Edit Blog Post
Published: October 25th 2008
After 2 days on a slow boat from Luang Prabang I was definitely ready for some action. We spent the night in Huay Xai which is a pretty sleepy town on the Thai-Lao border on the mighty Mekong River. The lights were definitely brighter on the other side as we had a couple of beers with the crew who we had shared the last two sleepy days with. Beer Lao was again my trusty companion as soon as the sun went down (although I didn’t always adhere to this rule that’s for sure).
In the morning we all met at the travel office in town and jumped in the back of a truck for the 4hr journey to the Bokeo Nature Reserve. The last hour was spent on some really rough terrain and our guide for some reason thought it was appropriate to ride the rest of the journey on the roof racks: crazy!!
Just for a bit of background on the Gibbon Experience a young French guy had such a good time in Laos that he ended up staying for an extended period of time. After living in the North for a while and noticing that there were
rare gibbons in the Bokeo Nature Reserve he attempted to work with the locals to somehow preserve the environment whilst giving them some income along the way. So he built one treehouse and it all started from there. Now there are 5 treehouses and zip lines all throughout the rainforest and expeditions leave every 3 days.
We set off on a four hour trek to our treehouse and after 2 hrs walking we came across our first zip line. We strapped on our harnesses and after volunteering first I was pretty excited to launch myself across the roof of the rainforest. It was quite exhilarating to be gliding across the treetops with the lush rainforest all around you. Couldn’t wait for the next one.
After 2 more hours of zipping around we reached our treehouse where we spent the night. The river wasn’t far from our treehouse so we all had a swim before returning for some dinner. It was pitch black by about 8. We were in the middle of the forest miles away from anyone and it was very refreshing. There was a resident cat in the treehouse which helped keep away the rats although nothing
could be done about the monster spiders. So far we hadn’t seen any gibbons but we had definitely heard some noises in the surrounding trees so we assumed (and hoped) they were gibbons instead of large rats.
It was so peaceful to be up in the canopy. I don’t know about everyone else in the treehouse but I laid there for at least an hour just listening to the sounds of the forest. The river could be heard trickling at the bottom of the valley and that gently eased me to sleep.
The next day we were all awake early mainly due to the cold rather than the sun. I had a few coffees before our 5”2 guide Jun zipped over to the treehouse and announced we were heading off. We had some breakfast near the waterfall which was brought to us by the lovely family that ran the “kitchen” in the Nature Reserve. They lived in a small hut in the forest with there young daughter and they made a living by cooking food for the participants on the trek. Their daughter was so gorgeous (all Northern Thailand/Laos babies I saw were so cute). I can still
remember the smile on his face when we returned in the afternoon with empty canisters, he was incredibly grateful that we had eaten all his food. It was little moments like this that made my trip so enjoyable, especially in Laos.
Some of the zip lines we did in the morning were very long (one was 500m) and were basically from one hill to the other so it was great to be gliding over the top of the forest. The rest of the afternoon was trekking to the treehouse on the opposite side of the park, so this is the part when I nearly shit my pants…….I’m serious, this really happened and I still remember it vividly.
Earlier on in the morning Jun had told me that this morning he had run over to our treehouse because he was scared of the tiger catching him. I thought he was just joking around. I heard before I came on the trip that apparently there were still a few wild tigers in the forest, but honestly what would be the chances of seeing one?
I had gone ahead of the group as we trekked up some steep hills (I
was the only guy in the group and most of the girls were a bit slower) and I stopped suddenly as I heard (and felt) this bowel trembling growl. For a few moments I just thought what the #*%$ was that. I heard it again and this time I located that the sound was coming from just over my right shoulder. At this point I was absolutely terrified, but it was only going to get worse.
I felt it beneath my feet before I heard it. The tiger had started running and the ground was trembling: it really stunned me how powerful there strides were. So for a few split seconds I honestly thought that the tiger was running towards me. I think my heart nearly stopped at this point as the adrenalin was pumping through my system. I had turned my head to the right and it was at that point that I saw it running through the scrub. Apparently Laotian tigers are smaller than there Siberian counterparts but to me it was still fairly big. Luckily for me it was running away from me and after a few seconds it was gone.
I stood completely still
for the next minute whilst I waited for the girls to catch up to me. It was as if I had just jumped out of a plane because my heart was still racing. As soon as they reached me Meghs said to me “Did you hear that?” I just nodded. Jun came walking up to me and in broken English asked me if I saw the tiger. His reply was “you stay with the group now or tiger eats you.” Now I understand why I signed that waiver before I came on this trek.
Following this exhilarating but terrifying experience the rest of the trek was great. The zip line to our new treehouse required for us to take a huge run up so it was quite fun. It had an amazing view over the Nature Reserve which looked even better in the morning when the fog blanketed the entire valley.
We had an even earlier start on the 3rd morning in an attempt to see some gibbons as we hadn’t spotted any yet. Jun led the way with his machete as he attempted to make a new path for future reference. I was covered in scratches by
the time we got back to the treehouse but I wasn’t that concerned because it was all worth it after I saw a gibbon in the trees above. It swung rather gracefully through the tree tops and finally scurried away out of sight further into the forest. Mission accomplished!!
In what was an interesting way to finish the trek we rode in the back of the truck with the parents of the French guy who started the Gibbon Experience. They told us the great story of how he started the project and all the hurdles he faced from the local authorities but they were very proud that there son was making a difference and helping the local community. It was a nice way to end the 3 days. Certainly 3 days that I will never forget.
Tot: 2.798s; Tpl: 0.048s; cc: 12; qc: 56; dbt: 0.0663s; 2; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 4;
; mem: 1.4mb