The day had arrived for our second jungle trek of our trip so far; this time in Chiang Mai. We’d checked the weather and this time there was no chance of rain so at least we knew it wouldn’t be a wet one! I’d booked the trek through Travel Hub Chiang Mai after lots of research. This trek was slightly different to the last one including elephant riding, a visit to a waterfall, white water rafting and bamboo rafting. I’d always wanted to try white water rafting so I was particularly looking forward to that.
We set off early at 8:30 and were joined by 7 other people on this trek as well as our guide ‘Chai’. There was a whole mix of nationality’s including an Australian, two Germans, two Italians, a Spaniard and a Frenchman – luckily they could all speak some English so we were able to communicate. That’s the good thing about being English – everyone seems to be able to speak it.
Our first stop turned out to be an Orchid and butterfly farm. There really wasn’t much to look at except rows upon rows of different coloured orchids and a few limp butterflies in the butterfly house. We were only there for 20 minutes and then quickly moved on.
After driving for 40 minutes in a very bumpy jeep ride, we arrived at the elephant camp. We were waiting in line for a few minutes and just as the queue starts to move Barry decides to start putting on his sun cream and taking our bag to leave in the jeep. Now we were the last to board an elephant (do you board an elephant? – not quite sure!) The rest of our group had all started on their way and ours was slowly plodding along at the back. Our one was being followed by her baby so every now and then we had to stop to let the baby feed from her. At one point we just stood stationary for a good 10 minutes. We couldn’t even see the rest of our group up ahead we were so far behind. All we could do was wait until the baby had finished feeding. After what seemed like an eternity, we began moving again. Along the way the elephant would get side tracked and start wondering off. Whenever this happened our guide for the elephant would pull out a stick and start whacking it. Barry and I really didn’t like this and we quickly decided that we didn’t agree with riding elephants and wouldn’t be doing it again.
After about half an hour of elephant riding we finally arrived and our end point and met with the rest of our group. From here we began what we thought was the jungle trek. After clambering up a few steps in the jungle we came to a river where there was a cage suspended over it, dangling on a zipline. We watched as the guide started ushering the group into the cage. We all looked at each other with slight concern but what choice did we have – so in we got!
It took less than a minute to get across to the other side, which was a good job as I’m not sure it would have held out for much longer! Once over the other side we were met with lunch. Cellophane noodles and veg wrapped in a banana leaf – it was delicious. What made this lunch even more special was the beautiful setting we were in. We were right by a lake, surrounded by some gorgeous flowers and plant life. It couldn’t have been anymore idyllic.
Lunch eaten and the trek began. It would take 40 minutes to get to the waterfall so Chai told us. Didn’t sound quite as strenuous as our last trek and it wasn’t. Although the setting was beautiful, it was a very man made path unlike our last trek where our guide was cutting down trees and vines so we could get through. We were following a small river so quite often we would have to cross it and there would be a piece of wood laid out for us so we could get over. About half way there we stopped in a little local village where we were met with a massive poisonous spider. It was about half a foot in size. Really it was hideous! We eventually reached the waterfall, which was pretty cool – a bit too cool to get in though, 7 degrees in temperature Chai told us! We watched as some others got in but saw how they were shivering so opted to just have out photos taken in front of it instead.
From here we trekked the same way back and made our way to the White Water Rafting. We were kitted out with life jackets and helmets and given a quick 5-minute lesson on what to do. We were split in to two groups and off we went. At first the river was quite calm so it was easy just to paddle along. The difficult part was paddling in time with 5 other people so that you could keep the dingy sailing straight, but we managed. After a while we hit out first rapid and we were all taken a-back as we hit a rock and flew over it splashing into the water below. The water was freezing but there was no time to worry about this as we had to start paddling. Checking that we were all still in the boat, we continued. It continued like this for a while – some plain sailing, then we’d hit a rapid but it was all fairly manageable. Then came the big one – we got sucked into a rapid where at this point you stop paddling and just hold on. We were headed for particularly large rock but you have no control and just have to career into it, which we did. And we got stuck on it. Then the dingy slid backwards and as this happened the dingy tipped up with the side I was on at the bottom. All of a sudden I could feel myself slipping out the dingy backwards, it was a matter of seconds but all I could think was ‘I’m going overboard, I’m going to get wet’ There was nothing I could do except just hold on and hope for the best. Luckily the girl next to me grabbed my life jacket and pulled me back in – Barry didn’t, who was sat right next to me – but a complete stranger who I’d known for about 4 hours! Luckily this was the last rapid we encountered before pulling over to jump onto the bamboo raft.
I’m not sure what we expected from the bamboo raft, but it definitely wasn’t what we got. The raft was about 15 foot long and about 4 foot wide and 9 of us had to get on it. Barry and I were first on and then gradually as the others got on the raft started to sink further and further below the water line. We were standing upon the raft and at one point the water was up to my knees – I was not convinced we were going to make it 20 minutes down the river on this thing. Clearly we were going to sink and having had one brush with death already I wasn’t so keen on tempting fate again. We spread ourselves out over the raft and were told to sit down on it. We started to move but we would sway from side to side and would have to shimmy to the other side to keep trying to balance it out. I felt certain we were going to sink and all end up in the river, so I turned round to see what was going on and noticed the guide just walking in the river with a rope attached to the raft. What? You mean to say the river is only knee deep anyway? The sight of this eased the panic and turned into shear comedy. I couldn’t stop laughing as although I now knew I wasn’t going to drown, the water was bloody freezing and I really didn’t fancy being fully submerged in it. After 20 minutes of shimmering left and right to keep the raft a float, we finally made it to the dock. We had never been so happy to see land!