Sunday, May 30, 2010
Bokeo, Laos: Ziplines, Hikes and LEECHES
The videos and photos say it better, but the Gibbon Experience definitely lived up to expectations. Which is saying a lot since I have been thinking and dreaming about doing it ever since Mike showed me the link well over a year ago (thanks Mike, my South East Asia mentor ;) I suppose I should explain the title of this post. This last adventure in Laos before saying goodbye to this amazing country was 3 days in the Bokeo Rainforest consisting of 2-3 hours of hiking each day, sleeping in a treehouse about 150 feet up that you reach via zipline. The rainy season is starting to move in here, so there have been heavy rains most nights, but clear and still SWLERTING during the day and on our inital hike in. But I was feeling good - and cocky about my awesome 100% waterproof half sandle, half hiking shoes that I reallllly didn't want to buy at REI back in March. The hike was muddy and we had to cross countless rivers and streams. Some of which had two-bamboo-planks-wide bridges to use for crossing; which I really am not a fan of. Anyone who knows me, knows that balance and grace are not exaclty my strong suites. Plus, I've already had one embarassing fall from one of those in Vietnam - much to the joy of my hiking buddies, one of whom thankfully was carrying my camera at the time! SO anyway, I just went trapsing right through all the water and sludge thinking how glad I was I wasn't wearing big old hiking boots. About 3 hours in we reach a waterfall with a swimming hole at which point I take off my left shoe to reveal not 1 BUT 3 leeches on my feet, one of which had obviously been there for some time as it was HUGE. After, I am embarrased to say, a frantic swatting at my feet with a stick and the girliest shrieks ever, I managed to clear them off and calm down. Of course only long enough to find 2 more on my OTHER foot. This time I paused long enough to get a photo of it - not as big as the first, but still GROSS, not mention annoying because the small bites DO NOT stop bleeding! Thanks to my Weird True and Freaky trivia I remembered that leeches anesthetize you once they bite with their saliva so you don't feel them at ALL. Needless to say, the next three days of hikes were spent with an eagle-eye out for approaching leeches which turned out to be EVERYWHERE. If you stopped for a minute on the trail you'd spot at least 5 if not more inching their way over, reaching up just waiting for some poor innocent flesh to walk by. And now I've gone on for two paraghraphs about a few leech bites. I'm choosing to hike in the forest in Laos, so what did I expect I guess, right? And I haven't even explained about the Ziplines...Once the major days hike was through with the rest of the day was spent Zipling around the jungle canopy and across stunning valleys. Zip-walk a little way to the next-Zip-Walk-Zip. By the third day of zipping you start to feel pretty confident with it and can kick your feel out, lay back and let your hands free and really get going fast. Its got to be the closest feeling to flying. If only it wasn't over so quickly! Eventually you zip back into the AWESOME treehouse you are sharing with just three other people - which was really nice because you never had to wait long at the ziplines. Then for dinner, you'd hear the zipline singing and look over to find one of the guides crusing in with your meal on his shoulder. It was so funny. The first time I hooked up to the zipline on that first day and looked over the ledge it hit me that I was actually THERE. It felt surreal because I have been dreaming about the Gibbon Experience for so long and talking about it to just about anyone who would listen back in San Fran while planning this trip . It feels a bit weird that it's over now! But, I came back to civilization to find that my insurance void in Thailand was lifted to only Bangkok; so I am spending a few days in the VERY laid-back Pai in Northern Thailand, soaking in some Yoga and lots of live jazz and reggae music before flying down to Malaysia at the end of the week. Up here, you'd never know there was any turmoil gooing on in the country whatsoever.