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February 02, 2005

Climbing Doi Chiang Dao: Part 2

Once we left the peak, we hurried down the trail towards the campsite. It was getting dark fast, and the temperature was dropping. Before long, the air was cold, steam was pouring from our mouths, and the stars began to peak out from behind the night sky.

Chat was busy setting us up for dinner. He layed out a trash bag next to the campfire, and Rung prepared our meal. Shaunna and I set up our sleeping bags and changed into warmer clothes. Once the meal was ready, we each had a small bowl of rice and shared additional food from a communal spread. We had stir-fried veggetables, spicy pork sausage, cucumber soup, chili paste (called Nam Plick), and salted cashews. We had an awesome time talking to each other in Thai and flipping through my phrasebook.

I noticed Chat cutting the tops off of our water bottles and making little shot glasses. He pulled out the Coke bottle I carried up the mountain and said, "Whisky?"

We started cheering and laughing. I had no idea I was carrying the whisky all this time. The whisky was more like moonshine (it was clear and had a flavor like cheap tequila). After 6 shots and a couple cigarettes (I even smoked one), we were stone cold drunk. It was the perfect way to end the torturous climb up the mountain.

Shaunna mentioned to me how something as simple as sharing a meal can bring total strangers together. Indeed, after a day of hiking through hell, I felt like I knew Rung and Chat well enough to get trashed with them on the side of the mountain. It was an experience I will never forget.

We went to sleep around 9pm feeling totally buzzed from the experience... and the whisky.

I woke up at 5am, again.

My legs were tight and my back was killing me. I through my sleeping bag on Shaunna, who spent most of the night shivering from the cold. Outside, I walked about through camp, stretched, practiced my breathing exercises, and listened to the birds chirping. Once the sun rose, I heard a pack of monkeys waking up in the thicket of trees close to our camp. Their shouting was actually kinda fierce, and I was thankful that I never got to see any of them up close. They sounded pretty big (although Rung assured me they were the size of a small baby).

We had breakfast at 7am, which consisted of a hearty hot cereal mix, fruit (like a sweet grapefruit, but not as bitter), bread & jam, dried river fish, stir-fried cabbage, pork sausage, and Nam Plick. It was a massive meal that we, once again, shared communally.

We left the campsite at 9am and took a new route to get back down the mountain. At first, I though this was a good thing. But I regret it. Our new trail went straight over the ridge to the South and then headed down the steepest incline we had seen yet. It headed straight through a thick jungle. The soil was a soft, loose red dirt that erupted in dust clouds with every step. Due to the texture and soft quality of the trail, Shaunna and I fell down at least two dozen times. Whenever I felt my feet slip, I through my weight backwards in order to land on my ass rather than slide face first down the mountain.

This hike down the mountain was so painful on our knees. Once again, I felt like a total novice on the trail, despite the countless mountain hikes of my past. Shaunna was nearly in tears at one point as her legs were wobbly, her knees were searing with pain, and she kept hitting the ground. Rung took pity on us and cut us some walking sticks for us to brace ourselves. Naturally, he and Chat never once fell down even though the shoes they wore weren't made for hiking. Hell, Chat wore camo-colored Chuck Taylors (which are made for basketball and have no tread at all). These guys were totally hardcore... smoking, laughing, and acting like it was a stroll in the park.

We broke for lunch, which consisted of more rice, three types of sausage, dried fish, apples, and Nam Plick.... communally, once again. We hastily finished lunch and hit the trail for the final climb.

The trail took us all the way back to town. When we arrived in town, we followed by a mountain stream to a nearby bus stop. We sat on the side of the stream and washed our faces, hands and feet. We were completely spent. Shaunna collapsed on a bench, and I sat quietly wondering what the hell just happened. Local villagers walked past and snickered to Rung and Chat. Some of the staff from Chiang Dao Nest arrived on motorbikes and gave us a lift back to the resort.

Once we got there, we bought our guides some Beer Changs and laughed about the experience we shared. Shaunna was totally covered in dirt from sliding on her ass down the mountain (not once, but multiple times), and my legs were aching so bad I could barely walk. But the cold beers and the final laughs were an awesome reward. It's easy to take simple things like this for granted, but it was a sweet finale to our trip. We were sad to say goodbye to our new friends, but after six beers it was time to stumble to our next resort.

A cab showed up and took us to Chiang Dao Nest 2, the second part of this resort run by Wiccha's sister, Oh.

Posted by coywest on February 2, 2005 03:20 PM
Category: Out and About

now that sounds like a kick ass trip. i hope you took alot of pics of the mountain and the beautiful forrest girl who dwells in it.

Posted by: bobby-jo on February 2, 2005 09:41 PM

wonderful descriptions, coy! i'm so thankful you are taking the time to make us feel part of your trip. LOVE YOU BOTH!

Posted by: Dawn T on February 2, 2005 11:59 PM

fresh - those mountain guide homies sound like my kind of homies! glad you made it down the mountain in one piece though.. did I ever tell you that English Dave aka Daz climbed Killiminjaro on Africa once?

Long story short, he caught something out there and his skin had a pale greenish tint to it for a year after!!

or maybe it was the harsh light at KVRX studios and the drinking ;) LOL

Posted by: waxmatik on February 4, 2005 12:39 AM
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