After checking into our new abode we grabbed a quick hours kip and hit the streets of Chang Mai to look at some more temples. Although still very hot it wasn't half as bad as Bangkok as we had the luxury of being able to breathe real air! Soon reached our temple threshold and feeling a little like heathens we retired to the bar for a couple of cold beers. Unfortunately we chose Beer Chang (the local brew) - it has a picture of an elephant on the label which should have warned us..... it feels like an elephants stamped on your head the morning after the changs before.
Despite the Changs we were up with the lark the next day to head off into the hills for a 3 day trek with non other than our very own Mr Chang who also did our heads in (more of that later).
We departed Chang Mai with Simon crammed into the back of a pickup truck with 10 Germans and a Dutch guy. Mrs P had the first class ticket and got to sit in the front with Chang and the driver (with air con and safety belt) - great way to endear yourself to the group! All was not a bed of roses as Mrs P had an active role with the gearchanges as the gearstick was between her knees - great way to bond with the driver though!
First stop Changs mates stall at the local market to stock up on essential loo roll etc for the trip. Headed out of town for a couple hours to a scenic spot for lunch followed by a half hour romp up hill to a beautiful waterfall for a quick dip and cool down. Unfortunately Mrs P was a little over enthusiastic and managed to trip over in the waterfall and trash her big toe on a rock - no major damage just a very gory bleeding mangled toe nail, a concerned husband and a quick trip to hospital! (Sorry Mum! - promise I'm ok now!)
After that we walked for a couple of hours to get to the Karen village (population 42) where we stayed overnight with resident mosquitoes, spiders and pigs. Had a great evening chatting with the group who very kindly spoke English for us, drank a little beer chang (sharing bottles as we have more respect for it now!) and looked out on the biggest sky doted with thousands of stars - it was extremely beautiful. Despite being open to the elements and the most amazing thunder and lightening display, we both slept like babies and woke with the cockerel in the early hours of Sunday morning. Set off from the village for a couple of hours serious trekking with Chang telling us every half hour that we only had another 25 minutes to walk - we think he only knew "25 minutes" in English. One very disturbing aspect of the trek was the presence of leeches - Mrs P was especially delighted to be wearing sandals (only shoes that would fit over the new bandage) which allowed even easier access for leeches. Mr P being ever the optimist declared the "Bages" (Mrs Ps sandals) to be "the best possible footwear option as you can see when a leech attaches itself" . Mrs P was less than convinced and somewhat peeved at Mr P's leechfree feet comfortably nestled in his hiking boots! Unbeknownst to the boot wearers though the leeches were very persistent characters and after an hours trekking the boot wearers became aware that boots and socks are no barrier for leeches - they just provide cover for bloodsucking activity . Mr P was right after all!
So after a couple of very stressful hours leech trekking (Mrs P taking the bages off every few steps for "leech watch") we arrived at an elephant camp where we boarded our very own elephant limo for a really cool mooch down river. Once we relaxed into the experience it was brilliant although there was one very tense moment when the bull elephant behind us got a little overexcited and showed us his fifth leg.
That night we set up camp at another village next to the river and had a blinding evening round the campfire listening to one of the group playing the guitar. Not satisfied with drinking whiskey made from rice and larvae Simon proceeded to enjoy fried larvae with far too much enthusiasm. (Editors note - Mrs P has JUST found out the whiskey was made with larvae, she didn't realize that at the time when quaffing shots of it!)
Monday morning arrived and we headed down to the river for a spot of bamboo 'rafting'. We loaded our bags and bodies onto the raft and proceeded to sink. Mr Chang was not perturbed and confidently strapped one more length of bamboo to the raft. Good god man - could we not push the raft out and put a few more on? So with one added bamboo and only marginally sinking we headed off down stream. Within about 10 minutes Mr Chang crashed his raft into some rocks and split it in half. All the bags sunk and the passengers got a dip in the very brown river. Fortunately we were on the other raft with the porter who was a far more experienced rafter. The poor people on the broken raft then had to walk uphill for two hours with the porter while Mr Chang commandeered our raft (added a few more bags to ensure sinkage) put Simon in charge of steering and set off again down stream. We thought it'd be OK - it looks just like punting. But we were barely afloat and Mr P had a busy time ahead. Mrs P had a very attractive plastic bag on her leg to keep the toe bandage dry - the bag only proved useful for collecting water. Mr P did a sterling job counteracting Mr Changs inept rafting. At one point the 'raft' was at a ninety degree angle to the water with Mrs P holding the bags on board and Mr P frantically trying to right the vessel. To say it was an adrenaline rush is an understatement. Shortly after the vertical raft incident Mr P took a quick dip overboard when he got his bamboo pole caught in a tree! Against the odds we made it safely down stream (editors note - Mr P would like to point out at this stage "it was NOT downstream - it was a bloody torrent of raging white water") and once the fear of the rafting passed we turned our thoughts to the very dubious brown water we had been soaked with.
Arrived back in Chang Mai yesterday night (Monday) and Mr P came over all grey and weary and took to bed early with rafting aches and pains. Today we've mooched around town stocking up on essential items for the next leg of our trip. Found a great second hand book shop so bought a couple of books and will hock our old reads in later. Tomorrow we're going to head to Chang Rai en route to the border with Laos.