Welcome to the Jungle......

Trip Start Dec 26, 2011
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Trip End Feb 08, 2012


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Where I stayed
our jungle house

Flag of Thailand  , Surat Thani,
Monday, January 16, 2012

I heard about park from some fellow travelers that I met several years ago in Koh Phagnan. Its not easy trying to tear myself away from my beach paradise, but I'm always in search of the a great adventure, and the stories of torrential rain, and lots of leeches, steered me away from visiting this park last year. Also taking such adventures is always better shared, so now traveling with Michael, a guy who has only shared with me his fear of spiders, and very little else, I knew that he could totally hang with me on such an excursion.

The long bus ride to Khao Sok was painless, and fueled by a stopover at a local bus station and seriously the best 35 baht Pad Thai that money can buy (a little over a $1). Arrival in the Park in the early evening, we were greeted by a downpour, but our hopes were still high on taking a lake trip the following day. Upon checking in at The Jungle House, the receptionist informed us, " no rain tomorrow, since rain today, no rain tomorrow, does not rain two days in a row" Michael was skeptical, not believing that no matter how local she was, predicting the weather in a  jungle is next to impossible. We booked a riverside hut, next to a flowing river with trees full of curious monkeys and brought in our flip flops in for the night in case the monkeys were feeling a little mischievous.

The morning brought sunshine, and a smile  from the girl behind the front desk, hoping our receptionist knew what she was talking about regarding the weather. We were whisked off in a van full of other travelers heading for the main part of the national park and our canoe/hike/ caving adventure for the day. Our enthusiastic driver calling himself “Big Man” which he actually was compared to many other Thai, Our driver stopped to pick up our lunch he would be prepare us later that morning. “You eat meat?” he leaned back to ask us. Most of us  answered with a quick yes to be polite not knowing exactly what " meat" would entail. It turned out to be chicken, and BBQ chicken at that, and the stops included a produce market for some fresh watermelon and another for rice and curry sauce. There aren’t any “real” grocery stores in these parts, only local markets and side roads stands where you occasionally stop to pick up things on your list, and ours even included some fresh fried bananas….delicious!

Michael and I had really no idea what to expect on this day trip. All we knew really was that we were to go to a lake, take a motorboat canoe ride, and have lunch at a floating dock in the middle of the lake where after we could swim and kayak. Then it was off for a 3 hour hike to a cave, where we would go inside for a bit, and then return back in the evening. The only “prep” we had was you might get a little wet so bring a change of clothes, a headlamp for the cave would be helpful, and a decent pair of shoes, because some hiking up muddy trails would be involved. That’s pretty much about it. There were two couples about our age,  and the rest of the group, much older. Some broke off the branch of some sturdy trees to use for a walking cane for extra support in climbing some of the steeper parts of the trails. This would be the only part of our month long adventure that would require any sort of footwear besides flip flops, so Michael and I came prepared with some basic shoes. Right away, Michael's, man in the wilderness kicked in and he decided once finding out that our guide “Big Man” was taking the hike with completely barefoot, that he as well was going to hike it like he was a Vietnamese soldier. “If they can beat out asses barefoot, then I can take a 3 hour hike into the jungle with no shoes on." ahhh, Men.
So, off we went up a very steep hill and very quickly my clean pair of shoes was deep in mud, then shortly after that we were at a stream about knee high, and the only way through to the other side was to walk straight thru. It became quickly apparent that not only we where we going to get very dirty on this hike, but this might turn out to be much more adventure than any of us expected. Michael and his combat feet were actually leading the pack, and the “Big Man” was keeping up the tail end singing along the way. There were more streams, steeper hills, and lots more mud with a few wipe out from the group along the way. Michael and I befriended a cool couple one from San Francisco, and one from Canada that we chatted with along the way; it’s always fun to have new friends to share within the experience with.  Then we got to the “Cave”. Now the only mention of the “Cave” was that we would be stopping by one, going inside and wading in some water, and mention of some bats and spiders. That didn’t go over well with some of the group, but no one was backing out now. Into the cave we went, and headlamps were passed out, and our cameras and valuables collected by Mr. Big man and tied up in a black garbage bag for dry safe keeping. The water quickly got deeper, and the cave became pitch black and even the lights from our headlamps barely lit up the way. I was less than freaked out knowing that I wasn’t alone in this adventure, and there were people much older than me trekking several feet behind me. We came upon a waterfall, yes a waterfall, in the pure darkness, that Michael was kind enough to pull us up to the next level. We were in that cave for over an hour, sometimes up to our necks swimming in the water. When we finally reached some drier space, we were greeted with ceilings covered in bats (yes, bats Sarah!) and rocks filled with large spiders. Shortly we saw the light of the exit and we knew we survived this harrowing experience.

Our guide counted all ten of us, so glad he noticed! And we were off to hike back through the jungle once again, into the boat , across the lake and into civilization once again.. One of the funny things about Thailand, and there are so many things that don’t make any sense, there were no safety  waivers to sign, no- you need to be in somewhat decent shape to endure such a venture. I believe if I was to rewrite that brochure advertising this excursion, I would have explained in a little more detail of extreme caving adventure, must be open to lots of mud and water, and and added clause about waterfalls and large spiders.
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Comments

Sarah Stone on

Wow…I am very impressed! I don't think i could do that! I think I've seen too many scary movies.

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