26/11/2008 – Deluxe Camping Trip
Motorbikes, Ox-carts, Elephants, Riding on the roof of a pick-up truck, White water rafting, Trekking, Hot springs and Camping…..this was one hell of a day.
Jimmy, Sunil, Noom, Chris, Tom and Matty took motorbikes and Kelly, James, Natalie and I were in the truck with Chang.
First we drove to the Elephant Sanctuary up in the hills where we went on a Ox-Cart ride through the hills taking in the stunning scenery and experiencing the weird sensation of being on a wooden cart with no suspension. We disembarked at what looked like an elephant boarding station. We spent 5 minutes or so looking at some of the tribal stalls and the guys played footy with the locals and then we were herded off to board our elephant.
I was with Natalie on our Nelly and Jimmy and Kelly were behind us. The elephants were huge! I mean, I knew that already, but to sit on one offers a completely new perspective. There were lots of elephants causing a bit of an elephant-jam at the foot of an elephant path up a hill. It was pretty hair-raising to sit so loosely on a huge animal that would step rather precariously on the edge of paths with drops to the side. But elephants aren’t stupid (they can paint apparently) so I guess we were safe. After a few minutes I got used to the swaying of the Nelly and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings of forest and river. The elephant even walked though the river, holding its trunk and tail above the water.
After the elephant trek we had a delicious buffet lunch at the Sanctuary and then Kelly and I climbed onto the roof of the truck for the journey to the river. It was pretty hair-raising riding the roof of the truck with only the roof-rack to hold onto as we careered though bumpy roads and dirt track. Unsurprisingly I yelled for a lot of the way, but it was super fun, a bit like a roller-coaster, but not as safe (Sorry Mum, Sorry Dad).
As we got prepared for the White Water rafting, I started to get nervous. I couldn’t believe I was doing rafting, it is not something I would consider to be my kind of thing and not being the strongest of girls I was worried I’d let the team down. Helmets and Life Jackets on, safety talk done and we were carrying the boat down to the river. The group was divided into two rafts; I was with Jimmy, Kelly, Sunil and Noom.
White water rafting is amazing!!! I had the best time ever. It was bumpy and wet and crazy. On the quiet bits we were racing the other team and using our paddles to splash and soak them. Then Noom jumped into the river and the others followed suit, floating down the river. I was sat in the raft with Kelly who was taking pictures when I felt a tug on my life jacket and I was pulled backwards into the river, head first by Jimmy. It must have looked so surreal, 10 people floating down the river in the just their lifejackets, bumping over rocks and trying not to get sucked into the banks. It was a little sore on the bum as you couldn’t always see the rocks coming up until the current suddenly pulled you over them.
Noom has done this trip around 200 times so he knows the river really well. He ordered us back into the raft and we continued through some more rapids. After which he then capsized our boats. It was so much fun.
After a hose shower, we changed into dry clothes and drove to a hill tribe village where we began our 2 hour trek through cabbage patches and farmland at sunset. There wasn’t actually an official path to our trek, crazy Noom just led us through rough farmland which was pretty tough in places. I kept stopping to take photos of the amazing scenery so we were lagging behind. But the walk got quite difficult and muddy with Kelly getting her flip-flops stuck in the mud and having to go bare-foot and me being unable to get my leg up some of the steep inclines and having to be pulled up by Jimmy, Kelly or Chris. I was being such a wuss, but I couldn’t help it, I physically couldn’t climb up some bits. I got some big grazes and scratches down my leg and was very muddy.
At one point near a small Hill Tribe hamlet, we walked past a Cannabis plant so we all stopped to take photos and one of the tribal guys came running down the hill shouting. I think it must have been his personal plant. See, traditionally this area would have been used for Opium crops but the Government provides subsidies to encourage the Tribe communities to grow other crops like Cabbages and Corn.
I did enjoy the trek despite it being hard-going and near impossible at times, but I kept my spirits up and Jimmy and Kelly were really encouraging.
By the time we reached the other side it was dark and the stars were starting to make an appearance. We drove further into the hills to our campsite at the Hot Springs. The tents were already made up and looked really nice so we quickly changed and jumped into the Hot Spring Tub. The water was hot and smelt of sulphur but it was truly amazing to sit there looking up at the stars. It is no exaggeration that I have never seen so many stars in my life. Even the faint glimmers of stars were visible in this paradise in the mountains.
Our soak in the spring was cut short by dinner being announced. We wrapped up in our towels, me and Kelly bought a large bottle of Sangsom and we sat on the mat by the camp fire to eat a feast of Thai food.
After food and jokes we all went back to the Hot Spring with our bottles of booze and spent several hours soaking in the tub, enjoying our beverages and conducting silly conversation in the dark.
After some time we were shrivelled up like prunes and a little inebriated so most people went back to their tents for shut-eye whilst Jimmy, Kelly and I though it would be a good idea to buy more Sangsom and play drinking games. Not long after the 3 of us fell asleep. As cosy as it was, I realised halfway through the night that I was in the wrong tent so I stumbled next door.
A crazy end to a crazy day: one of the best days of my life.