Another early start to see if the missing bag had actually arrived at the police station. Praise the gods – it was there! So, how much stuff had been pilfered? Amazingly, nothing! I was surprised and happy. Despite the time and money spent waiting for it to reappear – re-buying everything would have been a huge hassle and expensive. Phew! I said my thanks and goodbyes to the tourist police.
Arron gave me a lift to the bus station and made sure I had the right mini bus. We said our goodbyes – I felt lucky to have met such a nice guy when the sticks were down! I was now off to Khao Sok, a jungle national park towards the west coast. The journey was a few hours and started off passing through massive rubber plantations, which are rows of rubber trees with little black cups attached to the truck. The bark is scored and the white sap runs into the cup. The scenery became quite spectacular with big limestone formations and cliffs sprouting out of the jungle, showing white where they weren’t covered in trees.
I was dropped at the road leading to the national park entrance, which is a few km long and lined with lodges, restaurants and mini marts. I got a taxi to Khao Sak Valley Lodge. Mark had recommended it as the owner, Mr. Bau, speaks English and knows a lot about the park. Mark used to live at Khao Sok so he should know! Unfortunately Mr. Bau was out leading a tour but his wife arrived to advise me. She would try and get me a tour to the big lake the following day. I dumped my stuff in the raised wooden bungalow (most accommodation is on stilts out here), and set off for a quick walk into the park.
From the road I could see jungle hills with mist rising from them. In ten minutes I was at the entrance where I wasn’t charged as it was so late in the day, about 4pm. I took one of the clearly marked paths, which used to be a vehicle track before they were banned some years ago. It immediately went under the trees and my world became darker. I passed small tour groups and some Thai youths coming back, clearly from swimming. The weather was hot, humid and damp.
I didn’t have to walk long past the bamboo and jungle noises before coming across a troupe of grey monkeys in the trees, long tailed macaques. They were moving around and quite close. They didn’t seem bothered about my presence and must be used to people. Unfortunately the light was terrible for photos.
Further up the path, I was happily surprised to see some wild boar running across the path, one after the other. There were about five of them. As I passed where they’d been, I could hear them rustling and oinking in the undergrowth nearby. As I walked butterflies were fluttering around, some as big as my hand. I followed a narrow side-path which went off into the jungle, signposted for a waterfall. I ducked under vines and carefully navigated the slippy path, clambering down rocks to get to the river. It was flowing very fast. A wide stream led to the river with sandbars and fish swam around in it. I couldn’t see a waterfall though, just rapids. I found another path which followed the river and saw some more monkeys swinging in the trees nearby, but not close enough to get a good look. At a beachy area I still couldn’t see a waterfall so I headed back for home, it was getting dark.
I’d prepared for this by bringing my headtorch, as it slowly turned pitch black save for patches of moonlight through the trees I was glad I’d brought it! As dusk came the animal activity rose. Birds flew around and chirped, cicadas started to make a deafening other-wordly call like an air raid siren. As I was walking under the trees, big bats would hurtle along flying inches from me, and smaller ones could be seen flitting around above the canopy.
In the pitch black I heard the pigs off to the side and suddenly wondered if the males could be aggressive. I could be in trouble if they got scared or defensive and charged from the undergrowth, being unable to see a thing and with a broken shoulder! But I passed without incident. I later learned that they are scaredy-pigs and a loud noise is enough to frighten them away. Of course the pigs then reminded me about the picture of a tiger I’d seen on the book about Khao Sok. Would they venture this close to civilization? If so, I was a pretty easy target. Oh well, at least I’d die in an exciting way if a tiger decided some tasty Alan flesh was on the menu. But I got back around 7pm un-munched. Mrs Bao told me unfortunately she couldn’t find me a group tour to join tomorrow, so I decided to do a trek myself – I could speak to Mr. Bao tomorrow afternoon when he returned to see if he could arrange something for the lake later. I spent the evening reading about the Khao Sok park in the very informative book “Waterfalls and Gibbon Calls”.