Part Two... Tarantulas & Elephants
The Libra Guesthouse has a variety of trek excursions to choose from including 1-3 day guided tours - I chose the 2 day trek. As I’ve mentioned, the Libra is family owned & operated and the guides who take you out also work @ the Libra which I found appealing which made my final decision in the end. Chiang Mai is trekking mecca with many companies offering their own versions and can make it difficult to decide. Toto was our guide (like Dorothy’s dog) and we’ve been joking around from the first day @ Libra so felt like the right choice. The group had a quick meeting night before; given a list of what’s needed and a breakdown of what’s expected over the next 2 days, sounds good.
Toto picks us up in Libra’s truck; 3 americans, 2 french and 2 Canadians. Our first stop is a local market on the way out of Chiang Mai. Buy some munchies for the drive and wait for 3 spanish who decided to come last minute. After a 45min drive, we arrive @ the waterfalls – have a cold dip & and a laugh, we’re off. Next is the natural hot springs; set amongst the mountainous range which was fed from a geyser upstream. Very relaxing in the pool, wanted to stay longer but our fearful leader beckons us out to start the trek. We hike a small trail to the source of the hot spring – Geyser steaming @ 100 degrees celcius.
Now we begin the 9km trek up & down 3 mountains; baby, mamma & papa. Baby? I don’t know whose baby this was but found it quite temperamental. Okay and I’m a bit out of shape but not last out of the group. After a while body was digging the work and felt better. We arrive in the first hill tribe village out of three we’re going to see today. The ‘Karen Tribe’ is a village of about 20 families. We’re allowed to walk around, take pics and relax for a bit. Beautiful village; clean, all food grown and children laughing. We move onto Mama Mountain and she was caring - still a workout but moving steadier. Nice views, a couple pose shots, a snack, we move forward. Being a lollygagger looking @ stuff, taking in the scenery - I got left behind. When I caught up to rest of group they were looking down with Toto, who’s poking at a Tarantula with a thin stick to get him out of his hole. He didn’t like that which was the point I guess and did get him out – very cool.
After crossing a bamboo bridge (bamboo everywhere) we arrive in second village. What I found interesting is that they’re not Buddhists but Christians. Almost the whole of the surrounding area are of the Christian faith. They did follow ‘nature’ as their religion, as are own natives believed – all is connected, respect what is provided, no waste. Then the priests showed up with their ‘message’ and changed all that, silliness. Yes, being fastidious. Talking with Toto, he told me Libra’s the only place that does treks through these 3 villages providing them with food, medicine and us. They sell their wares and always have beers/soft drinks available for us to buy. We move onto Papa Mountain and he was fine. Nice views as we trudge along and now starts to get dusk. Trekking down to our last village where were going to be eating & sleeping - it’s completely dark. A few flashlights (no real help) but a bright full moon guides us along and gets everyone into the village safely. Our home for the night is a large bamboo hut for all; with mattresses and mosquito nets on a bamboo floor. No power - candle’s light the way. Waiting for us outside is a roaring bonfire and after a refreshing cold shower, we gather together waiting for dinner. After a delicious meal of spring rolls, chicken curry and rice, we take our full bellies back to the fire. Toto and our other guide brought out the guitar; we sang a few western hits but better yet, they sang Thai songs - amazing voices with a full moon above.
Next day after a great sleep with another good meal set in front of us, we get ready for the day’s activities – elephant riding & bamboo rafting. The village is set along the river banks - not too far to walk down & wash a couple of elephants. My first elephant experience. I was lucky enough to be the only one in our group to go down by the river in the morning and watch both elephants being ridden across by their owners – slow & steady. Before riding them for the day we get to give them a good scrub in the river, the shirt comes off and I jump in for the task - amazing animals. There are only two this day (usually four) so the group was split up; 6 riding elephants while the other 4 rafted down the river by bamboo. I had to ride these very cool creatures. Two of the girls sat on top in a wooden seat while I straddled ‘Betsy’ (what we named her) on the neck - my legs right behind the ears. We walked for about an hour through lush jungle following the river and crossing at certain points, loved it.
We met the rafters & traded – goodbye Betsy. Balance is key when rafting on bamboo and knowing how to use the bamboo pole but did get the hang of it. We lazily floated down the river to a small village where we stopped to wait for the ‘elephant riders’ to arrive. Then we all rafted together for the remainder of our trip – 2 hours total. There were five on each and a guide heading down some tricky rapids, then changes to calmness with beauty of the jungle surrounding us. The other raft with Toto crashed twice while ours (with the two Canadians) maneuvered gracefully – for the most part.
We slowly start to see civilization as other tour groups lining shores as we pull into our final stop for lunch. I wanted to stay in the jungle with the villages, its people and of course – Betsy - I miss her even if it was a short time. After yet another good feed, we board the truck and head on back to Chiang Mai. We arriving @ Libra, parting ways with fond memories of a great trip. I highly recommend this 2 day trek with Libra, it was special.