Trekking in Chiang Mai Part 2

26 Oct

We woke up the next morning late-ish. Some of us were well-rested while others of us had not slept very well. We had a somewhat continental breakfast of toast with jam or boiled eggs, coffee and what I think was lemongrass tea. The morning before I’d discovered the foolishness of eating fruit, drinking coffee and lots of water before a long drive, so I avoided the beverages that morning.

Our dancing friend from the night before came to have breakfast with us again that morning, but didn’t entertain us with any dancing this time. In this photograph he has just stopped stroking this kid’s head. He had done it for a good minute or two, oblivious to the kid’s dissatisfaction with the entire experience.

Soon we packed up and began to leave the village, stopping part way for Deng to ask if he could pick a dragonfruit from someone’s plant. I never really realised that dragonfruit came from a succulent plant. It’s delicious though!

We walked through a rice patty… or three… that day, following our friend who took us around the village the night before. He’d walk on ahead (because we were so slow) and he’d squat down waiting for us, taking the opportunity to have a smoke. I found this happened even walking up massive inclines – the old smoker was putting us to shame.

We stopped for lunch after a particularly steep hill – I thought my heart was going to explode it was beating so hard and fast. I’ll show you a photo where I look particularly hideous. I’d just sat down and we were not far off eating. Lunch was noodles wrapped in a banana leaf and Deng craftily made us some chopsticks out of twigs.

Parts of the trek were quite muddy and slippery and a few of us had some mishaps. The Swiss guy had insisted on wearing thongs for the entire trek, apparently because he “liked the challenge” and was “trying to impress his wife”. He slipped down a hill for quite a few metres once and I asked if he was ok. He brushed it off pretty well but I couldn’t help thinking that if he’d worn proper shoes, he wouldn’t have slipped in the first place.

Side note: I don’t understand the need to challenge yourself or prove something to someone when they don’t actually care. Like someone wearing thongs for two days when shoes are way better. Chances are people will think you’re less of a tool if you wear the appropriate clothing without trying to prove that you’re tough. Also, my friend who didn’t want to let one of the trek guys carry her bag even though she wanted to vomit half the time or was so sick that probably even walking was an effort because it was a “sign of weakness”. That’s completely ridiculous. Is it in actuality a sign of weakness to you? Because I’m pretty sure it isn’t to others if you accept help.

Back to the story. It started to rain after lunch so we put on our raincoats and ponchos and slipped and slid to the end of our trek. Here was a temple that they’d only built in the last three or so years and there was a monk that was still doing some carving. It was beautiful.

We just had to walk for a few minutes down a road to find the ute that would separate the two-day trekkers from the three-dayers. We all said our goodbyes and had a photo taken together, not sure if we’d see eachother again back in Chiang Mai or down in Phuket, seeing as that’s where most of us were headed eventually.

Then we two-dayers hopped in the back of the ute and drove off on one of the bumpiest roads I’ve ever been on, heading towards where we would go elephant riding. It was a short distance kilometre-wise, but long time-wise. The Dutch guy couldn’t hack it so he asked to sit in the back of the ute with the driver and our trek leader friend (who I never learnt the name of properly).

Eventually we arrived where the elephants were, had a toilet stop and bought some bananas to feed our elephants on the ride. Keb and I got on one elephant, the British couple on another and Lairey and the Dutch guy got on the third. We noticed here that the owners had the bull hooks and I mentally crossed my fingers that they weren’t harsh on the animals.

Well, we plodded along and our elephant was more slow than the others and a bit rebellious, which meant the guy leading him kept prodding him with the hook. Keb was pretty distressed by this and kept touching where the hook would. Eventually the guy got off, instructed Keb to sit on the neck and then he walked on behind. This time he had a whip which I found even more upsetting than the hook. I think perhaps if the whip and the hook weren’t there that I would have enjoyed the ride more, but I was constantly aware of how this would affect Keb (very strongly opinionated about animal rights, welfare and ethics) and pretty sensitive myself about animals in pain.

The scenery was amazing and at the end there was a mother elephant and her baby in a pen. We fed the rest of our bananas to the little one and lingered around, before getting into the back of the truck and driving a short distance to the starting point of our bamboo raft ride.

We were warned in advance that we should probably change into swimwear because we were guaranteed to get wet. By this stage, though, none of us could be bothered getting changed as we were already pretty disgusting and just accepted our fate. We weren’t allowed to take any valuables or our cameras because of the whole wetness factor, so unfortunately I dont have any photographic proof.

We three Aussies got on one raft and the other three got on the other one. Immediately we got wet as the raft was more floating in the water and not on top. Then we headed off. I’m pretty sure the guy steering our raft couldn’t have been more than fifteen years old and I’m not convinced he was overly experienced. The raft was rather lengthy and it seemed like he would forget about the tail end where Keb was at the beginning. He steered us under a fallen tree at one point and we all had to lay flat on the raft to avoid falling off. We ran into a tree/shrub thing too and Keb fell off because the raft tipped too much at her end. There was also a point where the rapids were too strong so we had to get off the raft and walk along the bank briefly and then get back on.

When we got off the raft, we waited for a few minutes at the truck, grabbed a snack and a toilet stop and then all hopped in for the drive home. On the way back it started to rain and we had to let down the plastic windows in order to avoid getting drenched. We spotted a man on a motorbike riding in the rain with one hand shielding his eyes and the other hand steering. It was very interesting.

When we got back to the guest house we thanked our trek companion and all headed inside to recuperate and mainly to shower. I scrubbed at my legs for ages and the dried mud just would not come off completely. We also had quite a few scratches amongst ourselves, but we didn’t really care. It had been such a wonderful experience. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip and I’ll remember it for a long, long time.


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