Friday, January 18, 2008

Hiking in Khao Sok

Our day of trekking in Khao Sok began with a hotel breakfast of french toast. Deep fried French Toast from Ted's in Sausalito used to be my way of starting hikes in Marin. It's always a good way to start the day, and assured of having me hungry by noon. Thomas and Bridget (T&B) met us at breakfast and after finishing our meals we went to the Bamboo House, where our hike was to begin. There we met our guide, were provided with water to drink/carry for the day, and were picked up by a pick-up truck.

Besides T&B there were two others in our party. Robert and Nadine, a couple of Germans from Berlin. We all piled into the pick-up, which drove us up to the park entrance where we had to buy tickets at 200 baht each, which is pretty steep for this country. Then we left the park, picked up a second guide, and drove about 20 minutes along the highway to where our hike was to begin.

One guide started in front of us, one took up the rear, and our hiking party headed up the hill. It was a long hill and by the time we were 1/4 way up it we were sweating profusely. It was like starting a day-hike by going up the Grind. Our guide in the lead didn't speak any English, so he'd try to explain what we were doing through a series of grunts. Our guide in back didn't seem to know the way, he was just following the lead guide.

After another period of going up hill we stopped again for a water break. Our lead guide had a smoke and a chew of what they said was a coca leaf, claiming it was good for energy and would get us up the hill. I've done a bit of subsequent research (thank you Wikipedia) and I'm pretty sure that coca doesn't grow here, but what do I know about that kind of thing. Another 10 minutes of walking, and our lead guide stopped for more water. (We needed it. It was hot, humid and straight uphill.) At this point he rolled himself out a nice big joint and went to pass it around. Not particularly tempting, since we were walking up a hill, with cliffs on either side and roots trying to trip us along the way. No one took him up on his offer.

While we were having this last break Colleen and Bridget had forged off ahead. The guide started us off again and when we were a little further on he stopped and took us all off the path and into the forest. There he showed us an open flower, a Bua Phut in Thai or Rafflesia Kerri. These flowers grow to a diameter of 80 cm, and have a smell of rotting meat in order to attract flies for pollination. It wasn't a particularly beautiful flower, but I was glad to have seen it just for its size. Unfortunately, Colleen didn't get to see this one flowering, and all of the others that we saw later were still just buds. She had the camera, so we didn't get a shot of it, but here's a photo from the web.

Post flower viewing we carried on up the hill. After a bit we stopped again for some water and our guide tried to explain something about a tree by the side of the path. He grunted a bit and made some motions. We couldn't quite figure out why the other guide didn't translate for him. It was only at this point that we realized that our guide was deaf and mute. There would be no explanations in English or Thai for this tree, or any other along the way. He was a guide in the most literal sense.

We finally crested our hill. We were all exhausted and we were only a couple of hours into our trip. From there it was up and down for the next hour or so. We kept an eye out for wildlife, but didn't see anything the entire day, which was somewhat disappointing. The forest was beautiful, but my eyes spent most of their time on the ground, trying not to trip and fall along the rain forest path.

Some time in the early afternoon we were able to hear water flowing nearby. Our guide stopped along the trail to chop down some bamboo trees for a fire, and the rest of us followed the trail down to a river. It came out at a series of pools, just above a waterfall. The hikers all jumped into the crisp water, while the guides built a fire and prepared lunch.

Lunch was terrific. The guides made the whole thing without using any pots and pans. Noodles were cooked lengthwise in a bamboo tree that had been cut down. Rice was cooked inside leaves that had be taken from the forest, then stuffed into bamboo shells. And chicken and pork were cooked over the fire on a grill that had been assembled from bamboo pieces. It was all pretty impressive, and it was rather tasty. However, it may not have been as good as it sounds, as Colleen was pretty sick right after lunch and didn't get to "keep" her meal. Also, I guess that it's a good thing that there aren't more people doing these kinds of hikes, as this wasn't a particularly sustainable form of cooking.

After lunch we carried on our hike, but from here on it was along the river bed. We began by descending the waterfall, scrambling down boulders and using ropes. It was a pretty daunting climb, and it would have helped to have a guide who could talk us through it, but we all made it just fine. At the bottom of the falls Colleen jumped in for another swim.

We carried on down the river, hopping from rock to rock, occassionally falling in, for the next couple of hours. We worked our way down two more waterfalls, with Colleen jumping in after each for a swim. We traversed the river with our bags over our heads. And eventually we came back onto some trails. From here guide #2 said it was about 1/2 an hour to home, which wasn't even close. We went another hour, then came to the main road, at which point we realized that there wasn't going to be a pick-up service. So we kept walking along the park entrance road, all the way back to our hotel.

It had been a very nice hike. It was extremely long, and we were all exhausted, but the three waterfalls had made it worth it.

Colleen and I went down to the local store and picked up a bottle of vodka. Then back to Art's Lodge for drinks and a well deserved good night's sleep.

1 comment:

Syrius said...

Khao Sok National Park in Southern Thailand is an amazing place.Jeep safaris are all possible activities, which will give you the experience of a lifetime.

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