2nd January – Hill Tribe Trek

Well, going to bed early was completely pointless.  Between the rock hard floor and the chill of the air (I was in my fleece layers and still chilly!), I barely slept a wink all night.  And I wasn’t the only one.

Made worse by my shower in the morning.  The toilets were exactly what I expected, turkish style squats on a concrete floor, but they’d also fixed a shower nozzle in there too, next to the ants nest and spider webs.  And yet, still not the worst shower I’d ever had…takes the number 2 slot quite comfortably though.  The icing on the cake?  My watch clearly wasn’t sealed in Mongolia, because it didn’t survive the waterfall trip – its still working but is suffering from severe humidity.  Another broken item to add to the list.

(Sit rep: broken 2 cameras, 2 pairs of sunglasses, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of shorts and now 1 watch).

The French couple are leaving us today.  They only booked the 1 night trip, so area heading back down for elephants and rafting, while we continue our trek upwards.  After breakfast, we walk through the town and see some of the villagers at work weaving scarves and using traditional equipment.  We also come across the churches, and the little girl from the family we were staying with gathering wood with another family member.
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Most of the village is on a steep hill, and it stays steep while we walk out.  Its also hotter today than it was yesterday, so first break stop I’m making a few wardrobe changes and zipping off the trousers and packing the jacket.  Its useful at night, but really wishing I’d stuck to my guts and not brought it.  Even a little extra weight gets bogged down in this heat, especially when you haven’t slept well.
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The biggest problem was we were walking along mostly dirt paths, not the forest route.  This did mean we got some spectacular scenery views, but we were also in the glaring sun most of the day.  Our guide helped us out a bit by making some walking sticks along the way, and I tried focusing on that rather than the heat or my bag.

First big stop of the day was of course, a waterfall.  This one had a much larger pool of water, and crashed into another one too.  I decided since it was so hot (and I’d actually prepared this time) that I was going in to cool down, and got changed into my swimming costume.  However the first time I tried to go into the waterfall pool ended in failure.  The water is too dark to see the bottom, and I have no idea what kind of material is on the bottom.  Mud? Sand? Rocks?  Going in blind in bare feet seemed like a very stupid idea.
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Instead, waded into the smaller pool (which was clear enough that I could see it was sand) and cooled off in there.  Then walked along and under the log bridge to walk into the bigger pool rather than jump in.  This ends up being a bad idea – far too many rocks and I’m going to hurt my feet.  But I do NOT want to leave without being in that pool, so grab my sandals and accept they’re getting wet.

Totally worth it.  Most of the pool is waist to chest deep, and has a sandy bottom.  However to get to it requires stepping over many erratic and dangerous stones which make bare feet an impossibility.  And its quite the relief considering that less than 15 minutes later I’m almost completely dry from the heat.  Course, the sandals aren’t, and I have to wrap them in an extra bag to keep them from soaking anything.

The afternoon was spent hiking upwards, and upwards, and upwards.  Walking stick proved to be invaluable just as a hoist while heading up a dusty dirt hill that I honestly thought was going to give way and send me sliding most of the time.  We’d stop for a few minutes when we got to a particularly photogenic spot to wait for the stragglers too, but everyone was starting to feel it.
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We only had one more stop before we reached our night camp, which was less waterfall and more rapids.  I was far more interested in the water being sold in the shop since I’d run out a good few hours ago and desperately dehydrated.  Also grabbed some crisps, despite not being hungry, just for the energy boost.
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After another hour of walking, we were all ready to get to the next camp.  Unfortunately, while resting at a stupa literally in the middle of nowhere, we had a problem.  Our guide was used to getting to this camp from another way, and had no idea how to get there from where we were.  His only instructions were ‘follow the arrow’ – an arrow none of us could find.  As such, we had to hang around the forest until his friend made his way to us, which took a good half hour.

Turned out the arrow had been on a tree slightly further up from where we backtracked, and took you down pure jungle instead of a path.  It was also pretty steep downhill – clearly we were backtracking some of the height – but eventually stumbled into Mae Moe village (not sure if that’s how its spelt, but its the best guess I can come up with as the guide didn’t know how to spell it).

Before we head to the accommodation, we stop in a small waiting area outside a walled off part of the village.  Japanese girl had managed to find a puppy within minutes and is now cuddling him with no desire to let go.  When I decide to join in, discover the pup is at the stage where biting everything is awesome, so I dub her ‘Nippy’.
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We’re waiting here because our guide wants to explain about an additional attraction in the village – the The Long Neck Kayan Village.  Originally from Burma, many people from the Kayan tribes fled to Thailand to escape persecution and death.  Despite having been here for over 20 years, they’re still considered refugees and therefore cannot legally work, and instead have turned their small villages into tourist attractions.  You can enter for a small fee, which goes towards health, education and improving their village.  There are several of these towns in Thailand, and many of them are now self supporting on tourist fees and need no help from the government.  I decided I really wanted to have a look so paid the fee, while everyone else decided to pass.  I could go in whenever I wanted, but decided to hold back until I’d dumped by bag at long last.

We do get one adorable surprise though.  Turns out the gentleman cooking our food has a collection of cats, including a little black kitten.  However, he also has a pet monkey…who thinks it’s a cat:
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These two were utterly adorable!  The monkey was constantly clinging to the kitten, getting rides or just using him for protection, then throwing themselves into a play fight.  It took sheer force of will to take our eyes off of them.

As for accommodation, it was less of a house than the last place, and more a barn kitted out with some mosquito nets.  Despite this, actually looked more inviting than the last place, probably due to the amount of sunlight coming through the holes in the structure.  Also had plenty of woolly blankets which would be very useful keeping us from being freezing tonight.
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About Batale

I am an aspiring writer - though since I haven't written anything original in about 2 years, so calling me a writer is like calling a man who makes dinner every night a 5 star chef. I started this blog to force me to write. From the 1st January 2013, I intend to update this blog every day. If nothing interesting happens, I'll write about something that does interest me, whether that is a movie, a book, something I've heard about, or even some of my stories growing up.
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