We woke and in our ‘homestay’, which was in fact a complex of several buildings rather than a room in someone’s home, although it is true it was very much a family run business. We had an average breakfast. The mum carefully whizzed us up 2 types of smoothies – one spinach and one a mixture of beetroot, carrot and apple. David spurned both but I gulped down both, holding my nose a bit for the spinach one but I felt healthier just drinking them!
Then off again on our bikes. We knew we had some climbing to do as the map indicated the National Park was in a ‘pink’ coloured area of the map i.e. somewhere between 500 and 1000m but we had no idea where in that range.
The first 20km were mainly gently climbing along a beautiful valley lined but steep tree covered cliffs. It was still quite humid but at last the air felt fresher. We had an expensive but delicious coffee at the last town before the national park entrance then paid our 400 bhat entry fee (about #10). It was then 14km to the visitors centre…..and we found a 450m climb, much of it steep. The 18% gradient at one part defeated us and we had to get off and push! It was really tough, this was meant to be our short easy day! No more guest houses or coffee shops, just dense jungle either side of the road. The last few km to the visitors centre were flatter but up and down and we rolled in exhausted!
The visitor’s centre was modern and well run. We had soon sorted out how to get to the campsite (which we were keen to do, having brought all our camping kit this time but was the only available accommodation anyway as we had coincided with the weekend). We had something to eat and tried to revive a bit before the last 4 km to a large, well kept campsite. A snip at 75p each!
After a brew, a cold shower (so refreshing) and a rest we decided we had to make more of the day. But first we had to “monkey proof” our tent. This involved packing everything into panniers (apart from food) and then leaving the tent open. The slightly dubious theory is that monkeys will break into tents if they suspect food but probably cannot get into panniers! I remained wholly unconvinced but, given a lack of an alternative plan, followed the instructions. 2 hours later it was all just as we left it which means either that the plan worked or the whole things was totally unnecessary. However there were monkeys in the vicinity and so it was probably better to be safe than sorry.
After storing our food at the reception area (“no we don’t rent lockers – all the lockers are for staff – yes we can mind a food bag for you” …. and then we saw it placed for safe keeping in a locker). C’est la vie. Job done.
It was a 2km up and down ride to the other campground where the trail started. This was a 4km trail which took in 2 waterfalls – or at least there were 2 in the wet season. In the dry season it was more a case of one and a bit waterfalls. But the delight was walking through the dense forest, with bird noises constantly in the background (but not a single bird seen).
The frogs were also in full throat and there were numerous signs encouraging people not to swim because of the crocodiles. We were not tempted but didn’t see a single croc despite carefully looking. Whether any crocs saw us is, of course, another matter. But the fact that I am back at the campsite typing this means that any that did spy us decided that we would not taste nice enough to be worth the effort. On the whole, I was with the crocs on this assessment. It was surreal to be in the jungle, with a single path leading us along a beautiful river in the late afternoon sun. The temperature fell a bit and the oppressive humidity dropped off. We met a few walkers going the other way – French, German, Chinese and even a few Thai! The French woman seemed to be suffering quite a lot. We met them about half way and she asked in a pained expression “is it far”. The answer was “No” but it may have been a long way for her. The jungle is not for everyone.
Finally we got to the end of the trail and saw the second waterfall – well the first really – which was a pretty good sight. It must be magnificent in the wet season.
We hitched a lift back to the campsite, in the back of a pick-up truck, clinging on between the suitcases of a large, friendly Thai family. This travelling business gets us into the strangest situations.
The back to camp for tea (noodles and chicken – wonderful) and then this “full” day was topped off with a night safari. We sat in the back of a jeep with a guide who had a powerful torch. As we started I wondered if we would spend an hour looking at shapes of trees in the eerie light from the torch, but in fact we had a bumper evening.
We saw varieties of deer, a fox (more elegant than the Kennington variety we see on the way back from the tube), two elephants – one close up – and a black bear. We also saw some small animals I could not identify – one looked like a large mole and another indescribable but jumping away from the light.
Am finishing this blog in the tent with Bernie saying “what a relief to be horizontal”. Yes indeed, but a great and varied day.