Goodbye Ao Nang.... I must admit I had to be torn away from this beautiful paradise.
We packed up and got ready to move onto Khao Sok National Park, located around 180 kilometres north of Ao Nang. I honestly thought I had left behind leeches and hard core trekking in Malaysia, I was soon to be proven wrong. Thats the fantastic thing about Asia I have discovered. You never know what to expect and when you think you do you are completely wrong.
|Stopped for a cold drink along the way.|
The ride to the little town of outside Khao Sok National Park was beautiful, winding with fantastic pot hole free roads. Although we did have a few shall we say interesting detours when our GPS decided not to play fair.
|Our jungle hut.|
We arrived and quickly found a very accommodating jungle cabin up a very steep and slippery path. After a shower and a fantastic feed of Thai Green curry and Pad Thai at a local restaurant (soon to become our favourite food hot spot). It was quickly decided that we both must try a night on a floating village along with trail hiking, swimming and of course enjoying the abundance of wildlife and other activities on Cheow Larn Lake. Meanwhile I was hoping that the leech I found in my sandals were not a foresight of what was to come.
|Pad Thai... Can it be beaten?|
We woke early to enjoy some breakfast at Pawn's restaurant and jumped into our mini van for what felt like a 200 km/hr white knuckled ride to the Ratchaprapha Dam. The dam was built 95m by 700 metres and a large amount of the National Park's 645 square kilometres was flooded. Killing countless birds, mammals, flora, reptiles and fish. The fish population lost 50 species to the flood as the fish could not adapt to the new environments. It is beautiful yes but at the same time it is immensely saddening. So many creatures have lost their lives and habitat for the purpose of hydroelectric power.
|Chaotic looking dock|
In order to reach our destination there was an hour long, long tail boat ride to our floating beds. Limestone cliffs and mountains bordered the pristine clear blue waters. Dead leafless trees scattered around small islands of solitude.
|Ye old cliffs...|
Where you can imagine to just lay there on the shore for hours on end. The waters seemed perfect for water skiing with Neil constantly commenting “man I wish I had a water ski!”
|Longtail boat ride to the Lake houses.|
So around twelve of us arrived just in time for a quick dip in our sheltered little bay followed by a lovely lunch of mixed stir fries.
|River huts on the lake. Simply gorgeous spot.|
Once lunch concluded and Neil ran to the two person kayak keen to explore and try to find a Hornbill. For an hour or so we paddled along finding little waterfalls, birds and beautiful ancient tall and majestic trees. I must admit I am not talented in the arts of paddling so it probably took a bit out of Neil trying to manoeuvre the slowly sinking vessel.
We returned in time to get ready for our cave and trekking adventure. It took a few minutes by long tail boat to reach our starting point. As the leech population was minimal I had an opportunity to enjoy the every aspect of the jungle. Although it was a little unnerving to find quite large holes along the side of the path apparently from tarantulas.
|The beginning trail was open jungle.|
We passed beautiful waterfalls, rivers, limestone mountains an overall wonderful experience. Although my absolute favourite moment consisted of my first caving adventure. After leaving our belongings outside and donning our headlamps and swimmers we squeezed through a small gap in the rock into the unknown.
|Getting through the cracks.|
|High heels not recommended.|
|Enjoying a sit down. Smiling prohibited.|
During the dry season it would be possible to reach all the way to the end of the cave. So we only got half way before we were to return. Although the beautiful rock formations and half swimming/climbing environment was breath taking. It made the trip for me.
|I did it!|
After the trekking was done we returned for some free time on the pontoon while we waited for dinner. This gave an opportunity for chat with some new friends made. It is funny how Australians always get placed with New Zealanders and Canadians. (Thanks Josh and Ashley for the good time. Sorry we didn't meet up at the bar but the music was horrible and the pina colada equally horrid! We do hope to meet up again.)
|Call him the butterfly whisperer.|
After a fantastic dinner of whole fish, Massaman Curry (an old favourite), stir fry vegetables and rice we headed off for our night jungle tour. Where we managed to spot some sleeping Hornbills and the eyes of a Soviet cat. Which we reckoned was the Bengal Cat or basically a large looking house cat.
The morning came with the deliverance of the largest and thickest pancakes I have ever seen. A long tail ride along the lake took us to our second trek. Which was epic the hike uphill made me question my fitness although the resulting downhill journey let me catch my breath.
|Enjoying a break towards the top, the tree was equally tall as it was wide!|
Lunch was taken on top of a nice spot outlooking the beautiful lake below. Once finished it was time to head back to our spot near the entrance of the park some 60 kilometres away.
We returned exhausted from our lake/cave/jungle adventure so excited to see what Khao Sok National Park would bring tomorrow....
|Thumbs up from our great tour guide.|