of my Jumbo Trekking Adventure:
Everyone was skeptical as to how well we would sleep, sharing one LARGE room with elephants, roosters, dogs and other wildlife as our neighbors. After a few months of travel I thought the conditions were fairly ideal, I had a bed, pillow, door that closed and most importantly (for me) it was nice and dark. I guess the other thing that helps is that I always come prepared for the elements of travel sleeping, my eye mask and ear plugs close at hand. I’m not sure who came up with the idea that roosters crow when the sun comes up because it’s not true, those retarded animals crow whenever the hell they want and 3am seems to be their favorite time. The earplugs were definitely used and I slipped my eye mask on as well when the skies began to lighten. I eventually gave up on sleep when the elephants started screaming (I’m not exactly sure how to describe it but it was loud)! Laura and I immediately broke into laughter but it appeared the rest of our roommates were unmoved by the noise.
Not wanting to waste the day inside a few of us made our way down to the main camp area where coffee was already awaiting our arrival. We spent some time feeding the elephants before a delicious breakfast of eggs, toast and a mystery jam that I’m convinced was candy. There was an opportunity to bathe the elephants but I decided to pass, to quote Laura, “[The elephants] poop bowling ball sized turds in the water, so you are mostly swimming with their shit”. After the bath it was time to say goodbye to the camp crew and move on to our next destination, Tom at the wheel, Chat shotgun and the rest of us piled inside, on top and hanging onto the truck.
Another short drive up the road we found ourselves at a small snack shop, from which point we’d be hiking to a waterfall. While waiting for the majority of our group to finish their ice cream I had a chance to talk with Tom and learn a little bit more about him. Turns out he has a gorgeous wife and adorable 1 year old daughter, he’s only 28 which surprised me a little but clearly has the sole of a young child, always smiles and a joy to be around. After a short 10 minute hike we arrived at the falls where Tom promptly started to undress and climb to the top. Before we were able to set our bags down Tom was surfing the falls, flying down like a crazy man. Most of the group decided to follow suite – only they opted to sit down instead of risk their death on the rock; I on the other hand cooled off in the pools, sunned on the rocks and took pictures of the rest of the nuts. Before too long it was time to say goodbye to our new friends as all but one of them were doing the shorter 2-day trek. We exchanged names, e-mails and hugs then wished them well as they went off with Tom for some whitewater rafting before returning to Chiang Mai.
This left Claire, Laura and myself in the hands of Chet, our slightly insane but extremely caring and loyal guide. Claire was one of the few that didn’t expect intense hiking (aka any uphill) so she was not happy to hear that today we would be going up. Chet was never one to give a straight answer so when he said ‘a little up on local road’ I had no idea what to expect. Turns out he told the truth, 100%. We went up, and then up some more and still up as we wound our way around a dirt road which the locals use to get up to their homes in the Lahu hill tribe. When we were nearing the top and covered in sweat the rain gods looked down on us once again and treated us to a good 20 minutes of showers. After nearly 2 hours we entered the village and just as I thought it was all over Chet told us, ‘no, our hut over there’ and pointed further into the mountain range. We took a few minutes to sit and rest, catch a beautiful rainbow and consider just what we had gotten ourselves into.
The walk though and into the village wasn’t terrible but being covered in sweat and mud we were ready to arrive and shower. My shoes became more like ice skates as I tried to inch my way down some of the slick paths, I’m just happy I didn’t fall. After arriving at our home for the night (another bamboo bungalow) we took turns at the shower and laid down for a bit of rest, listening to the storm brewing above us. The three of us played cards while listening to “Tourist Music” as our new host (Monkey boy) called it, while the two men prepared dinner. Somewhere around 6pm Chet came out screaming “Earthquake” which I dismissed as more of his character because I didn’t feel anything (butsure enough there was a 6.0 earthquake near Chiang Rai).
Dinner was served over romantic candlelight (no electricity in our hut) and consisted of soup (which we fed ‘Mr. Four’ our dog – sorry but I hate coriander), two stir fried vegetable dishes and of course mounds of rice. Laura didn’t seem to impressed with the selection but I was loving all the veggies, I guess it doesn’t take much to please me. Monkey boy (whose name I later discovered is actually Nu) came to join us and proceeded to entertain us with some tricks, using both a string and matchsticks. I’m still stumped as to how he did some of those things but I guess living in a remote village gives you all kinds of time to pick up some new skills. Laura and Clair went to bed early but I stayed up talking with Nu and trying to learn some of his tricks. I found out that he’s lived in the village all his life and started working as a trekking guide 11 years ago. He’s never went to school for an English education, “learning just from tourists” but he could definitely speak better than 75% of my students. I eventually decided to call it a night, despite being offered a few bed, and joined Laura and Claire in our room, hoping to get some rest before our final day of trekking.
We're not done yet: The Home Stretch
High on the tourist track for a reason, home of good food (mostly) happy people, rich history and culture. Thailand as many tourist soon learn is just easy. Easy to visit, easy to get around and even easier to stay.