Josie and Arj had been having a relaxing holiday in Ko Samui and before returning to Australia, wanted to do something a little different in Thailand. They opted for the remote 3 day/ 2 night jungle trek, testing at the best of times but add to that the crushing heat that comes with April in Thailand, which leeches all energy from your body, they had the challenge they were seeking. Being vegetarian, Arj is a great lover of eating fruit- and with Klang Dong's abundant fruit markets he was well placed on the night before to stock up for the trip. They returned to the hut that first evening laden with mango, bananas and of course, the watermelon. They wouldn't go hungry.
Three days later, they returned, bags noticeably lighter and still smiling. They had been accompanied on the trip by three rangers, who as well as ensuring their safety, showed them several tracks of wild animals (elephant, bear, tiger (?) and also picked edible weeds to supplement dinner. It is the rangers that add to the experience of the remote jungle, for not only are you getting the jungle 'to yourself' as it were, well yourself and a few thousand other critters, but you get to see these men whose lives are intertwined with the jungle. They spend their days, and nights, surveying it, maintaining it and protecting the animals within it, from those who see not beauty in wildlife, but merely a price tag. Their pay is often low and, in some of the smaller national parks, the pay is infrequent. Yet, these rangers are essential to the future of Thailand's wildlife. We hope that, by giving them opportunities to supplement their income,they will continue to do the work they do and not be tempted to 'look the other way' when poachers infringe on the park.
The day was spent at a relaxed pace and the animals didn't disappoint. Before even reaching the park headquarters we were given 'demonstrations' by gibbons swinging through the tree tops- calling out to mark their territory- and by a male great hornbill, returning to the nest to feed it's young.
On the trek itself we saw plenty of evidence of elephants, whilst broken honeycomb at the base of a tree gave testament to a recent visit of the sweet toothed sun-bear.
Reid is interested in biology and throughout the trek could be found stooping over a small leaf or piece of wood, inspecting some insect. There are a wealth of them to be found here in the jungle, in all shapes and sizes but perhaps the most interesting one of the day, were the tank spider- the crab of spiders and a strange caterpillar that could easily be mistaken for a prop from the Avatar scenery,
And what better way to finish off a day in the jungle, but a swim in the waterfalls? As it is the end of dry season, the waterfalls are at their least impressive. The famous Heaw Sewatt waterfalls usually a white torrent has reduced to a small trickle. I would fancy Leo DiCaprio's chances if he jumped of it now. Fortunately for us, Deaw knew of this watering hole, where after 1km of hacking through the overgrowth we were able to cool off and relax in our own personal spa. Very nice indeed.
This year I stayed relatively dry, but was also visited by some of the students I tutor as part of a more restrained custom of the water festival. A white chalk paste is put on your face and scented water is poured on your hands. There are many parts to the Songkran festival- the one most seen is the waterfights in the street, so it was interesting to get a different perspective this year.