Holy burning bush Batman...
Trip Start Jan 22, 2008
101Trip End Sep 30, 2008
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The trek kicked off on Sunday morning with an elephant ride. I shared the experience with Brooke, a Californian girl, and we seemed to draw the short straw in terms of compliance of our elephant. She seemed very hungry and at one point, our driver alarming jumped off to protest at the animal. Despite these minor issues, the circular route was in a spectacular setting and overall the treatment of the elephants seemed OK. From here we visited a smallish cave that was literally full of bats, all of which we seemed to disturb by waving our flash lights around. Fortunately none of them flew directly into any of our five tourist party, although the smell of their droppings was quite overwhelming. It was not until the afternoon that the actual trekking element of the trip commenced and we took a fairly easy paced walk for around 8 kilometres of mostly farmland before reaching our overnight resting place of a small wooden hut in a village of about 10 houses. The food was excellent and we all slept like babies after a couple of beers and Thai whiskies a piece until...
I was awoken at 5 am by an excited cock, which was quickly answered by a fellow rooster, a squealing pig, some fighting dogs, a wailing baby and a man sawing wood. My trek companions were all soon wide awake as well and we were slightly miffed when the local chorus line finally fell silent at around 8 am - the time at which we had been told to get up for breakfast. Over an unusual dejeuner of pork, fried egg and rice, one of the group (Vladimir) told us that in his country - Slovakia - it was tradition on Easter Monday for the men to chase and hit women with sticks in return for which they were rewarded with chocolate eggs. My motion, that we respect the Slovak celebration, was surprisingly defeated three to two in a group containing three females (including Vladimir's girlfriend, Gabriella). The remainder of the day was spent walking over varied terrain and, during the eight hours of movement, we only passed through one village the entire time. Our camp for the second night was an isolated wooden hut by a small river. After one look at the toilet facilities, my bowels confirmed that - for the second consecutive day - they would not be in service, so I had to live with the discomfort of throwing another bowl of rice on the contents of my already bloated stomach. (To be fair, the toilet did represent an improvement on the several occasions in Vietnam where I would ask to use a toilet in a small village only to be led through somebody's house, into their backyard where I was invited to urinate as they watched and then pay a couple of thousand Dong for the pleasure). We had arrived fairly early and spent much of the evening and night transfixed by the sight of two entire horizons of the surrounding hillsides being on fire. The locals - staying there to prepare our food - seemed unperturbed but we were slightly less confident as the bright flames crept slowly but surely down the hill towards our camp. With the prospect of being burnt alive in mind, I suspected it would be a torrid night's sleep on the hard wooden floor and this only got worse when I went to bed only to find what I would deem a huge, terrifying spider trying to creep into my sleeping bag. The Aussie in the group, Bee, laughed hysterically as she called me a wimp and said it was only a small Huntsman which would "not even bite". On the basis that she deemed it a small, laughable arachnid, I have now canceled my flight to Australia and will instead be spending the five weeks scheduled there in Scotland...
Nightmares endured, morning duly arrived and the fire had all but petered out, which was just as well on the basis that it was within 25 yards of the hut. The day featured bamboo rafting down the mostly calm river on some large, tethered bamboo canes and my performance was so punting poor (the girls were not allowed to carry sticks) that the five year old boy accompanying us on our raft had to take over at some of the more difficult points. After this, we had a short walk before visiting a waterfall which until last week would have wowed me, but it is now just the second best example I have seen in the past five days. All in all, the three days were absolute quality and - all being well - I shall be rounding them off with attendance at thai boxing, followed by a lady boy show tonight...