So....i left off last time on the way to Pai. It was about a 4 hour minibus ride. After half an hour i sawa sign saying that it was 91 km away, ah we'll be there in no time then! Ha. Epic mountain roads. Weaving our way up one and then down, with hairpin turns at every corner. It was pretty fun, but probably wouldn't be so great if you get carsick easily! I met an aussie girl on the minibus whose name i can't remember now. Anyway, we got into Pai and i set off in search of 'Breeze of Pai' guesthouse, and she tagged along because she had no idea where she was going. Pai itself is an awesome place, small mountain town thats grown in size because plenty of tourists come out this way looking for treks/whitewater. So, found the guesthouse, one of the nicest i've stayed in, for sure. Spent the rest of the day talking to a bunch of white water rafting companies to see who had the best deal/people signed up for a 2 day trip leaving the next day. Found what i wanted, ate some damn tasty food, as usual. Chilled out in a hammock by the river, reading, and watching them build a new bridge across it, which was pretty cool.
So then, two days of awesomeness followed. It was nothing short of amazing. One of the highlights of my trip for sure. We had an awesome bunch of people, there were 6 of us all together. Myself, 2 americans, 1 canadian, 1 dutch and our legendary guide Phoo. We basically spent two amazing days hitting some sweet rapids, and seeing a part of the world that is only visible by travelling along the river. We'd pass by huge cliffs, dense forest, with kingfishers flying around, and even some monkeys. The first day was bright sunshine for most of it, but then a light rain came. For some reason this just made me think we were in a rambo film :D It really did feel like we were in the middle if nowhere, which we were. Sometime after lunch we reached a bridge which we had to carry the boat around, but once we did this Phoo told us we could jump off the bridge into the tail end of a rapid. Sweet.
I remember Josh going first, then i jumped in. It was all good until i realised i'd taken a bit too much time to swim out of the rapid into the eddy i was supposed to get into, so i got sucked further down river than planned. And then, pretty stupidly, rather than just let it take its course i tried hanging onto some rocks near the side but where the current was still very strong. I was trying to hide in a small eddy behind one of the rocks, but the current was too strong, and i ended up bashing my knee pretty hard on one of the rocks. Phoo later told me this was the worst injuries someone had got when he has been guiding for 7 years! Oops. The cut was pretty deep, but luckily it was below the knee and above the shin so it wasn't the worst place to get it. Once we set off again we had a quick surf in the rapid we had just been jumping in. It was pretty beefy, and Phoo took us in a little more towards 90 degrees rather than 45 degrees, so we got hit by a huge rush of water. From this, me and the dutch guy in the back next to me, Tony, got catapulted out of the boat, but somehow upstream of the boat! Earlier in the day, Phoo had told us 'your paddle is your boarding pass, don't drop it!' Well, while flying out of the boat, i managed to forget this bit of information, instead swimming back to the boat and grabbing the safety line in the middle, and getting hauled back in, by which point tony was already back in the boat. It took me a few seconds to realise that i had dropped my paddle, but Phoo had already seen and we were setting off downstream to grab it! There was another rapid we had to get through, and eventually caught up with my paddle! I felt a little bit sheepish, i'd dropped my boarding pass! It was a strange rush of water that sent me and Tony out of the boat, Alex, Josh and Layla who were sat in front of us had ridden through it ok, and were suprised to turn back and see me and Tony no longer there!
So we continued down river, some more fun rapids, but no more getting chucked out! Phoo had this mysterious bottle, and earlier in the day someone had asked him what it was. He told us that it was his special medicine. Well, once we got to a calmer bit, he gave us all a lid-full. It was little bit of a mixture of special natural ingredients, mixed with a lot of his dad's rice whisky! It was good stuff. And so about half an hour after this, we stopped randomly on a shore, Phoo cut down some Bamboo, and kept chopping down this piece into a smaller and smaller bit. Eventually we realised what he was doing, he was making a shot glass! So we did another shot there, then a couple more before we made it to the camp for the night. It was about an hour before the sun went down when we got there, so we unloaded the boat, and checked out the camp.
It was all made of Bamboo. A couple of long rectangular perched huts which were for sleeping in, with mosquito nets etc, a big dining room/kitchen area, everything was cooked on fire. Once i got changed into my dry clothes, i went to Phoo to clean my wound. He asked me if i wanted to try some natural remedies. Sure! So he found some leaves which he translated as meaning 'smells like tiger'......i couldn't smell the tiger. But anyway, he tore up and squished the leaves in a cup, then put them on my wound. He was pushing this wad deep into my wound, so naturally i was saying 'argggg' a little. So then i held the wad there for a while. He went and got a banana leaf stalk, cut out strips from the fleshy inside of it, which he put over the green wad. Then using the harder, stringy part of the banana leaf he tied it around my leg to keep everything in place! Well, it definitely made it feel better, the water we were rafting in was brown, so probably wasn't the cleanest!
There were two guys who pretty much live at this jungle camp to cook food for the groups who stayed here. They made us a fantastic dinner, with chicken wings, some awesome veggie and pork dish, other stuff that i can't even remember now. There was more than enough, so we were all very happy and full. And starfruit for dessert. Awesome. We sat and chatted for a bit, at some point Phoo started to talk to us about Buddism for a while, and while it was interesting, it turned out to be something of a monologue that lasted for quite some time! So eventually we went off to bed feeling very sleepy. All we could hear were the sounds of the jungle, and the sound of the river. While eating dinner we could hear a frog making its mating call, it seemed to be lonely. For anyone that's been to this part of the world, you'll know of the women who walk around Bangkok/various big cities with those wooden frogs that have ridges on their backs. When you play the ridges with a stick, it sounds a little bit like a frog. Anyway, there are lots of these, everywhere, trying to sell you them. So we were laughing at the thought that one of these women was perched in the jungle playing a wooden frog, rather than it being real. I think it was one of those 'you had to be there' moments.
I slept pretty well, we cleaned my wound with stuff in the morning and sprayed some stuff over it to try to keep it waterproof-ish. We had an awesome breakfast, and set off again. Bright sunshine, there was no rapids for the first hour or so. Then we got to some more good ones. The biggest ones were class 3 apparently, with more rainfall they would become level 4, but it's hard to predict when the heavy rains would come and they only become level 4 for a few days here and there. We stopped for lunch, which, again, was really good. The rapids eased off a bit, and we got to the first place where we could do some cliff jumping. The first one was about 9 metres, with a tough climb to get up there. I gave it a miss, because my knee wasn't feeling to great with pressure on it. Alex, Josh and Layla did it, and fair play to them. A little bit further down river we reached another cliff, which was only around 6 metres, with a much easier climb. I knew i'd regret it if i didn't do it, so i followed the others up. Josh went first, and told us he'd touched the bottom, then Alex, who also touched the bottom, and then Layla, who, suprisingly, also touched the bottom. So then i stood up to the edge. It definitely looks a lot higher from up here! And so a few seconds later i jumped off, and didn't touch the bottom! However, on my second jump i did :D
So that was really fun. We were drifting closer and closer to the end point, admiring the amazing scenery for one last time. Once we got to the end point we tried to get some group photo's of us in the boat. We perched the camera's on a fence and then ran back to the boat. I managed to lose 2 flip flops in the mud/water while running back, but somehow Phoo managed to find them. We had showers, bought some beer and jumped in the back of the sangewethu (pick up truck with two benches on the back which is covered) and rode back to Pai, which was now 3 hours away! The journey back was fun, drinking and talking, watching the road behind us. It was another very twisty road.
Once back in Pai i went back to the Breeze of Pai guesthouse as i'd left most of my stuff there, and the others went nearby. We went and had dinner, and ended up going for a few drinks in a couple of places. One of them was an outdoor place called 'Ting Tongs' which was just outside of the main town, and had campfires and a pretty chilled atmosphere. So we drank, and wandered back into town, which was all closed up and empty by the time we came back, except for all the dogs running around. I swear, dogs roam round these places like they own the place, its hilarious. They take naps on the roads, and so people just have to go round them. Anyways, that's all for now folks. I'm still pretty far behind on this, i have about 5 days before i'm off to New Zealand, a few of those days i'll be spending in Bangkok, so i'll probably have some time to catch up a bit more!