welcome to the jungle, we’ve got fun and games

Or in Khao Sok National Parks’ case, welcome to the jungle, we’ve got limited sign posts, nothing more than a handful of tourists and leeches. Lots and lots of blood sucking leeches. I’m not quite sure how Axel Rose could fit all that into a re-mix, but it would be accurate in this unforgiving National Parks case.

Yesterday I spoke about the brilliance of being a bit off the beaten track. I’ll cut of the chase – this afternoon I very much would have given anything to be on that lovely, muddy, slippery and relatively clear track. I have just got into my bungalow bed moments after encouraging several leeches to vacate various parts of my body, with differing success. Several wounds are seeping blood, and my hands are covered, and I mean covered in plasters. I look like a mixture between a self harmer and a person who has a fetish for bandages.

The reason this happened? Well, after a lovely morning stroll along that fore-mentioned muddy, slippery and relatively clear track I returned to base to have some lunch and a sit down. That walk (I don’t like the word trek, it seems pretentious) took a couple of hours; the highlight of which was me going arse over tit on some mud that was more slippery than a Sir Alan Stanford Ponzi scheme. It was nothing more than an annoyance at the time, mainly because I was coated in mud. Sat here now though, lying on my bed I’ve realised that I may have done slightly more damage than first thought. My left shoulder is rather painful – put politely. That original walk was OK, being one of two walks you could take. The rainforest was thick and in parts, pretty beautiful. It was pretty steep in places and I remember thinking that it would be decent practice for next month, when I climb Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. The park is also above sea level at 950m; however that is less than a quarter of Kinabalu’s height.

After that lunch break I bumped into a couple that I had seen earlier in the day. They had the same opinion as me, that the walk had been fair enough but we were all a little disappointed that some of the bigger water falls were shut. When I say shut, I mean they put a little sign up saying closed between June and December. If you really wanted to, being a rainforest that bigger than Phuket, there are ways round these obstacles’. I was about to discover this.

I set off on this second route, looking to find a lookout point called San Yang Roi. I was hoping for a nice walk, peaceful and serene with little in the way of dramas. How difficult could that be? Anyway, after a trek (yes, I’m being pretentious on this chapter) up several hundred steps and a stunning rope bridge crossing, I came to a break away point. There was a turn left that in hindsight was this lookout point. There was also a turn right which wasn’t the way to the look out point. Guess which way sat-nav here took? You guessed it, right.

After a short while it became quite clear that I was back off that lovely muddy, slippery…..(ok, you get the picture) track. I was now in pretty dense rainforest. The path had receded faster than my hair ever could and I was lost. I couldn’t have been that bothered at this point as I still have a photo taken of me looking smug at being off the beaten track again. All of a sudden I felt a twinge in my leg; I looked down and saw dozens of leeches. I panicked. They were the one thing that I didn’t want near me on this jungle trip. Bump into wild elephants? Fine, I’ll deal with it. Bump into a tiger? Fine, I’ll see what happens. But leeches? Yuk, no thanks – I don’t want to feel like I’m in a hospital in the 1800’s, thank you. Quite why I ran away from things that were already attaching themselves to my body I’m not quite sure. Not the most intelligent move I have ever taken in my 24 years on this planet, I can tell you.

Anyway, after what must have been nothing more than a ten second hop, skip and jump away from the area I’d just bravely scampered from, I stood still. It must have been my brain registering that I needed to get these little fookers off. The guidebook says you should tuck you socks into your trousers to avoid the little fookers crawling their way up your legs. I hadn’t done this but at least I had chosen the long trouser option. The only group of four or five that I had seen earlier were walking around in t-shirts and very short shorts. Thank god I wasn’t dressed similarly – I would have no blood left after what was about to occur.
I managed to flick off what leeches I could and started to move quickly again, I just wanted to get out of that rainforest now. I was soaked through from sweat and rain from the trek, and these little gits had ruined my second trek. I’m not quite sure how, but I then realised that I was lost. With the panic starting to set in I moved quickly, trying to find something that resembled a path. The problem was that being out of season, a lot of this rainforest was shut off. Even to tour groups with guides. This meant that anything off that muddy, slip…(Sorry) track was now left to grow free. I suddenly found myself panicking some what. The leeches were no doubt a big part of the panic, but also the growing sense of being lost in such an unforgiving rainforest.

I headed high, using whatever tree, bamboo or stick I could grab onto. With thorns stating to rip at me I clambered faster and higher up the steep hill to nowhere. This next bit is pretty blank as I remember realising it was time to concentrate. Breathless from the ascent I soon realised that my blind panic had got me into big trouble. I tried to stay calm, but the feeling of being knackered, sweaty and irritable from the leeches must have clouded my thoughts. After a further ascent in what turned out to be completely in the wrong direction, I heard the noise of the river. My mind went back to that rope bridge and I started to slide down towards the noise. The main obstacles were clear; big trees, hidden ground and that same coloured slippery mud that had made me look an idiot earlier. It couldn’t have been far, but with every thorn that ripped through my hands and every tree that wasn’t strong enough to take my weight, I felt a growing sense of ‘I’m in trouble here’.

I somehow reached the river and thought now would be a good time to see if anyone was about. I hate managed to cut my nose, hands and legs and blood was evident. I started shouting for help, after all I was lost in the middle of a rainforest with just half a litre left of water and only a couple of hours maximum left of light. There was nothing. I sat down for a while, maybe ten minutes, desperately trying to regain my breath while washing my wounds in the river. Time was of the essence. The trek to the point I got lost from the base camp was a good half an hour walk. If I didn’t find some form of path in next hour I was going to be stuck. It’s difficult to gauge how long I’d been lost, but it must have been over an hour. As I throw my bag up to a flat piece of land the over side of a fallen tree that I was now using to climb across, my only bottle of water fell out into the river. I quickly jumped down onto a rock, saved it and stupidly took a swig of it. Now, bottled water sometimes can have a slightly odd taste – I’ve drunk some very dubious water around the world (Wankhede Stadium, Bombay for one) and this swig didn’t taste right. I didn’t have another swig of after this; I only hope that nothing occurs because of that.

My brain kicked back in; lifted by the luck I had by only the water falling out. Luckily I was too tired to consider if my wallet or passport had been washed away. I had to cross the river, it looked clearer than the side I just stumbled down. My dislike of leeches was totally out of my brain as I crossed the river fully clothed. It was about knee high deep and thank fook I didn’t slip in. The conditions were not getting better- it was now also pouring down with rain (just adding to the drama, and all that) In all fairness I was that wet and muddy already, it actually made no difference.

It soon became clear that I’d made the right call to cross. I found something that resembled a path, though it was still far from those lovely muddy….(Hehe) ones that I was now begging for. The same process happened for a while, I’d clamber up using anything I could grab onto, cut myself, swear very loudly and try to keep on going. I reached a sign – the first sign post I’d seen in hours. It said, ‘Danger, Wild Elephants’ – great. I kept walking, thinking to myself that wild elephants would have no chance walking through here, it was hard enough for little old me. After another long downhill trek I came to another sign – Sip-et-Chan Waterfall’ I looked for my reserve map; I had walked in the wrong direction. It sounds stupid now but I was still 4km from where I first started out. Now 4km is a nice walk to work – not being a driver I’ve done that distance many times. Forty minutes, tops. But tired, wet, wounded, thirty-odd degrees….

The next hour or so became a blur. I had not taken a further sip from my water bottle and I think I was so pumped by the situation that I somehow found the energy to pull my weary limbs up that same path again. When I came to that same sign about elephants I saw the error of my ways – I had gone left instead of right. I kept going, feeling as positive as I possibly could that I now new the direction I needed to take. I had one decision to make at the end of this path – whether to go left or right again. I choose to stick with left, based upon it had been wrong twice, it had to be correct once! Another hill, another stop to catch my breath – there as I looked up was that rope bridge that I had crossed all those hours ago!!!!!!!!! (That’s how I felt) I can’t remember anything about this repeated original trek (scoff) other than relief that I wasn’t going to be stuck in this jungle for the night. I grabbed a free bottle of water from the now closed restaurant and walked back to Smiley’s in the pouring rain.

So all in all I reckon an eventful day. I went into Khao Sok at half past eleven. I came out at close to seven, minutes before sundown. Lying in bed, war wounded and still bleeding, I’m obviously relieved. My only hope is that nothing has gone into my body that shouldn’t be – I can’t think that ripping leeches from your body and taking a swig from a water bottle that has just fallen into a river can be that good for you.
Another half an hour of not finding that that lovely, muddy, slippery and relatively clear track and I wouldn’t be writing this now….scary shit!

Postscript – If Smiley was quiet yesterday (just me) then it is packed tonight – with Canadian and American students!! Happy days 🙂

A lovely early morning mist

Everything fine on walk 1

One of those paths to dream of

OK, so now i'm lost

Drawing blood on the descent to the river



7 Responses to “welcome to the jungle, we’ve got fun and games”

  1. 1 Matt
    October 8, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Hi Rich
    My brother-in-law in looking for stories that he can turn into film scripts – maybe I can pass this one on – maybe “Kemp vs The Leeches” 🙂
    Seriously, I hope your heroic tales granted you hero status with the new student arrivals at the backpackers in the evening!!!!!
    The great thing about travelling, the range of experiences, your senses heightened – certainly another interesting day!
    Glad you survived.

  2. 2 Michelle
    October 8, 2010 at 4:27 pm


  3. 3 Estelle Thistleton
    October 9, 2010 at 1:42 am

    Hello world-leech-weary-hero-trekker, aw Rich. I was reading the account of Lost In The Jungle consoling myself that you must have survived to write about it…. but hey darling staying safe isn’t really much of a life is it? I am so glad you are making the most of yours… and that you are safe (in spite of your self) sending you proper love from Auntie world XXX

  4. 4 donna
    October 10, 2010 at 8:40 am


  5. 5 donna
    October 10, 2010 at 9:31 am

    SOk Rich, Sorry about my shocked reaction in words on your blog..now that I have got over the initial shock I want to say ‘Well you got yourself out alive!’ And ‘that is truly having an adventure off the beaten track’..hope the leeches are very far away now – yuk yuk YUK! And I hope there are no ill effects from the water!! Cor blumming blimey son!

  6. 6 Martin Chapple
    October 10, 2010 at 10:49 am

    What’s that programme? Oh yeah, “An idiot abroad”!!!!!
    Respect matey for getting back safely. That was a gripping read for sure, I couldn’t bear to think of you shouting “Help!” in the jungle. You live you learn I guess, no more “off the beaten track” for you son!!

  7. 7 Julie
    October 16, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Hi Rich
    you certainly know how to write a good story……glad you are having ‘fun’…..glad you managed to get rid of those little suckers……weldone on getting back safely……take a buddy next time!!!! take care Rich Love Julie

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