Chiang Mai Trek – Day 1 Trek
For the last 2 days of our short Chiang Mai adventure Kelly and I signed up for a trek. These things are quite touristy but the thing is they allow you to see an organised version of the city and outskirts you couldn’t do alone.
Rather than doing it for only 1 day, where a taxi drives you in comfort to the location, we decided to have a decent crack at the trek for an over night stay in the forest. As with all south east asian tours you can not rely on the shown itinerary, these things are rarely right and as you quickly find out everyone on the same tour was told something different. Although, the general outline was very exciting and sounded fun.
The first stop did not inspire us, although it was in the day because it was the halfway point in the required drive. The Orchid and Butterfly farm was less than appealing, and after a short walk the group of 6 of us were very much over the landmark and as a group we were quick to move on. The running joke was that the farm was in Thailand’s top 10 attractions…but I don’t recommend a visit anytime soon.
After next being dropped at a local market we were told by people in the group that this was our chance to buy fruit for the elephants that we would later be seeing. We jumped at the opportunity to buy some fruit and ended up with about 8kg of bananas. This would be a decision we would later regret…
The initial dot point on the itinerary revealed a trek, for 3 hours. As we have learned over time, people generally over estimate these things to make their attractions sound more incredible and to deter the unwilling tourists that don’t enjoy having to walk. Normally these things are wrong, but this time we were wrong, this “3 hour jungle trek” seemed easy at first, although it quickly turned.
It turned into a genuine trek, through the heat of the day and through dense jungle. This was a serious walk. Kelly and I were lucky enough to think about having proper walking shoes incase this did turn ugly. The rest of the 12 people did not and in fact thongs were their only means of footwear. As we all pushed each other up hills and carried others bags the trek seemed to carry on. With sweat pouring from our bodies the decision to bring bananas looked silly…except for the fact that we thought we might never escape the jungle and they might be our only food source!
Uncertain of how long to go, the guides were very quick to say, 1 hour if we are quick and 2 hours if we are slow. This was pointed out to us at several different times, making it seem as though there was no end. At about half way I thought the end was near, as we came across 2 men with rifles…I thought this was the end of us as a group. They stood motionless at a small clearing were a stream trickled by. We all looked in silence at each other pondering what we would all do if things got messy from here. With barely any english language between the guides and us this moment was tense, he asked us to sit down near these 2 men and wait. Wait for what I asked? It was truly scary as they picked up and put down their guns several times before we got up and continued on our way.
The hike, with gun shots sounding all day, dense jungle, tired legs, sweaty bodies and multiple complaints ended late in the day as we approached sunset. We hiked the last steps through a corn field, where in the distance I saw elephants roaming and grazing a field. It was a truly exhilarating moment after a long days work. Seeing these elephants made it all worth it as we stumbled to our stop for the night.
For the next couple of hours rode, trained and fed these amazing animals. They were intimidating and gentle, powerful and soft letting us play and touch them as they went about their business.
After a late dinner and some games we went off into the hillside for our nights sleep. We stumbled into a large bamboo hut ,we saw the mattresses and fly nets surrounding them, the dirty blankets and the miniature pillows…This was going to be fun.