Wow we hadn’t even been on a hike yet before yesterday?
It was one of the big reasons we got our bike. Well, and getting around would cost a fortune otherwise.
But Laurence’s comment about living by the Thai border and seeing all kinds of interesting spiders and stuff galvanised us.
Thais are big on the waterfalls and there are a number of well signed falls on the island. We pretty much just picked the closest one (Phaeng Waterfall) and motored off for it. We got to drive up the big road past all the government buildings and the big police station.
That road is the only one with a line down the middle of it on the island (dotted of course) although after the government buildings stop it abrupty goes from two lane crispness to one lane pothole-tarmac. It then fluctuates between potholes and washed-out all the way to chaloklum on the other side of the island.
One of the nice things about driving in thailand is that you can go whatever speed you want. I just felt my mum cringe. But I mean it the other way. The nice road probably sees the highest speeds on the island. Locals probably get up to 60 kph. But we can bumble along happily at 30 and noone thinks twice. This is in contrast to attempting to drive a scooter at 30 in victoria (which I have done) in which case you destroy traffic and everyone, quite rightly, hates you.
Anyway the hiking was very good. The park was odd. There were 4 or 5 park buildings right at the entrance. They had a kept lawn, a flag pole, and a very large wood-carved sign welcoming you to the park. It was a more comprehensive complex than I have ever seen in Canada.
The trails, on the other hand, where completely ungroomed and the maps posted along the route contradicted eachother.
It’s like the park service is happy to do a bang up job of things; unless it actually has to go into the park.
But of course I prefer the completely un-groomed trails. A trail that wanders down the side of a granite slope because it’s too lazy to cut through the woods, even if that slope is going to be a river a few days a year, is my idea of perfect. Roots and rocks and a thin, steep, path wander up to two signed falls and a lookout point.
We walked past the first falls without noticing them. Despite the fact that this is the wet season there really wasn’t enouh water to make them go.
The lookout point was cool. It was a good view over our side of the island. It was impressive how thoroughly the lowlands have been planted with coconut palms. There are just little islnads of hilly land in the sea of palms. We could see pretty easily the backside of Thongsala, the bay where our house is, and where the roads connecting the two must be. Very interesting.
From here we walked the ‘nature trail’ along to the second waterfall.
Here is where things started to get interesting. The hike up had been dominated by a very young forest of thin deciduous trees. It was too similar to a young poplar forest to hold any fascination. We did meet one little lizard of which I got three very bad pictures of (too bad to post). But the ‘nature trail’ was full of great stuff!
Thai flora are way more into parasitic relationships than our plants. There are all kinds of vines winding up the trees and plants clinging to eachother for sustinence. It’s really neat. We saw, I still can’t believe it, jug plants! Real life, growing wild, jug plants! So cool! I never thought I’d get to see a carnivorous plant in the wild but they’re actually pretty common up in the mountains. We actually saw some jug plants in the royal flower exhibition and their wild bretheren put them to shame. Lots of ants. Ants here make long mud nests that string up trees. It’s very odd. And every once in a while you grab a tree only to bust-up a busy nest and have ants crawling all over your hand.
Half way through, the nature trail branches off. There are supposed to be three seperate routes to the waterfall, each one inside and shorter than the last. We didn’t know the outside-most one existed because on signs it was represented by a line going off the map. Thusly we chose the middle route and ended up, lost, on the outer route.
Which was all fine and good really. It was more of a serious treck through the jungle. If we had known it was going to lead back to the falls it would have been a perfect path but we didn’t. After we’d gone so far as to ascertain that it wasn’t the path we thought we where on we turned back.
But while we where on it the path was for serious cool. It felt alot like a classic jungle (labeled a rain forest on one of the maps) and here we where trecking through it! The canopy closed in and it got much darker. There where vines hanging everywhere and in places the foliage was thick with unfamiliar plants. Two fantastically neat spiders.
The first one we actually met outside the rainforest, before the path got serious. I will simply post the picture here. I do not know what kind of spider is. It is the strangest, and creepiest, spider I have ever seen. I took tons of pictures and only about three worked out.
The second spider was a charmer. He was a huge jumping spider! Well huge for me. I’m used to our cute little 15mm wolf-spiders (which they also have here). This guy was more like 15cm from foot to foot. He was pretty terrified of me, I chased him around with the camera for a while. He was so much fun to watch run down a leaf and leap to the next one. He must have jumped another 15 cm into the air each time. Very cool spider.
Anyway we backtracked out of the rainforest. We ended up at the second waterfall (as unimpresive as the first) and wandered back to the bike.
It was ultimately an exhausting day of hiking with many very steep paths of very dubious quality. In the end though it just made the morning-caught baracuda in curry and fried with ginger taste that much better.