|Google Earth not at its best! Days 1 and 2 in shades of red, day 3 in mauve. The white-knuckle ride back to civilization in 3 shades of blue|
There have now been 5 hash-associated hill walks although last weekend's walkers included only 2 of the 12 who climbed Kao Luang in 2009 and only one person has done all 5 of the walks. This time around, there were 14, split evenly between old hands and first timers, who were guided up and down Kao Sam Poo by 8 guides.
Everyone assembled on Thursday evening in Pa Bon and most were up bright and early on Friday morning ready to walk, although a late night card session lubricated by a case of Leo left one or two nameless members somewhat the worse for wear. Despite this, by 8:30 we were being loaded into a pick up and driven to Ton Tok waterfall where we posed for the first of a million photographs before setting off up the track onto what we were promised was a virgin trail across the hills to Trang.
During the morning we walked steadily upwards for about 3 hours, crossing the river several times on heart-stopping bridges consisting of fallen trees, then at just over 400 meters stopped to eat our packed lunches on a waterfall. From there the afternoon’s walk was shorter but steeper ending when we reached a broad dry river bed at 625 meters and set up camp after a total distance covered of 8.3k.
At that stage it became apparent that we only had about half our compliment of 8 guides with us and that the contingent who weren’t there were carrying most of the food, so dinner was fairly light with the result that the first order of the second day was to provide us with an enormous breakfast before we set off for the top of the hill. The route up was steep and followed tracks forged by wild pigs and tapirs, and probably would have been difficult had it been raining but the 2k trip took less than 2 hours.
|Is that the Cosmos I see before me?|
We camped that night at about 970m. The rain which had held off during the climb, hit just as the leaders reached the peak, a cold misty cloud enveloping us accompanied by heavy drops of soaking rain. At this point Palm Job showed his true mettle by producing a bottle of Martel VSOP insisting that everyone took a shot, before presumably drinking the rest of the bottle himself! Tents and hammocks were then erected in brief drier interludes but after dinner before it was dark, most people just slunk off and tried to stay as warm and dry as they could, in Pii Laek’s case by wrapping himself in a black plastic bag provided by Buk Toy to keep out of the water in his less than waterproof tent.
|Not quite a mountain, The morning of day 3 and it's stopped raining.|
By morning the rain had stopped but it was a damp world that greeted us. After breakfast the walk took us back along the ridge we had traveled the previous afternoon then off on an undulating ridge until we at last reached the highest point of the walk, recorded by the GPS as 999 meters – not quite a mountain! From there we plunged steeply down again following mostly animal trails until at length reaching a waterfall at about 600m from where the track was more gentle, eventually leading out to a broad shallow river at which the walk was declared finished, a total distance of a modest 17k and a total ascent of 1350 meters.
From here the road was still another 12k distant but the guides had arranged a fleet of motorcycles which took us on a white-knuckle ride along a narrow trail for 5k to Ban Trak, a communist village we were told, where cold beer and warm food was provided, then onwards another 7k dropping 300 meters to the road and the bus back to Pa Bon, eventually reaching there just before 9:00 a.m.
Another memorable weekend, perhaps not quite as spectacular as some walks we have done but then certainly not as challenging as others. There was, I have to admit, just a moment at the top of the hill on the second day with the wind and rain beating at a pathetically inadequate waterproof and with no obvious site to pitch a tent, when I would rather have been anywhere in the world but there, yes, even in the Cosmos! But there were other moments of perfect contentment standing high above the world looking out over the sunlit hills on a cool morning when I wouldn’t have swapped my place with anyone. Number six? Bring it on!