Published: August 9th 2007May 21st 2007
Bokeo Reserve has proven to be a place that moves a lot... Let's start from the beginning then!
As I mentioned to you before, I signed up for the Gibbon Experience, which is based in the Lao rain forest in the Bokeo Province (just across from the Thai border).
The idea is that you trek through the jungle, clip yourself to a zip cord high above the trees and zip to the next base (just like in The Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, promise!). Then, you trek some more and zip again and you keep on doing so until you reach your tree house.
Our group turned out to be a complete melting pot: Brits, a Swede, a Dutchman, an American (west side rocks), a couple of Germans, French Canadians and a Pole of course. And there were quite a few moments there when all of the differences just didn't matter, although ze Germans were always the ones to be pushed out if more space was to be needed ;o)
From the moment we squeezed in the van that was supposed to take us to the beginning of our adventure, the conversations were revolving around leeches. Phew! So, it
wasn't just me freaking out. In a way, it was a relief I wasn't on my own.
Yes, it was pretty scary out there. As we were trekking through the rain forest, we were assaulted by a legion of the blood-thirsty bastards that surrounded us, leaving no escape. Things started to get really nasty when the leader leech yelled: "death to the humans!" and threw itself onto one of ze Germans in a violent attempt to extract at least a litre of his blood. Rudiger decided to fight back.
The rest of us tried to run for our lives but the nearby cliff made it a weeny bit tricky. Blood was flying through the air, staining the jungle foliage a sinister crimson red as we were desperately ripping them off our flesh.
Next thing we know, the Swede bursts into tears, calling out his Swede mother because a troop of grotesquely fat leeches attached to his chiseled torso. Well, you can't blame the guy, can you?
The Canadian/American/Polish bombshell squad formed an awesome back-to-back fighting machine (just like Charlie taught us), skillfully (and sexily of course) fighting off the attackers in their perimeter. They were doing quite
well until they were distracted by the Dutchman's chauvinistic remark (and childish really...).
Now, facing two equally enraged and dangerous enemies, taking his chances with the cliff and pretending he's some kinda Tarzan, swinging on one of the tree branches, the Dutchman managed to leap out of the death zone...only realising he got into another one. The only thing left to do was to set himself on fire in order to release the penetrating teeth of the deadly leeches.
It truly was a blood bath, with none of us being spared from the carnage.
Seeing the dancing Dutchman aflame, we realised the fire was our saviour, so we lit our walking sticks and furiously aimed them at the enemy. It proved to be the right move - they were falling off begging and groveling for forgiveness. Oli, the warrior, specifically instructed us to turn a deaf ear towards the crying and get on with the revenge. We showed no mercy as we slaughtered each and every one of the blood-sucking mother f*ckers.
We survived unscathed, albeit splattered with each other's blood and here we are to tell the tale and warn others of the dangers of
the mysterious Bokeo Reserve...
All of that was pretty much what was going through our heads while sitting in that van. Seriously though? They were everywhere and I've never seen that many people jumping and shaking and screaming and some even crying!!! I did get bitten but the good thing was I didn't even notice when it happened, so not that scary in the end. I was left with a bite to show and tell though! I must admit, leeches are probably one of the most disgusting creatures on this planet - not sure what God had in mind in the moment of their creation...
Now, the tree houses were very cool - we had a living area with a bedroom space, a kitchen and even a bathroom and all of that with amazing views wherever you were stood! I ended up sharing my pad with the American, the Swede and the Dutchman and we had sooooo much fun as the Dutchman turned out to be some kinda a character. We quickly formed a T&T team and were having tons of giggles until one point, some time after 10pm, when suddenly, our tree started to shake. Now, you
need to understand, we were far far away from ANYBODY, very high up on a gigantic tree in the middle of a rain forest and that bloody tree was shaking... Seconds after it stopped, the leaves fell to the ground, making an eerie sound and we all looked at each other, freaking out of course, as we had no clue whether it was some kind of a wild animal trying to get on that tree or what??!! It made no sense to me, so after deliberating the circumstances with Mary (she's an environmentalist), we concluded it must have been an earthquake as we felt the aftershocks too. Going back to sleep was pretty damn hard as that jungle didn't seem so friendly anymore...
Next day, we met other guys from the couple of other tree houses and everyone felt the same - yes, it was an earthquake. Unfortunately, we were there with no communication with the outer world and the local guides hardly spoke English, so we had no idea where the epicenter was. We still decided to have a cracking day and so went trekking, fighting the leeches and flying on zip cords, as you do. The afternoon
came and the T&T decided to move to the 1st house, just in case we had to evacuate quickly to the nearby base. As we were finishing our dinner, the ground moved again, only a bit stronger than before and the tree started to sway. You could hear some tree branches breaking and falling to the ground - not a happy sign at all! Some people were caught on a zip cord that during that shake - I was soooo glad I was only on a tree... Seeing our guides run for their lives (and leaving us behind), we decided to flee to the base and got everyone else to go there too. Mind you, no body needed any persuasion there.
The base was nicely nestled just by a very handy...cliff, so no-one actually slept at night for more than one hour as the earthquakes were going on every 10-20 min. I was lying there clinching to my torch and working out an escape route just in case the base was falling apart and we were to fall head first down the cliff. I think that was the point when I had enough and could not be happier when
that gory night was finally over.
I probably don't even have to mention how much bonding happened on that team - I mean, how many times do you get to experience an earthquake on top of a tree in Lao??? Exactly...
Anyway, next blog will be all very chilled as I spent 2 days on a boat on the Mekong River getting to a town that is all about comfort (French colonial heritage of course) :o) Nice!
Until the next one then!
There are more photos below