I got up pretty late, catching up on some sleep. Spent a while getting all my gear together for a solo jungle trek and got to the entrance around 11am. You have to pay every day you enter the park so I coughed up and retraced my steps from yesterday. It was sunny and humid. First of all I ran into the monkeys again, chilling out and entertaining some other tourists. To my annoyance I discovered my big zoom lens was broken again, it wouldn’t focus, even manually. The one place I could have made really good use of it too! Despite trying again on subsequent days, it was truly borked. Gah.
According to the entry book there were only about 10 people in this part of the park today. I went off on the little side paths exploring, most of them led down to the raging river at little sand banks. I saw plenty of butterflies and a few spiders in their webs. There were a few birds too but no big mammals, until I heard the pigs again somewhere nearby.
One of the paths wound through the jungle before turning back on itself and petering out. I decided to forge a little through the jungle as it was sparse and found some old elephant tracks. Wild elephants do come down here at certain times of year. I also disturbed some bats which flew at breakneck speed erratically around the undergrowth, dodging trees and bushes by inches. Got my clothing snagged on some nasty thorns which are around some of the palms here and eventually found the main path again.
Further ahead I found another group of long tailed macaque monkeys who were eating the local shrubbery. They were really close and I watched them peeling palm stems apart to get at the juicy innards, and a funny baby one who wasn’t so good at climbing and kept sliding down branches like a lazy fireman. One of the adults came down onto the path a foot away from me but didn’t try to grab anything or put out his hand. A guide told me later that humans have probably fed them before so they could be hoping for a treat. Just as I was about to get a good close-up photo, it started to rain and my simian buddy wisely took cover. Damn.
By the time the rains had stopped I’d reached an old disused restaurant and car park at the end of the path, down by the river. Signs pointed on to waterfalls more kilometers ahead, but the path led through a swollen, waist height stream with slippy rocks. A sign on the other side warned no entry when raining. I decided it wasn’t worth the risk to wade through with a broken shoulder plus risking my camera equipment getting a soaking. Instead I followed a path near the river signposted for another waterfall.
Down at some sand and rocks by the river I met a small tour group having lunch and I joined them. The guide had spotted gibbons in the trees across the river. After that, I felt something a bit weird at the top of my bum crack, and – hey, you cheeky little bugger!
A wee leech! It’s really hard to get them off your fingers, they stick no matter what you do. The trick is to quickly slide your fingernail under them to prize them off. I checked my legs and ankles. As soon as I looked down I saw a big red patch on my white socks – one had already eaten my ankle, got his fill and dropped off. The guide told me that wearing long trousers actually makes a ladder for them to worm their way up inside to your more juicy bits. I took the hint and rolled them up, no more leeches in the underpants thankyouverymuch!
The guide directed me to the waterfall down the river. I clambered over big boulders and found it peering out of the trees on the other side of the river, on a separate waterway which flowed into the main one. In fact this was the same place I’d made it to yesterday, but approaching from the other direction the waterfall wasn’t visible. It was pretty nice, full with the rain and rushing hard.
Heading back, I set up the tripod in a stream to get a shot and a few drops of rain started. No worries, I still have enough time to get the shot, I thought. That was a mistake!
In ten seconds the heavens opened and the hardest rain I’ve experienced in Thailand hammered down in a monsoon. I scrambled to get everything into my dry bags but everything got a bit wet. In a minute I was drenched through and so was everything not inside a dry bag. The good old plastic bag and rubber band kept the worst of it off my camera. I started to trudge back as the rain quickly turned the path into a flowing quagmire.
The rain didn’t let up, and as I paddled along the path/stream I regularly checked my feet and legs for leeches. Sure enough they kept coming! I’d find them looping their way up my shoes or already sucking my blood through my socks. There were little baby ones only the length of a fingernail which were hard to spot! I even saw a big one swimming along in the muddy water. When I went off on some side-paths a few times, I always came back sporting some little slimy friends. Horrible creatures! One which I extracted from my leg I put on the ground to film. No matter where I moved he seemed to find his way towards me, standing on one “leg” and searching around. Brrr.
Back on the road, I watched tourists tubing down the river. Tubing is just sitting back in a rubber ring and getting swept downstream. Looks like fun, but my shoulder prevented me from trying.
As I watched, a local kid offered me a snack. I asked if he would like his photo taken, and him and his gang of friends happily posed as kids do!
I got back tired and saturated. My walking shoes were drenched and I knew I’d never get them dry. Everything I owned was damp or soaking now. Mr Bao had arrived back with the two tourists he’d taken on tour, a young Dutch couple. They had had a good time at the lake and seen a python, monkeys and a huge snail, and of course leeches. Mr Bao was a good laugh too and found a tour for me for tomorrow going to the big lake. I spent the evening chatting to the Dutchies and drinking Chang. Some big moths decided to visit us and one died and laid a load of tiny eggs on the table. If your last act is to reproduce at least do it somewhere your babies might survive! Back at the hut on stilts, even the bed and towels were slightly damp, the huts aren’t sealed so they get all the moisture in the air inside. I fell asleep to the sound of rain pattering on the roof and cicadas all around.