I was last to wake once again, but managed to wake up in the hammock and not on the crawling ground which was a good result. The sleep was more fitful than the previous night, and a few times I had to whip out the torch and seek the sources of the scurrying, rustling noises that surrounded me, but I never did see anything, mobility was not great in the precarious makeshift hammock.
Breakfast was served, and we had a few cups of coffee and more French toast and toast with jam. We had a long trek ahead of us, but I was stoked with this feed and the fact my trainers which had been drying by the camp fire all night were more or less dry! Everything else hung dripping and stinking from branches and hammock ties and got screwed into a ball, shoved in a plastic bag and squeezed into the backpack.
As we got set to depart, the guides taking care of the fire and returning the chopped up leaves and branches into the jungle, Rich became the first of us to brave the coffee and nicotine induced jungle dump. Next was Phil, and I didn’t want to be left out so I skulked off through the trees to find a private spot, which in the middle of the jungle is pretty easy. It was a bit anti-climatic; I didn’t step on any snakes or disrupt a fire ants nest or stick my bum in any Poison Ivy. Nevertheless, I’ve done it now, it’s now not only bears that sh*t in the woods.
The guides assured us that there were no more rivers to cross today, so I set off feeling jolly that there was a slight hope of dry feet for a while. The while lasted about 30 seconds as we instantly had to cross a river, filling my gloriously dryish trainers with cold water and mud. Bolstered by the knowledge we were headed to the lake which looked absolutely stunning from the photos, we trekked on through very thick jungle, streams, leech pits, up hills, down hills, in good spirits. Phil did a pretty impressive pirouette down one of the slopes but somehow didn’t break any limbs in the process.
This time we spotted the hornbills as they flew overhead with that weird buzzing sound. I think we also saw a few gibbons but the best bit was spotting the green tree snake by the first lake. This lake was full of catfish and we stopped there for a break and sat on a fallen log. This day was about another 7KM in total and I was dreaming of ditching the smoky tasting water for a cold Leo or two – only a few more hours! As we sat, the guides became excited as they somehow managed to spot the green tree snake 20ft up a tree in front of us. Phil loves all that, and went in for a closer look while the guys shook the tree, chucked logs at the snake and otherwise tried to entice it down. It was pretty clingy though, so in the end they just booted down the entire tree until the snake was at Phil’s’ head height. Despite all 4 guides saying “No, get back, dangerous!”, Phil got right up to the poised snake, within easy striking distance, and we got a few good snaps, it was a real beauty, I guess 5ft long and brilliant green. Phil didn’t seem like he was worried about getting bitten this close to the end, but fortunately we were spared this additional excitement.
The following trek was probably the toughest part yet, a mix of mountain climbing and trekking up treacherous ankle breaker rock surfaces but because it was rockier and elevated, there was more to see and the scenery was awesome. It was really sudden that we were scaling the side of a cliff into yet another stream and would you believe it, there was only a boat there waiting for us! That was it, the end! I don’t think I could stop grinning as we got on board and took off across the spectacular huge lake with its mountainous surrounds and jutting limestone outcrops. We were taken to a lake side resort where rather than prioritise cold beer, wet clothes removal and jumping into the lake, we kind of did all at once. Chang has never tasted so good.
After a dip in the lake we came back to the restaurant to feed on fried fish, some ferns Me had collected on the way, more green curry, omelet and a few other dishes and beers. They really had us going when they said all we had to do was trek over the mountain to the pickup truck, another 5KM. Luckily this was a joke and we piled back into the boat and took another 30 minute ride across the lake to the pick-up point, then a 40 minute drive, drifting in and out of consciousness in the truck, to my car, dropping the guides off along the way.
We still didn’t know if the key had turned up, but I was hugely relieved the car was still there and in one piece. Just a few minutes later Mr Moo turned up with an unopened envelope containing the spare key and I could have hugged him for it! We went back to the same dorm room as before which hadn’t been touched and hung our reeking clothes all round it, mobile phones were charged, bodies were washed, and thankfully I had some clean clothes in the car.
I think we felt quite triumphant as we rolled down the street to the Rain Forest restaurant and ordered plates of food and proceeded to drink them out of Leo. Me joined us and we shared photos and numbers. I’ve got to mention that one of the appetizers we ordered, Tod Mun (Pak?) like deep fried vegetable fritters was utterly orgasmic. If you go there, be sure to order it.
Well we all slept well that night, after talking through the experience which to me, was a very different one in retrospect than it was going through it. If you had asked me at the time if I would do it again, I would have said “No way”, but if you asked me now…you might get a different answer. I loved, hated, and respected the jungle. I know what it is now. At the time, I was thinking it would be better to just watch it on TV, hear it through a mosquito screen. But now I think we should all take ourselves out there at least once. Phone off, brain on, not much to do but keep on moving forward and always thinking, there’s a lot of time for that.
This was a trek that normally, members of the public do not get to go on, if you’d like to know more about how you can be one of the few, drop us a line.