During my whirlwind return trip to Southeast Asia, things really stepped up a notch.
My travel buddy and partner in crime was just as adventurous as me and ten times more crazy. A recipe for one hell of a trip!
Having done the whole Thailand > Laos > Vietnam > Cambodia tour the previous year, this time things got serious as we researched Southeast Asia’s national parks, adrenaline sports and most bizarre foods.
One story that stands out above the rest, from which I take great pleasure in telling, is the episode of the leeches, the tiger and the crocs at Khao Yai National Park.
It’s the story of my emotional breakdown in the Thai jungle where I agreed to join one man’s solo trek – that of my crazy travel buddy – through the land of leeches, tigers and crocs. Oh my indeed.
Entering Khao Yai National Park, we hitched a ride in the back of a shiny red truck to Lam Ta Khong Camping Ground where we pitched our tents, changed into our old, long sleeved clothes and headed into the wild.
As we trekked through the jungle unaccompanied, things got off to a great start.
Despite strong recommendations to hire a guide, we were running low on funds and were hungry for adventure and the flexibility that comes with it.
Following red markers painted on trees, we reaped the benefits of our bold decision to go it alone.
We stopped off for photos, climbed trees and picnicked in giant twisted roots.
After filling our bellies, the red arrows continued along our chosen route which would ultimately lead us to the park’s elephant viewing platform.
But the trail disappeared a few hours in and we began guessing our lefts from our rights in tiger territory. Not ideal.
What we had not anticipated was that we would have to pass through a swamp, rife with crocodiles, to reach our destination.
Warning signs began to pop up everywhere – BEWARE crocodiles – nailed to trees and sticking up in the mud.
“I can’t do it” I said. “We should go back. It’s not safe to be here alone.”
Fully committed to the adventure, my friend powered on through the swamp, taking spontaneous turns in the mud.
With no other choice of company but the grinning crocs, I reluctantly followed behind and was thrilled to pull through with all limbs in tact.
On Down, Success
In the early afternoon, we arrived at the viewing platform which sat in the middle of a grassy clearing.
We climbed the wooden ladder, took out our DSLRs and ensured a stakeout from its tower.
Several hours passed before any sign of wildlife and we began packing up to avoid trekking back in the dark.
But as I swung my rucksack onto my back, an elephant came wandering through and our cameras were out once more.
We took some beautiful shots and waited for the elephant to pass but it showed no signs of moving.
After some deliberation we walked out into the open, praying with crossed fingers and toes that the elephant did not charge.
Two Down, Success
By this point, the sun was half way to setting and I was eager to get back.
Our power walking boots were on and my mind was focused on getting back before the wild dogs emerged.
Half way into our trek, the red markers disappeared and we began free styling our way through the meadows.
After thirty minutes of walking around in circles, we hit the most dense part of the jungle where the evergreen trees stretched up to the sky.
Lost and alone, surely it would be dark before we managed to escape this forest.
On the brink of a breakdown, with my travel buddy as calm as could be, I heard a loud ‘whooshing’ noise from the trees.
I became convinced we were being stalked by some sort of cat as the sound continued and we pressed on through the trees in no particular direction.
My heart was pounding and I looked down at my feet to find them covered in leeches, like small grey worms, dancing their way across my ankles.
They were all over my boots and all over my trousers which were luckily tucked into my hiking socks.
“Did you hear that?” I asked my friend, who was strolling ahead, and he looked at me with a crumpled brow.
“That’s it,” I cried in a teary panic, “I can’t take it anymore!”
I shook my hands at the sky and mumbled something to the effect of a prowling tiger.
My eyes were flitting through the trees on high alert when a shadow flashed between the branches.
“It’s a bird” I was told, “with an enormous wingspan” and I fell to the floor in relief.
Three Down, Man Down, Complete
I hope you made it to the end of my wild shenanigans in the Thai jungle, as I just about did.
It’s one of those experiences I am glad to have had and lived to tell the tale. I would probably have to think about doing it again… and then most likely do it, again.
That’s it, that’s me and I hope to see you here again soon for more adventures.