Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Freewheelin’ in S.E.A - Day 21: When nature calls, answer your phone. It might be important.

We jumped on the back of the truck at 8.30am and said good morning to an American couple, three guys from Belgium and an older guy from Australia, then drove off to collect an Englishman who was born in Hong Kong and a girl from Argentina, who immediately said “I think I’m going to regret this, I don’t even want to go” as she got on and sat beside me. “That’s the spirit” I replied. We drove about an hour and twenty minutes away from Chiang Mai to the Mae Tang area and hopped off in a sandy little spot with a few huts dotted around and some stairs which led to a platform. We swapped cameras with the other couple, Dawn and Brian, in order to snap a few shots of each other from afar, then climbed on top of the thick skinned jumbo I named Dumbo. He was big and beautiful, like a fat girl with a nice smile, and his skin had course strands of hair sticking out, like a vegan chick’s armpit. I stroked his hairy head and stuck a banana in his trunk which he rolled around and into his mouth. There was a naughty little one that kept trying to nab all of our small, sweet bananas, we gave him a couple but had to save some, teaching the young kid the lesson of sharing. The elephants were all pretty disobedient, even with guides there to lead them, if they fancied stopping off for a munch on a few bushes, there was no way some feeble little humans were going to stop them. They weren’t whipping them or mistreating them, which we were glad to see, and we were happy to wait whilst they did their thing. We rode down and along a river valley where Dumbo had a drink and a few blasts of water out of his long schnoz, then hung out for five minutes with his mate and the little big nipper, before going around and back up the hill that had brought us there. We struggled to get snaps of Dawn and Louis as we were behind them and a few others, but they got some good ones of us, and we also bought one for 100 baht which was encased in a frame made out of elephant dung. Recycle, save the environment, have a house that stinks like shit. Sounds like most East London house-shares anyway, may as well take it to the next level, I thought as I handed the little old woman my crumpled cash.

Our group was whisked off on another twenty minute drive, but after that bonding session everybody seemed a lot more talkative and awake than before. We had lunch of egg fried rice, followed by some chopped pineapple and watermelon, then set off on an hour-long hike, hopping rocks and climbing gradually up a mountainside, until we finally reached a beautiful, cascading waterfall. I pulled a doobie brother from my box of tricks, and had a few number one hits, then pulled my Doors vest from off my back and dove into the blue pool of fresh water. The waterfall wasn’t as powerful as the last one, which was too powerful. With this one, although strong enough to blast me back, I was able to stand my ground with it a bit more, lashing blows into its mouth as it spat down at me, taking it on until I became tired, at which point we made friends and I laid next to it for a while, enjoying its onslaught of love. After half an hour swimming and splashing around with Sarah, we started heading back towards the van. Unfortunately for our gang, we were caught behind a group of Japanese tourists who clearly weren’t up for or informed about the hike. Most of the girls were wearing heels of various heights and screaming like Godzilla was attacking Tokyo again, every time they had to walk on uneven ground or skip a stepping stone. It was kind of funny for the first ten minutes, then it just became excruciating. Luckily Mikey, our guide, also got tired of the snail’s pace, and arranged with their guide for us to overtake them. He led some of us around them, and somehow I ended up crossing on a narrow log, all sweaty and stoned, feeling like I was tightrope walking with no prior warning. I noticed the older guy wasn’t on the same death trap as I was, so I jumped down the ten foot drop at a suitable point before I had the misfortune of falling like a fool. After around forty-five minutes trekking through the heat we made it back to our truck, which then drove us to a spot on the Mae Wang River where two inflatable yellow rafts were waiting. We split into two groups and started paddling down, through a few spots which you’d struggle to call grade one white water, but we had a few big splashes and drops on our thirty minute journey, so I was happy with that for a first try, although I’d quite like to try out some grade fives, but I’d have to do that without Sarah as she is scared of the water and doesn’t like being splashed in the face. I like to joke that she has a really dirty face because of this, but that is untrue, it is simply beautiful.

Don't go chasing waterfalls...walking there is less tiring.

We were promised a ride on a bamboo raft for the last part of our journey down river, and were expecting a venetian gondola type experience, so we laughed when Mikey said it was time for the bamboo submarine, however, he was serious. They loaded all twelve of us onto one raft, which completely submerged it and we sat for the next fifteen minutes in the murky, brown water which had more bugs than a Windows PC. It was far from peaceful or romantic, but it was pretty funny nonetheless. We got back to where the van was parked and Mikey told me to get on the roof. I asked why, and he said “for fun”, he seemed intent on getting me up there, so I didn’t argue. All I’d have needed was a straight road and ‘Surfin’ USA’ blasting from the stereo and I’d have been able to perfect some flips like Michael J Fox in Teen Wolf, but instead I laid back on the roof, drying off whilst numerous bumps and bends were navigated by the driver below, with various leafs and branches brushing over me every now and then. Ten minutes of roof rack on back brought me to the Shan village, and I jumped down to re-join the group. We had a little look around as the locals tried to peddle their wares, then made our way back for the hour and a half drive back to Chiang Mai. After dropping everybody else back to their hotels we were the last to get home, had a quick shower then went for an all you can eat sushi, which I demolished and Sarah despised. There was a nearby night market, and I managed to find myself a shirt to wear to the wedding that we’d be attending in Phuket, then we headed to a bar named Bo Bo Ba Ba which had the Rolling Stones lips and tongue symbol as its logo. We’d recalled it from passing the previous evening, and told the others from our trek that we’d be going there for drinks if they wanted to join us. Maria the Argentinian girl was already there with some Dutch friends she’d made at her hostel, and an hour later the Belgian guys arrived. We sank a few beers and shot some pool, and then headed back to the Top North to hit up a Buzz Lightyear before shooting off to infinity, and beyond.

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