Unfortunately there was no one to join me on a trek in Chaing Rai, so after being given a map I decided to go solo. How hard could it be? Very hard for a novice walker, which will probably come as no surprise to anyone after my kayaking tales. I got lost very quickly, finding myself stuck in thick bamboo forest. Maybe it was time for my thrilling fairground ride to come to an abrupt, neck-breaking halt. For a short while it was like something out of a terrifying horror movie like The Blair Witch. Every path I took led nowhere, everywhere looked the same. The sun was playing tricks on me, streaking down through the trees lighting what looked like paths through the forest, yet cruely every time it was a mirage. I clambered through steep tree-clad hills, hitting huge cobwebs complete with huge, hairy jungle spiders at what seemed like every turn. Thankfully I didn't come across any snakes.
I didn't know which direction I'd come from, nor did I know in which direction to continue. It was pretty scary. I lost count of the times I almost fell as the gradient of the hill was so great. I fell down once, but was able to stop my fall, which was lucky as a lot of the trees were rotten so it was difficult to get a foot hold. For once I wished for a pair of Decathlon zipper trousers; my beautiful floral sarong from Laos and my retro Gola trainers were not the best attire for a trek through a jungle. I came across broken bamboo animal traps, a welcome sign of life, yet did I really want to be coming face to face with whatever animals the locals were trying to catch? Only if I needed to slay one for food - I wasn't sure how long I could subsist on 4 satsumas and a small bottle of water (although I've been feasting like a king for the last two months so I don't think that was my major concern). I wondered if the outdoor survival course I did before I left innocent would come in handy. Would I be able to reconstuct a bamboo shelter and light a fire? I kid you not that all these thoughts whizzed haphazardly through my head, just like the wind was menacingly rushing through the trees.
Eventually I found my way back to a path on the edge of the forest, although I still had no clue where I was. Then I finally I arrived at the hilltribe village, two hours after my intended arrival. I cannot tell you how relieved I felt, yet I wasn't out of the woods yet. No pun intended - I now know firsthand what this saying really means. As I got back on track I could see the imprint of my trainer in the dirt. Strange as I had not yet been on this path. It was like something out of the film Deliverance, made worse still as I walked through the village to stares from the villagers, all that was missing was the chilling music.
Fortunately the locals turned out to be very welcoming, one familty even beckoned me into their home. I felt rude refusing but I wanted to get back on track. After a few more wrong turns I reached the national park, a welcome return to civilisation. Ravenous by this stage, I feasted on boiled eggs dipped in soy sauce, which had been cooked in a nearby hot spring. An even more wecome sight was the sign for the hot springs, where I was able to get a lift. Not before enjoying a soak in the steaming waters to ease the pain of my cuts and grazes. I even manged to fit in a massage to soothe my aching limbs before the truck came and whisked me home through the hills to my mud hut, nestled in the valley of an Akha village. Tomorrow I shall enjoy the beautiful forest views across the valley from my balcony rather than attempt another walk.
Goodnight from an extremely fatigued traveller.