Here it was, we were in Chiang Mai, and, as planned the day of our jungle trek had arrived. Nine thirty a.m., and, awaiting us outside was a lovely pickup truck, full of people. Sarah climbed in first, and in turn, took the final seat. This meant I had to sit up front, with the driver and our guide. Our guides name was Nop, although he wasn’t the man who showed up the day before, instead he was that man’s cousin, who just so happened to share the same name.
After stopping for food, for our trek, we went to an elephant reserve. It was here that we rode the majestic beasts in pairs. Sarah and I shared one elephant, and the rest of the group we with their partners. We rode the elephants for about forty minutes, we did a giant loop of a jungle pathway, where they must walk all the time. During this journey, you can stop to feed the elephants bananas, but, not before you buy them from the locals, at twenty baht a bag. Our elephant, got wise to the banana thing, and kept stopping every two minutes for us to feed him another one. He also stopped at every selling point, to see if we’d buy him some more. Their trunks are strange, they moved like the tentacle of an octopus, the way it would reach up, and wrap around the bananas, each time we fed him.
I think we were given a rogue elephant to ride, as although we had an elephant tamer, with a stick to keep him in check. It didn’t stop our elephant from leaving the group, and going in search of some tasty tree leaves. We continued riding the elephants a little while more, taking pictures of the group, using the camera of two French guys we swapped with, in order to attain good photos of us on an elephant. After we returned to the beginning again, we had to jump back into the truck in order to be taken to the start of our trek.
The vehicle made it’s way to the bottom of an uneven pathway, and onto some luscious green pasture, with waterfalls and streams nearby. We all climbed out from the truck, and followed our intrepid tour guide, Nop. It didn’t take long before we were stopping for dinner, and, splashing around in the river with a waterfall. After we climbed out and dried, it was here that the group got to know each other a bit better. With all our bags packed again, we set off on a three hour trek through the jungle.
Nop, was a very good guide, constantly cracking jokes, and showing us little fun things to do with leaves and stones. Not only that, but Nop would make sure we were all ok, by stopping every twenty minutes or so, for a sit down, so we could catch our breathes. It was a steep, hard walk, that saw us covering four mountains that day. We would stop at a couple (what Nop called) seven elevens, in order to purchase water and the like. It was also here that he’d show us how the tribes caught rats, using self made rat traps. Also he demonstrated how good he was with a sling shot, and, how he could use his Muay Thai skills to make a plastic bottle explode, using only a knee strike.
A few hours of walking later, and we arrived at a little village in the mountains. Being able to sit down, and remove my shoes, never felt so good in my life. We were to stay in a nice little hut, in which were beds, in the form of blankets and pillows. Outside of the hut was the dining area that we all ate at, the view from this place was stunning. We were surrounded by nothing but green trees, and vibrant fields, for as far as the eyes could see. As the sun set, we all sat around the elongated table, as we waited for Nop, to serve us, and the village, some Thai green curry.
After we ate, Nop, made a fire to sit around, and, we were told of the children in the village that would come and sing us all songs they’d learned. In exchange, we had to teach them a song from each country that we were from. Sarah and I, chose the wheels on the bus, with everyone else joining in with us. When the children had gone to bed, we remained around the fire, it was there that Nop came out with something hidden in his hand, asking who from the group was Superman. A guy from Quebec, named Hisham, said he was, and, in his hand Nop placed a dead tarantula. After seeing this, Sarah was shaky, and, this hindered her desire to see through the full three days two night trek that we booked, this would turn out to be a blessing in disguise though.
Nop went on to skewer the spider, and cook it on the fire. This didn’t help Sarah’s phobia, as, when the spider cooked, excess trapped air was released, causing the spiders carcass to make a high pitched noise, and it’s legs opening up, as if it were coming back to life. When it was considered done, however you judge that, the spider was passed around in pieces, for everyone to try. Initially, I was reserved to the idea, but peer pressure won me over, and, I chewed on the meat within it’s leg. i was pleasantly surprised as it tasted fine, If I could describe it, the texture was extremely fluffy, and the taste (like everything), was like chicken.
With Sarah disgusted at my new found love of spider meat, we all joined the villagers in their hut for some more food, they were eating squirrel, to which they invited others to try, but due to the extreme spices they used, I didn’t try any. After that, we all chatted outside for a bit, before calling it a night. During my lovely nights sleep, Sarah was up every hour, doing perimeter checks with her torch, as the nightmare of seeing that tarantula was too much for her to be able to rest.
When the morning arrived, we all got up, I had sore hips though, due to the lack of padding in my bed, separating me from the hard wooden floor, Sarah also had this problem. Now, luckily for Sarah and myself, there were three people amongst our group, that had booked a two day, one night trek. This meant they were leaving today instead of tomorrow (like we were supposed to be). So, Sarah using her cunning, told Nop the excuse, that because of my recent knee surgery, we wondered if we could leave early with the other guys, as my knee was “supposedly” playing up. At first he took it the wrong way, thinking we weren’t enjoying it, but when we convinced him otherwise, he said that that would be ok, and, that we’d have to get ready quickly, because the other guide was leaving soon.
Now, on this day, I finally found something I hated more than Cheryl Cole. After setting off, following our new guide, the first most noticeable thing, was that, this guide didn’t like to stop as much as Nop did, nor did he like to talk to us. The only time he did speak, was when he thought there was something of interest, like bees, or ants at work, that we’d pass. However, when he finally gave us a break, after walking a good hour and a half, we were at an impressive waterfall.
Up until this point, I was fine, no problem with the walk, enjoying every step, and, the conversations between everyone present. It was when we set off again, that I felt sick all of a sudden. I believe it was sun stroke that I had contracted, due to me not drinking enough water before we left, and, not taking a hat, to protect my head from the sun. It was ages before our guide let us stop again, and, even then, it was only for five minutes. Before we set off, I asked how much longer we’d be walking for, to which he said, “about thirty, to forty five minutes.” I wish I hadn’t asked.
Eventually, we reached the bottom of the mountain, and arrived at a little shop, where we could buy water, and other drinks. It was here that the guide said the best words I have ever heard, “you are done walking, now we get on the truck,” words don’t describe how happy I was at that point. We were then taken to a little roadside restaurant, but, not before we had to stop for a parade of people to pass, these people were all out to celebrate someone’s life who had just passed away, and, instead of mournful faces, they had nothing but smiles. That’s how it should be at every funeral. At dinner, I couldn’t lift my head to eat anything, I was gutted too, as it was pad thai that was served. I think I drank around about four litres of water at that table, as well as taking some paracetamol to help alleviate the symptoms, but, to no avail. Sarah then had an ingenious idea, she soaked a t shirt in water, and, told me to wear it over my head.
Back in the truck, the t shirt began helping to cool down my body, which by this point, was burning to the touch. The truck was taking us to our final part of the trip, bamboo rafting. When we arrived, I felt somewhat better, as, at least by this point I was able to see straight. We were then instructed to leave our belongings in the truck, and they would meet us at the bottom of the river, when we were done. So, in two groups, a three, and a two. We all set off down river on a bamboo raft. We had a driver that can’t have been any older than twelve, however, he was very good at his job, as, we overtook pretty much everyone on the river. Along the way we witnessed people on inflatable rings, families playing with their kids in the water, other bamboo raft’s drivers dueling each other with their oars, and, half way down, we had to get off and walk, because the current wasn’t safe enough for passengers. After successfully passing, we were back on the bamboo raft for the last leg of the journey. It was during this time, that we witnessed people riding elephants up river, and other elephants (that were passenger free), bathing themselves.
Finally we reached the bottom, and, climbed aboard our truck. Here, four more people (who must have been trekking) mounted the truck, which made for a crammed up ride, and off we went. Our driver blasted down the rode, taking every corner as harshly as possible, and, with no way of seeing where we were going in the back, I felt extremely travel sick. The only thing I could do to stop myself being sick, was, to hold on to the nearest metal bar (to stop me falling), and, just close my eyes until it was over.
When my nightmare was over, we had arrived back at our hotel, where, we bumped into Fanny and her boyfriend coincidentally. After some small talk with them, Sarah went over to the reception, to see if she could book us in for another night (as we should, in theory, have been in the jungle that night), while I collapsed on a bench. It wasn’t a problem, and we were given a new room, so, with what energy I had left, I carried mine and Sarah’s large rucksacks to our room, where I proceeded to sleep for sixteen hours.