Travel Story «One Day Trek/Marathon, Chaing Mai»
22 April 2006
Last Update 08 May 2006
I am just going to start by saying this was my idea (Emily) and I take full repsonsilbilty for the pain that we all went through, ok?
Now that is out of the way I will tell you why I thought a trip with the word "trek" in was a good idea.
We met this randomn German lad in Ko Pangnang at the full moon party and he told us about this three day trek that he did and how they went off into the mountains and climbed for a few hours and then hung out over night in this tribal village etc and he made it sound really cool.
Now we are realistic ladies Aisling Lorna and I (Grainne is so realistic she didn't subject herslef to the pyhsical pain of the trek and stayed away), and we knew from the get go that we were not doing the three day trek as our fitness levels weren't what they used to be after two months of wining and dining like Kings with three course meals every night. (No matter what people tell you, you don't loose weight when you come travelling. At all. Quite the opposite in fact but the less about that the better).
So, we wisely opted for the one day trek which included Bamboo rafting, Elephant rides (the main thing that I wanted to do), Visit to tribal village up the mountain (how I thought we were supposed to get to the mountain tribal village I don't know but I did not envisage climbing, sweating and asmtha attacks - I must have been wearing the rose tinted glasses that day when I booked the trek but I swear I saw something about a Helicopter taxi or a piggy back ride at the very least...) etc.
We were collected from our hostel after rising at the early hour of 8am and waiting for what seemed like an interminable amount of time (trek guide was late, tut tut) and joined the rest of the group in the van. Our fellow travellers included an american father and son (Tim and Charlie, Charlie was 10), an Irish dude on his way home from Australia (who we beseiged with a million questions about Oz) and another guy from L.A. born in Central America whose name I cannot recall.
We began with the mountain climb (and when you see the pictures don't you dare try and call it a hill) which was a great way of reducing our self esteem and proving we are not Olympic athletes. Thankfully, the whole group seemed to struggle equally (bit unfair on the 10 year old boy but each man for himself and what not) and the sweat poured out of us while I thought about asking Lorna for a quick go on her inhaler.... After a brief walk through a field where they were spraying insecticide on the trees (which our guide then told us was "Very poisonous, yes, don't get on your skin - very bad for you" - Bit late mister seeing as I am soaked in the stuff and I am wearing SHORTS AND A TANK TOP! I refrained from saying....) and a stroll over the er.... rickety bamboo bridge suspended 40 meters above the river (Lorna loved that bit), we arrived at the authentic tribal village.
My ass it was authentic. All the same we were glad to have arrived (hadn't occurred to us at this point that we had to climb back down the way we came up for surely there was a back way out of here that the locals used...? Helicopter pad in the distance...? No? Really? Oh....) and wandered around the place avoiding all eye contact lest we were made buy something. We descended (somehow) and went off for lunch which was FABULOUS and plentiful; - my favourite kind in case anyone is asking.
Once we had refuelled on the sumptious feast, we were driven (God bless transport) to another village where the Karen people lived. Most of you will know the Karen Tribes as the long necked women who wear gold rings around the neck to extend and support them.
Yeah we didn't see them. We saw their cousins who make no effort to look different at all. But still this was a bit more interesting to walk around as the women here seemed to be actually working and going about their daily lives and not waiting to sell us stuff which was a nice change. Our guide filled us in on their traditions (for example once a girl is married she doens't wear white anymore because she is no longer a virgin, and they are married at 15/16. Not the men though, no they get to wait till they are in the twenties. Reassuring to know that this is an universal double standard and not peculiar to our nations in Europe but I will leave the female equality rant for another time....)
We then proceeded on to the Elephant Trekking area and I have to say my excitement levels peaked as we approached. I hoped on an elephant with the Father and son team consisting of Charlie and Tim, while Aisling and Lorna had one to themselves. Lucky them eh? Er, no. They were lacking any kind of safety elements on their seat which was on top of the elephant and neither were happy about this seeing as we proceeded down hill on our walk meaning we were all constantly leaning forward and nearly falling out of the seat over the elephants head and onto the elephant pooh infested field. Lucky for me I was strapped in but it was still very unconfortable and not the enjoyable experience I had imagined. (Clearly I had worn the rose tinted glasses when imagining this part of the trip as well... damn glasses.) Lorna and Aisling managed to pose for some photos and fake the happiness (although Gra swears she can see gritted teeth in the photos) before we alighted and returned to solid ground. After the ride I went to feed the elephant some bananas as this is the done thing apparently, but Charlie the 10 year old got excited and took my bananas... thieving little.....bleep bleep...
After the elephant ... well, incident I suppose we will call it, we were taken to a waterfall. (Aw how romantic). As there has been heavy rain the night before (our prayers during the New Year celebration of Songkran had been answered and torrential rain followed) most of what had been there the day before had been washed away and this included the bridge joining the two sides of the river and even more crucially - the bar! Yes people, the bar and bridge are washed away and rebuilt each year but I was still a little upset about the bar not being in service. Brave as we are, we soldiered on without refershment to the ....
Bamboo rafting - you are going to get wet. But no one tells you - so I am telling you now. BRING SPARE DRY CLOTHES. Thankfully it was out last activity of the day and it mattered not that we were sopping wet for the hour long journey back to Chaing Mai in an air conditioned vehicle...no no, pnemonia is just a small head cold.... That said, the rafting started well - nice and slow and relaxed and calm (Aisling and I were being pushed along by one of the guides and Mr Central America was sterring st the back - it was very like I imagine a Gondola ride in Venice is... rosemantic to the hilt....) while Lorna was with the rest of the crew (Tim and Charlie and Irish boy with minging hair, sorry if you are reading this Phil, you need to shave it off). Apart from one small incident when we lost Mr Central America to a rock and the river it was plain sailing ( hee hee! thank you thank you I can up with that myself).
That is, until we met - din dun DUN - the locals (all hammered - we figure this was a hangover from the new year festival) who seemed to have taken it upon themselves to clean us with the very hygienic river water (don't worry we all had ourt typhoid shots). We could not go past a 95 year old Granny or a 10 year old child without having them drench us and boy do I mean drench. To think I had been worried about Mr Central American who had fallen in the river - you could no longer tell him apart from the rest of us who hadn't even stepped into the water. But fun was had and you feel part of the community and festival when they include you in their traditions as vehemenantly as they do. (This is what I am telling myslef anyway).
All in all a fun filled day with stories that will last... oh another few weeks I imagine, and we all survived to tell the tale and feel the sore muscles the next day.
Take care readers, over and out.
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