Posts Tagged ‘Karen hill tribe’

In the jungle

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

The plan was to have a day in Chiang Mai before going trekking but when we arrived at BMP Residence they were keen for us to join the group leaving the next morning. Two nights and a day in relatively comfy accommodation after the trek sounded appealing so we agreed. We just had time to drop our bags in our room before the briefing meeting with our guide, Joshua, and our trek mates Julian, Chiraz, Renee and Chiara.

On Thursday morning we checked out, left some laundry at reception, put our bags in the store room, ate breakfast and set off in the back of a pickup for our trek. On the way out of Chiang Mai we passed a big Tesco Lotus store and a Makro. The road gradually got narrower as we left the city and reached the countryside. First stop was a market to buy any last minute essentials. A poncho seemed like it might be useful. A couple of hours after leaving we were definitely in the countryside bumping down a single track road with fields both sides. We passed a handful of low lying rice paddies under irrigation with young rice growing. Most of the paddies won’t have rice in until the rainy season starts in a few weeks time. There were lots of orchards but I couldn’t tell what kind of trees they were. Suddenly the air was full of yellow tissue paper. A few fluttered through the pickup – butterflies!

About two and a half hours after leaving the hotel we reached the start of the trail we’d be trekking. We set off under the full midday sun, following and frequently crossing the path of a small stream. After about half an hour or so we stopped for lunch at a small farm. Cows surrounded our lunch table after we sat down and stared at us inquisitively. It felt like we were the animals in the zoo and they’d come to look at us. One of the calves sucked and licked the salt from a rucksack strap.

After lunch the going got a little harder. Still mostly level but the jungle was a little thicker. A long way from impenetrable rain forest but thick enough to require a bit of concentration on where to place feet or duck branches. Walk or look at the scenery or take photos but not more than one of these safely at a time.

A couple of hours later we were going more uphill with thunder rumbling in the distance and continued that way until we reached the Karen hill tribe village where we’d be spending the night. Big spiders and big plants were the theme for the day so far as I could tell. There are some photos in my RTW2011 set on Flickr. Our accommodation was a dormitory hut on stilts with room for twelve people. Soon after we arrived the rain started and fell for an hour or more. Compare and contrast the accommodation for our hosts and the crazy foreigners: close fitting wood planks and galvanised steel roof versus draughty bamboo walls and leaky leaf roof. The floor in the hut was bamboo matting over bamboo joists. Holes in the matting made some parts of the hut unusable. Actually the roof only leaked in a couple of places, one of them just happened to be directly over Hannah’s sleeping mat. The mosquito nets were doubles so we moved our mats under a free net where the roof wasn’t leaking. Later we discovered the net wasn’t actually big enough to properly enclose two mats so we moved back to our original position and hoped for no more rain. The weather gods were kind and the night stayed dry.

Next morning we did a lot of sitting around twiddling our thumbs before finally setting off at about 10:30, or “9:00-9:30” Thai time. Some of us thought it would have been sensible to leave earlier and not be walking during the hottest part of the day but never mind. We spent the morning going uphill and in the early afternoon we heard the rumble of thunder in the distance. Joshua picked up the pace a bit which made it a bit too fast for some but was fine for me. We crested the ridge we had been climbing and started downhill, quite steep and a bit slippery in places. The theme for the day was even bigger spiders and waterfalls. We arrived at our overnight stop – a Karen farm – at about 16:00 and it still wasn’t raining. There was a hut where the farmer lived, a dormitory hut for about a dozen people, five huts for two people each and a toilet hut. Hmmm, no shower. But wait! Joshua hurried us into swimming costumes and a hundred metres further along the river to bathe under the waterfall we could hear roaring but hadn’t yet seen. He was keen for us to use the waterfall before the rain started and the river turned muddy. We hadn’t expected that when we set off in the morning. The water was a little cold at first but OK once we got used to it. It was very picturesque and a real pleasure to be in our own little paradise splashing around under the waterfall. We hauled ourselves out to dry out on the warm rocks. Dinner was excellent just as it had been the night before. The weather gods continued to smile on us and there was no rain except a light shower overnight, but it was delivered with a lot of lightning and the rumble of thunder.

On our final morning we set off again after a filling breakfast of boiled eggs, a mountain of toast, butter, jam and tea. Only an hour and a half of walking brought us to a waiting pickup truck and we were ferried to our lunch stop where we were joined by a couple of Brit girls and an American guy. After lunch we did an elephant ride and went bamboo rafting. Two people per elephant and three per raft. Our elephant or it’s mahout seemed to have a bit of an independent mind. While the others stuck to the gentle slopes ours liked to show off how steep a hill it could manage. Songkran was still in the locals’ minds and there was lots of splashing as we passed them on the banks and on rafts. This time we could join in so it was much more fun. Soaked after the rafting we dried off and took about an hour in the pickup to return to Chiang Mai.