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Anywhere but the UK Almost three years of saving and hard work since graduation have culminated in this trip. My inspiration has come from reading inumerable atlas's and watching the quality output of the BBC ever since I was a kid. My route has changed in it's scope and length since my orignial ideas. The theme however,remains the same: to get beyond the shores of our tiny island and to experience and explore the world beyond. Oh and to have a good time and not work for six months!

Same Same But Different

THAILAND | Monday, 28 May 2007 | Views [1037]

I had enrolled myself on a three day trek through the forested hills in the Chiang Dao area of northern Thailand.  Over the course of the next three days I would have the pleasure of trekking over 20km in 35 degree heat with small breaks to swim, eat and visit caves. 

The journey began nicely with a visit to an elephant camp where I had the pleasure or displeasure of riding on the back of an Indian elephant for an hour.  This would no doubt have been a very enjoyable experience, if my elephant hadn’t decided that she was sick to death of bloody tourists showing up and expecting to be carried up steep muddy hillsides under her steam.  This poor animal had no desire to be walking through the late morning sun with me on its back and was constantly stopping to pick fruit and veer of the designated route.  The Mahout (elephant keeper) responded to this by firing fruit at its backside.  ‘Nice one’ I thought ‘now’s the time to discipline the elephant when I’m sitting on its back with only a few ropes and crappy steel bars holding me in place!'

Fortunately nothing happened and the group was off into the hills under the guidance of Bowie, our tour guide.  Bowie was not his real name of course, but the Thai tour guides choose names from western culture to make it easier for dumb arse foreigners to pronounce.  I’m not sure how good a choice of name Bowie was as all throughout the trek two members of our tour group decided that every evening they would try to sing ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ and ended up sounding like a choir comprising an un-tuned foghorn and a strangled cat!

The trek started gently through rolling paddy fields and twisted up a dusty road until we reached a paddock where the real climb began.  With us we had two fast and hard living middle aged Australians named John and Pat, Pat also being British expat, another Australian named Patrick and a French couple named Steven and Isabelle.  Twenty minutes into the ascent Pat and John were beginning to show the strain of climbing in 35 degree as they poured with sweat and lagged near the back of the group.  It was around this time when Bowie said his favored phrase.  Responding to an inquiry from John regarding the gradient of the next section of the climb Bowie replied ‘same same, but different’, loosely translated as ‘steep, like the last bit, but instead of 30 degrees it’s nearer 45!

This pattern of ever more arduous sections of climbing continued for the best part of the day until we reached some fantastic limestone caves, whereupon everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief, the exception being Pat and John who stumbled into the cave and promptly collapsed into the nearest corner.   Emerging from the caves twenty minutes later the sky had darkened and the rain began to fall.  The air had cooled significantly, but the rain had made our descent treacherous as the path, comprised of slippy mud, skirted sheer drops of over 20m.  I slipped a couple of times, fortunately not on the aforementioned sections, and when I reached the camp for the night I looked as though I had been wrestling in mud!

The camp itself was beautiful, bamboo huts perched on the edge of a valley overlooking a waterfall, which was chocolate brown as a result of the rain.  The rain had also had the unfortunate effect of contaminating our washing water supply with loads of silt.  Patrick, the younger Australian, had gone to have a shower only to make himself dirtier.  In response to this he decided he would try and filter the water with his socks in order to properly clean himself.  This was possibly the most comical thing I had ever seen and was made even funnier by the fact that both Steven, the French guy, and Patrick lived up to their national stereotypes.  As Patrick was drinking and preaching about Australia while he waited for the water to settle Steven came along and up used a large amount of this ‘filtered’ water to try and clean his socks! 

The next day was ‘same same, but different’ as we once again climbed steep hills and worked our way to a waterfall where we had the chance to bath and get a massage from the waterfall itself.  It was at this point that the French departed, as they were only on a two day trek.  As we bid them bon voyage Isabelle cackled with glee when Bowie once again, responding to Pats pitiful inquiry, informed us that the second half of the day would be ‘same same, but different’

And so it was for the remainder of the trek until Sunday morning when we walked downhill for over an hour whereupon we reached the river and white water rafting.  Unfortunately there hadn’t been enough rain and the rafting turned out to be more of a gentle paddle down river, which ended with us all jumping into the river to cool off as we floated downstream to the truck which would take us back to Chiang Mai.

Tags: The Great Outdoors

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