Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Khao Sok


Wednesday - 17/06

Elephant Trekking 

We woke up bright and early to catch our ferry from Koh Samui back to the main land. As we were leaving at 06:30, the boys were coming back from their night out with some very interesting ladyboy stories to tell... We said farewell to the Canadians and went to the docks. We caught a ferry to Don Sak then a big bus to Surat Thani and then a minibus (similar to a SA taxi) to the National Park of Khao Sok. After our crazy island adventures/parties we were keen to have some chill time and get closer to nature in a more rural area.


Our accommodation was well in the jungle and even our little tree-house was on stilts. Our raised room was quite necessary as there were vicious biting ants and creepy crawlies everywhere!

Joy relaxing on the porch of our tree house on stilts

Elephant trekking was on our list of things to do while in Thailand but we had not yet found the right time or place to do it, so when it was offered here, in an animal-friendly National Park, we decided to do it.

We had been a little concerned about the elephant trekking as one can never be sure of how the elephants  are being treated at these places, but when we drove into the trekking area and saw an elephant roaming freely in a field, it made us feel a little more at ease.
A fully grown elephant which we thought was a baby - everything is smaller in Asia

Watching the elephants walk down the river while waiting for our turn

We ascended to a tall wooden platform and then mounted our elephant, Thong Cum. We sat on the VIP seat while our guide sat nestled on our ellie's neck

Ready to go!

We trekked through the muddy jungle. It was hilarious to hear her big feet squishing through the mud!

Although most things are smaller in Asia, the mosquitoes in the jungle definitely are not! These mosquitoes and horse flies were so big that they were even able to pierce poor Thong Cum's thick elephant skin!

Half-way along the trek, our young, sprightly guide slid down Thong Cum's trunk and became our personal photographer.

It was then our turn to get the real experience! Roxy was first up to get down low and sit skin on skin with our elephant...


Her skin was thick and the hairs on her neck hair were quite coarse and the skin on skin or should we say hair on hair (Joy hadn't shaved in a while) experience caused a little bit of friction.
But it was just the most incredible feeling to be truly in touch with such a mighty yet gentle creature!

Thong Cum was quite a cheeky lady and would often veer off the path to get some of the good grass and plants on the side of the river to eat. We were really happy that our guide allowed her to have this freedom and just gently spoke to her and directed her back onto the track.
We were also impressed with the relationship that our guide and Thong Cum had. He spoke to her all the time and never used any violent means to guide her and encourage her along the route.  For those concerned - he never actually used the spiky stick in his hand as showed in this picture. 

Elephant trekking Selfie
After our trekking we were given the opportunity to feed Thong Cum some pineapple which she was super excited to snap out of our hands with her nimble trunk.

Roxy got a shock when she got her first touch of the long trunk that seemed to have a life of its own!

Last goodbye to Thong Cum our amazing new friend!

A trainer applying medicine to one of the elephant's legs - he later spilt most of bottle on top of himself - too funny!

Our guide unpacking Thong Cum - taking off all the many layers of protective blankets
On our drive back we were shocked to see elephants walking along the road. We were told by our driver that each evening the trainers walk their elephants back to the jungle where they sleep at night in their natural habitat.

On the way back we stopped to look at the Maya waterfall which was just off the main road.

Splashing around...

Our last stop was to see some monkeys. These monkeys lived right next to a Monastery so were used to people. They were all happily playing and jumping from tree to tree as we looked on. Joy was a little weary of them as they are not her favourite animals.
A curious chicken even joined the group to get in on the action.

Joy freaking out as the big daddy monkey crept up behind Roxy!

Roxy getting close

Acrobatic monkey scaling the telephone wires!

Mommy mediating as the kids play and fight

Aah...quite cute! 

Thursday - 19/06

Cheow Lan Lake Tour

We had booked a 2 day, 1 night tour of the Cheow Lan Lake. The lake (also known as Ratchaprapha Dam) is actually a dam that was created across the Paseang river. There are about a thousand small islands that have formed which are filled with lush jungles and limestone outcrops.

Roxy on the jetty before boarding the longtail boat for a ride on the lake 

Our guides on the tour: front left - Me (our guide-in-training), back - The Boat Captain (at only 14 years old), back right - Em (our charming, playboy guide) and front right - Em's girlfriend
We took a 45min ride on the lake amongst all the beautiful cliff-face islands which were scattered around us. We stopped at one island and Me took us on an 1.5 hour trek through the jungle.

Some delicious, Burmese grape type berries that Me picked
for us to sample
Fish-tail tree roots

The jungle was filled with huge trees that created a shaded canopy over our path. The damp leaves beneath our feet left the air with a familiar compost smell as they slowly decayed to return nutrients to the soil.

Climbing up the steep mountain track

An extremely tall tree which was about 400 years old
Along the way, Me showed us a variety of interesting creepy crawlies and other plants/trees.

After our little walk, our boat was waiting for us in the most spectacular little bay surrounded by high cliffs

We then went to our accommodation for the night - floating bungalows on the lake.

They may look a little skew but they were quite securely floating on the water
After lunch we had some free time so we took the kayaks out and went for a canoe on the lake. Roxy and I had been doing quite a bit of canoeing this trip and were thus in perfect sync as we sailed across the still, greeny-blue water. We left our fellow tourists in our wake as we streamed ahead...not sure if they realised it was a race though!
Once back on solid (floating) land, we boarded our boat once again to go in search of wildlife. Em knew his way around all the little island and we were able to spot monkeys, wild buffalo, an owl and many other bird life. We unfortunately did not see any elephants so Em promised us that if it did not rain that night that he would take us out again.
That night we enjoyed a yummy dinner, played some cards and prayed the rain would not set in. But we were in the jungle during rainy season so unsurprisingly the rain did come. We displayed our joint disappointment to Em and he agreed that if the rain let up for a bit that he would still take us. We waited with in anxious anticipation and luck was on our side - within 10 minutes the sky had cleared and we boarded the boat. We were still a little cautious and once again our sexy plastic ponchos made an appearance. Off we went upon the black water with only the moon, stars and Em's spotlight as our source of light. We were all on the search hoping to spot something wild and big. All of a sudden we saw flickering lights within the black jungle. Roxy thought that it was someone signalling for help but wise ol' Em informed us that it was just fireflies! They created a spectacular display of yellow flickers (nature's very own fairy lights). It felt almost as though we were at a disco in the jungle with all the flashing lights around us.We all sat there watching the sparkles in the trees and admiring the stars sparkling in the sky. Just as we were enjoying the stillness of the night, the light from the moon disappeared and the heavens opened. It was a downpour! Luckily Em knew his way back and was able to navigate us safely home...only a little soaked!

Friday - 20/06

 We awoke to the most amazing view of the morning light glistening off the lake

Our first activity of the day was a two hour climb to the top of a waterfall. We literally had to climb up the waterfall...

The water was cool and the sandstone rocks were not slippery so it made it easy and super fun to climb. There were points where the water running down the waterfall was just dripping down, at these points sandstone stalactites were formed - quite astonishing!

Me taking a break

Our tour group: Left - the guides; Back - Clara and Nathan (a British couple): Front right - Kevin (Irishman) and Sam (London boy)

Joy sliding down a vine thinking she is Tarzan!  And so her super-hero name was born - Joy of the Jungle (watch out for that tree!)

We then made our way to a cave within which we could have a swim!

Joy and Sam hanging from a stalactite!

 There was another boat at the caves containing a few scuba divers who had been exploring the depths and darkness of the cave! Inspired by them we ventured as far as we could go into the cave, but were stopped when it got too narrow and too dark!

Roxy deep in the dark cave

Joy practising her mermaid modelling and then diving into the cave

Our happy gang enjoying lunch on the boat before heading back to civilisation. What a fantastic jungle adventure!!!

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