The tour bus dropped us off on the side of the road to begin our hike. We set out straight across the road and immediately up a hill that felt to be 90 degrees but likely was only about 30. However with the 20lbs of stuff (camera, clothes etc) it was far from easy especially with my leg muscles burning from clinging to the back of an elephant for the last 2 hours.
Eventually the path evened out but not for too long. Up and up we climbed, my lungs burning part from exertion and part just from my shoulder bag crushing my chest.
The scenery, however was totally worth the effort. Rolling green hills went on for miles,turning a hazy blue in the distance, the humidity clouding the horizon.
We trekked for about an hour and a bit before coming out into a clearing with a few little bamboo huts set up for people to sleep in. Straight ahead was a huge waterfall. Exhausted we all sat down to enjoy the sound of the water crashing over the rocks and the nice cold refreshingness of a can of Chang. (Beer Chang as it's always referred to in Thailand).
Because the sun disappears early in Thailand we didn't stop for too long. About 20 min of rest and we were back on our feet on the way to the hilltribe village. We only had to walk about half an hour before reaching the village, which I think we were all ecstatic about. The last trek up the hill leading into the village seemed to be never ending.
As we walked up the hill we were greeted by some people from the village, a trio sitting on the front "porch" of a hut drinking mystery liquid from a communal glass. Tony Montana, our wonderful guide, introduced us and taught us the hilltribe word for "hello". We all said hello and were offered a drink from the glass. I took a sip.. it tasted like vodka, or whisky... kind of smooth with a definite burning after taste. I passed it onto the boys doing my best to not shudder from the taste.
Saying goodbye to the villagers on the porch, we walked to what would be our home for the night. We were instructed to put our stuff in the cabin and that dinner would be served shortly. We walked up into our cabin and were greeted with about 5 mats on the ground and mosquito netting hanging from the ceiling. We each picked a mat and dropped our stuff on the ground. I immediately draped my sweat drenched clothes over the lines hanging in the room to attempt to dry them out before our trek the next day... and realized I didn't have any other dry clothes. So, on went my bathing suit top and I wrapped myself in my pashmina scarf. Sometimes you just gotta make do.
We went down to the table in the "yard" to eat dinner. The family had been hard at work putting together a meal of rice, massamon curry and stir fried veggies. We were shown the cooler with the drinks in it and told to mark off what we bought and we could pay the next day. Apparently starving, we each had multiple servings of the wonderful food while discussing the day's events up until that point. We marveled at all the things we'd done and how many more things we still had yet to do.
After eating we were invited into the family's main living area. We decided to play cards. First a game of Asshole/Shithead and then a hilltribe game called "Black Magic". A simple enough game to play, Tony Montana explained the rules to us: Each person is dealt a card. Ace is low, Kings are high and unbeatable. You look at your card and decide if you want to keep it. If it's low enough you can trade it with the person beside you, unless they have a King, in which case you can't. Once everyone has traded you turn your card over. The winner is the holder of the highest card. And he gets the honour of performing "Black Magic" on the loser.
|Photo Courtesy of Ren Bostelaar|
In this case "Black Magic" means rubbing their finger on a sooty pot bottom and drawing on the losers face in whatever way they see fit.
I did great for the first couple rounds. And then I lost. Repeatedly.
By the end of the game I was covered in soot and looked like the guy from V for Vendetta. Lovely.
But it was a lot of fun, it really was. Even more fun was being able to wash my face off with face cleaner without truly running water.
We all went to bed soon after that, our elephant and hiking muscles completely exhausted from the amount of work they got. I'm not usually one for super hard beds but the fact that I had a place to rest my weary body meant that I fell asleep fairly quickly.