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The elephant heck . . . er, trek

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The Impossible Scheme

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A Lisu hill tribe girl

RIVER TREKS from CHIANG MAI     I didn't find the day trips out of Chiang Mai satisfying at all.   Elephant rides were ten minutes in and out of the jungle.  Village visit went directly to hill tribe stalls with women selling souvenirs.  I heard the treks were good and I had to give them a try. 

I knew exactly the kind of trip I was in for when I saw the transportation.  It was a mini-sized, open air, truck.  Rainy season had started and the thought of slipping off the side of a mountain made it scary.  I was very glad to finally walk. That didn't last long.  It was very slippery going down the mountain.  I wasn't the first to fall -- but I fell best -- twice!

The village wasn't as remote as hoped for. There were cars, motorcycles, tin roofs, and even a satellite dish. But, hey, there was also ice cold Coke.

The hike on day two was eight miles but, thankfully, most of it was flat.  There were several streams to cross.  Each time I took off shoes and socks in an effort to have dry feet.  We reached the elephant camp none too soon.  I cleaned my shoes one more time and threw away another pair of socks.

The elephant ride was vastly different from the day trip experience.  We crowded onto the elephants with two people per wooden seat and one on the head.  I was on the head.  It was very difficult to find a comfortable position.  We crossed by rice fields, along jungle trails, up banks, through rivers, and into areas we never knew elephants could go.  My legs were really ready when the two hours ended.

I was ready to not hike, and I sure didn't want to ride another elephant.  But, my Buddha!  The canoe trip wasn't what I expected.   The raft was 15 bamboo poles tied together.  When seven of us climbed aboard, most of the raft went under water.  I'd tried for two days to keep my shoes dry but this time it was impossible.  We stood, attempting to balance, for four hours down river.  At one point we very nearly flipped over, but Lope's record of no spills somehow remained in tact.  He couldn't swim and on occasion said passengers had fallen off.  If they couldn't reach his bamboo pole, they would have been out of luck.

The shoes had to go as soon as I got back to Chiang Mai.

Copyright 1998 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.