Monday, February 17, 2014

Thailand: Khao Yai National Park

Can you see the white Gibbon?
Gibbon in the air
We kept our eyes open to see a bear, as you can see they like to climb the trees.
You can't see them, but there are Elephants right through all this brush.
Elephant tracks
While planning our trip to Thailand there were many places we wanted to see. One of which was the Khao Yai National Park. We wanted to hike trails and see some native animals to this region of the world. Yet, did not know if it would be worth the 2+ hour bus ride north of Bangkok. But when Blake found a tour guide that would take us into the jungle off the beaten path for two days while spending the night in hammocks we knew it would be worth our time.

Deaw, our tour guide, was one of a kind, he picked us up at the bus stop in his old (super old) range rover. Then took us to his property where we stayed in a little hut. The hut was cute and had everything we needed. After a hot day in Bangkok we were worried about it staying too hot during the night, but man did it get amazingly cold up in the mountains.

The drive into the park the next morning was gorgeous. We followed the winding roads further and further into the mountains, there were wonderful look outs, families of monkeys camped alongside the roads, and beautiful birds flying overhead. After putting on our leech socks we began our first day of hiking. We met up with some forest rangers, these rangers would be accompanying us throughout our journey for protection and navigation. It was serious hiking too, if we were on a trail it was the trails made by elephants or other animals alike, other than that we made our own path... not as easy as it sounds. The rangers spoke very little English, but were able to quote American movies all day long if needed. By the end we became good friends. 

We hiked about 12 kilometers the first day, through all kinds of terrain, thick forest, grassland, and jungle river basins. We saw Wild Boar, Gibbons, Deer, Monkeys, and Great Horn Bill. As we hiked there seemed to be evidence of elephants everywhere, from their tracks, dung, and the bulldozing effect they cause through the jungle. At one point we came across fresh tracks and dong with a clear view of which way the elephants had just gone. Being as it is too dangerous to follow a herd of elephants we looked for high ground. As we climbed higher and higher, we made it to a place where we could look out, as we stood there we could hear their bodies making their way through trees and into water. Soon our ears were filled with the trumpet noise only an elephant can make. I could not hold back my excitement. It was exhilarating, they were so close, we saw the trees part ways as the herd pushed through making a path in the middle of the thick jungle floor only 30 yards from where we stood. The rangers in the lead waved us over as he had just gotten a glimpse of a few as they disappeared into the jungle. I was able to catch a few feet stomping along the ground, but then they were off. Even if we did not get a good look at the herd, it was cool to feel them so close.

By this time, we were close to where we would spend the night. Our campsite was along the river we had been following most the day, there we washed our faces and freshened up for dinner. We set up our hammock and began to cook our rice. We had rice and curry (different types of curry but none of which I would be able to find in my mom’s kitchen) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that day, some of which made our mouths and lips go numb. But even for Blake and me not being big on eating spicy food, it was not all that bad. As we sat and cooked over the fire we again could hear elephants in the distance washing off in the water. After seeing what they do to create the paths we followed I did not want them stomping through our campsite (I mean could you imagine sleeping in a hammock between two trees and elephants barging their way though, NOT FUNNY). For this reason, the rangers said we must keep the fires burning throughout the night in order to deter them. Sometimes throughout the trip, with three Thai men dressed in full cameo, it felt/looked like we had been kidnapped and taken into the jungle. We had a good time getting to know each other. As night fell, Blake and the rangers went out to catch frogs for a midnight snack. I was far to tired to join, but as they made their way down the river I could hear the two men laughing. They were pretty impressed with Blake's frog catching skills. 

We woke up the next morning to the dew dripping on our faces. It was a beautiful, cold, crisp morning. That day we hiked uphill, and I mean up. We were trying to make our way back to the more touristy part of the National Park in order to find our way back to the range rover. The scenery was much different, not as many vines and elephant tracks, but tall trees and much more forest like, than jungle. Once we were back on the designated marked trails we were so glad we chose to hike off the beaten path, for these trails were packed full of visitors scaring off any and all wildlife. 

1 comment:

  1. I am kind of jealous you got to be so close to elephants in the wild! So cool!