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Published: March 19th 2007
Guides and guns
I thought that this deserved an entry all its own. I’m talking about Mr. Chart’s Jungle Trek near Pai. I first heard about it from a young Dutch girl in Chiang Mai who said she really enjoyed it. She said that the trek was for the most part not a tacky package tour including elephant rides, rafting and going to see the “Long Neck People!” in tribal villages which have turned into human zoos. On my 3rd day in Pai I decided to go in search of Mr. Chart. I found him in his little office called the Bamboo House where he runs his trekking business in which he is the owner, manager and guide. I was to be put in a group the next day with an English couple, Jo and Dean, for a two day trek to the jungle.
I showed up at his office at 8:30 the next morning and we set off in the sawngtaew. “We”,meaning myself, the English couple, three guides, four dogs, and two rifles. We were dropped off near the river and started our journey, penetrating the thick foliage that lined the river’s banks. Periodically, one of the guides would take out
An amphibious trek into the jungle
his machete and clear the way, slashing at the branches and vines just like in a Rambo movie. A guide named Burma was the most impressive to watch. We stopped for a couple minutes at one point so that he could catch fish with his bare hands.
Then it was lunchtime. The three men made a mat out of banana leaves and got a fire going to cook the BBQ pork. After about 45 minutes we were called to the “table” to eat. What a surprise when we found the food laid out next to our cups and plates all made from bamboo. I realized later on in the trip that there was nothing that Mr. Chart couldn’t make from bamboo. Throughout the next two days he will have produced the eating and drinking utensils, cutlery, cooking pots, candleholders, water canteens and a couple shelters, all from bamboo. Anyway, the food was very tasty and some of the ingredients, such as edible ferns and other greens, were found in the forest. After the meal there were no dishes to be done. You just chuck the plates in the forest to rot or become another animal’s home.
Burma and the Fish
Catching river fish with his bare hands
on, going in and out of the river several times to follow the path. Suddenly we heard a “ka-boom!” and when we reached the riverbank we saw Burma standing proudly with the snake he had just shot. The other two guides were very happy because they said that snake was very delicious. So, I guessed snake was going to be on the menu for dinner that night.
Mr. Chart pointed out many of the trees, flowers and animal tracks that we found in the forest. The dogs found an anteater hole (without the anteater) and they were able to catch a small squirrel of some sort. We arrived to out campsite at about 4:00. It didn’t look much like a campsite to me, but in about two hours the guides had cleared the area, made a couple of shelters from bamboo and banana leaves and even had a designated cooking place. Again, they made fires and began making dinner. The pots were also made of bamboo, resting on a rack in the embers. Two pots boiled water while the others cooked the veggies and snake soup. Jo, Dean and I got the firewood together and just watched in wonder
Me and Mr. Chart
Guess I'm not too much help.
as these guys transformed the jungle into a living space.
After supper we chatted and went to bed relatively early considering that we had had a really full day and that we would need all the strength and rest we could get for the next day. I slept pretty well, but Dean said that he kept waking up during the night. One of the times he had gotten up, Mr. Chart was standing in front of him hanging up the flying fox he had shot in the woods. Night is the best time to hunt and this was also a very lucky find. In the morning, we packed up camp and headed along the river, passing by beautiful waterfalls. The second day hike was a bit harder because went up several vertical inclines. The farmers in the areas were burning their fields and because we were getting closer to Pai, we could see more evidence of this. At one point, we were walking through a burning field! Jo had the idea to put mustaches on all of us with the ash from the tress.
We walked and rested, going in and out of the river. My feet had
Setting the Table
Banana leaf table cloth
about five blisters on them each. I didn’t realize this was going to be such an amphibious trek. We reached the sawngtaew at around 4:00 and Mr. Chart’s wife was waiting for us with watermelon and drinks. I was exhausted but felt great that I had had such a unique experience. Later that night, we all met up again at 7:00 at Bamboo House to have local rice whiskey (dangerous stuff) and snack on a bit of flying fox. Deeeeeeeeee-licious.
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