Barefoot in the Jungle
It has been a few days since I embarked upon a fantastic and epic adventure to see the Doi Inthanon National Park last Saturday so I hope I can recount all of the lovely little details, the mental snapshots that I wanted to include in this entry. My massage classmate Brice and I decided to rent a motorbike (150 baht = $5) for the day and at around 9:30 or so we hit the road.
First off, the motorbike ride out there was adurous and long. Brice drove our little bike as fast as that small engine could take us, in order to give us more time in the park. The first couple of snapshots below are from our trip out there. I was so excited to see the vibrant green of the jungle lining the roadway that I just snapped away at random, unable to see the viewfinder in the morning glare. I even managed to capture one of the stunning temples as we zipped by.
After about and hour of ass aching motorbike riding we arrived at the park and were greeted with the most beautiful streching landscapes of lush green jungle. The green of the jungle has a way of rushing into to your eyes, hitting your square in the face with pelting GREEN. It is biting, this green, and tangy sour sweet. We decided our first order of business was to find a cave listed on the map. The road that looked to be the right one only had a sign post with painted Thai lettering, our first clue that perhaps this wasn't the correct road. We took it anyways and bumped along the raw dirt road, the violent green jungle whipping past us. We continued this aimless trek for about 5km before coming to the reluctant conclusion that we found the wrong road. But rather than simply turn around right then and there, we enjoyed what destination we did find: a small stream of midly cool water, winding its way through the jungle. Here we stopped to slip our feet into the water and let our senses drink in the surrounding forest. The hissing sounds of insects, the quiet burbling hush of the stream, the coolness of the sandy bottom on our feet, the fluttering dragonflies and butterflies flitting from rock to rock, and the decadent green of the forest rising all around us.
As we prepared to leave I decided I would try my hand at driving the motorbike. Now this is my first time, I now realize, driving one of these things and I am readying myself to give it a go on a dirt road. I don't get very far. I stradle the seat and roll the accelerator handle forwards. Nothing happens. "Pull back!" Brice calls to me. Ah right, of course. So I give it a good pull back and "VRRROOOOOOOOM!!!" the bike goes tearing off, steering me sraight into the bank along the road. I lay in a heap of jungle bushes and dirt, the bike, still running, leaned heavy against me, as Brice leapt to my rescue. We get the bike upright and I untangle myself from the bushes, brush myself off and decide to give it one more go, reluctantly and only with encouragement from Brice. "Gently," he tells me. "Pull back just a little bit to start." Okay. Deep breath. I point my wheel down the stretch of flat level dirt road and pull back ever so slightly. I feel the engine begin to catch and I gently accelerate forwards. "Yeah!!" calls Brice behind me. I do a small loop up the road and then come back, satsified that at least I didn't drive into more bushes, and hand the controls back over to Brice. "I trust you heaps more than I trust myself with this thing," I tell him. So again we are off, bumping and jostling along the 5km stretch of dirt road back to the main road.
Once on the main road we set course for the first in a series of waterfalls. The first one was wonderfully misty and quite pretty, falling into a gully lined with a wide variety of lush green plants and a smattering of tropical flowers. We stopped here for lunch as well and as we ate we watched the sky darken with ominous clouds, felt the wind quicken and wip around our heads and heard the thunder roll through the sky like a series of cosmic boulders. Sure enough, as our food arrives, the rain begins to pour down, plashing and splattering over the eves of the restaurant deck. "What now?" I ask Brice giving him a worried look, eyebrows raised. "Let us wait. Don't worry. It might pass soon." I'm doubtful but sure enough, in just about the time it takes us to finish our food and pay, the rain has lightened to a scattered very light drizzle. Still, I'm worried. "What if it picks back up again? Should we go back?" "No of course not! Let's keep going!" says my adventure partner. Good man. So we saddle up and continue up the road to the next waterfall. This one is less impressive but still quite beautiful and found in a more dense forest which opens just wide enough to allow the waterfall and river pass though. It felt so fitting to be walking through the rain forest as it rained on and off above our heads. The forest breathed moisture and dense wet scents and the ground was a rich deep brown. A decadent sensory experience. This is the rainforest.
On our way to the next waterfall we take a detour onto a small path that caught our interest. The path leads to a stretching valley of rice paddies and a small village tucked away along a river bank. As we walked we came across the most beautiful, intricate and expansive spider webs I have ever seen. The web was just magical in how it was there at one angle, and completely invisible at another. At just the right angle you could see the entire web stretching and billowing in the slight breeze. We continued on and climbed a steep bank, pressing our way into the forest and stopping to admire mushrooms and the lovely hushed sounds of the light rain falling on the leaves. On our way back to the road we watched villagers fish in the river with nets, working together to corral the fish into a corner and swooping the nets low to catch them. We watched in silence and when we spoke the same thought was on our lips: "It doesn't get more different than that." We could hardly imagine a life where there was no supermarket to go buy food. Where you grow your grains and you catch your meat, out back, behind your simple wooden house, in the murky river that runs past.
Further explorations took us past more rice paddies end through other small villages where adults and children alike smiled up at us and waved as we passed. One young boy called out "Hello!" as we motored by and I shouted back "Sawatdee Ka!".
The last waterfall we visited was by far the most spectacular. Before you even reach it you are greeted by a lush Royal Garden, bursting with tropical flowers, and woven with winding pathways and waterways. Even the path was nicely paved with concrete tiles that had been pressed with leaves from the trees in the garden. When the tiles ended and the path continued as raw earth I slipped off my sandals and pressed the soles of my feet into the dank wet earth. This is what I had come here for. To see the shocking green trees, breathe the misty jungle air, and feel that soft wet earth beneath my bare feet.
We continued up the path a little ways, me gingerly picking my way over sharp rock and boulders, rounded one last corner and WHAM! were struck square in the chest with the sound and power of this waterfall. We were able to get up much closer to this fall than the others but also it was how it was situated between two rock faces and close canyon walls that augmented the presence of this fall. The force of the water came directly forward and down, crashing into the rocks at our feet and the sound bounced off the canyon walls, traveling with equal force. We stood in its cascading mist, heads tilted up, arms held wide like an embrace or a prayer, for this is the only thing you can do when confronted with a natural entity of such beauty and power.
We left the garden with just enough time to zip off to a view point to watch the sunset. Our poor motorbike put putted slower and slower up the steep incline, in obvious protest to the two heavy humans riding on it. As we climbed higher and higher the sky cleared and the sun shone out across the valley, drenching us in warm golden sunlight. We reached the view point just as the sun slipped behind the swirling clouds gathered on the horizon. From the viewpoint we could see the jungle stretching in all directions. The intricate leaves and play of light on their shifting green looked like a painting you could reach out and touch. I took a moment to sit in a secluded spot and meditate, savoring each moment as the crisp wind brushed against my face and played with my hair. I let a deep gratitude pour into my every cell, filling me up. I breathed the clean jungle air and gave a simple, heart felt Thank You to the universe that brought me to that moment. Thank You.
4/14/2011 06:11:54 pm
Erin, what a fabulous adventure you had in the National Park. With your detailed and picturesque descriptions, I can actually be right there with you. Your writing is really good! I also have to say I admire your courage and your pluck in learning how to ride the motorcycle--in spite of the mishap.
4/14/2011 06:19:24 pm
Wow, what a day. Your beautifully descriptive writing had me mesmerized - it was like I was there with you, experiencing the forest, the waterfalls, and the rains as you did.
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A fiery fairy who has set off to explore Asia and discover new things about the world and herself. The journey is one to fully realize her strength and an unwaivering faith in her personal power.