BootsnAll Travel Network

Bokeo Province Jungle: Tracking Gibbons

We woke a little after 5am to the sounds of sirens floating through the jungle. That’s what they sounded like, the gibbons. Like sirens. Their beautiful singing was a continually rising and dipping note, that soared between the trees. We couldn’t see them, but they were close.

At 5.30am we heard the distinctive whiz of someone on a zip line coming towards the treehouse. It was our guide, bringing with him some fresh fruit to snack on before we hit the jungle floor and went tracking gibbons. For about twenty minutes we followed a narrow muddy track through the jungle, before the guide, a tiny man, maybe five foot three and dressed all in black, turned off the path and into the jungle proper. Bec and I followed as best we could, stepping gingerly, pushing huge leaves and branches out of our faces, grimacing when we reached out a hand to support ourselves and landed on a spiked stem. The guide stopped, and we listened for the gibbons’ call. This way, he pointed, and we raced through the jungle as fast as we could.

But the faster you try and move through the thick undergrowth, the slower you go. You get caught on every little branch, on every little spike. Vines wrap themselves around your legs like trip wires, as you neglect to step over them properly. We lost sight of our guide, camouflaged in the early morning darkness, until hearing a whistle up to our right. Ah, there he is.

For an hour we crouched and crawled and looked and listened, and wiped the sweat from our brows with our forearms like old bushmen. But the gibbons had gone. Too elusive for our eyes. Back to the path we went (How the guide knew which way to go, I have no idea. I guess that’s why he’s the guide and I’m the clumsy white guy with legs covered in bloodied scratches).

Back to the treehouse, which was an adventure in itself, as each time we entered or left involved a thrilling zip line ride. The guide would return at 10am to lead us on another trek through the jungle. Unfortunately though, Bec would have to skip out on this one; her dodgy knee had had its fill of stepping up and down muddy jungle tracks. Whilst we waited for the guide, a few of the others zipped in to check out our treehouse.

“How was your night?” asked Mary Louise, a friendly American from Oregan.
“Yeah, pretty good,” replied Bec nonchalantly. “We got engaged.”
“Huh?!? Here, last night?!”

The congratulations came thick and fast, and more heartfelt and meaningful than you’d expect from a group of people we’d only met the day before. There’s nothing like a river crossing, a trek through the jungle, and some flying through the air on a zip line to fast-track friendships.

Bec then waited behind at the treehouse, while I joined the other ten travelers and a couple of guides on a three hour trek further into the jungle. We covered a hell of a distance though, thanks to a couple of huge zip lines that skipped us right across deep valleys. Forty-five seconds of flying through the air surrounded by nothing but jungle covered mountains, yeah, that’s the way to trek.

Later, back at our treehouse, we spent another beautiful evening watching the sky change, and seeing some huge storm clouds roll in from the distance filled with flashes of lightning. Rain overnight would be bad news, as it would mean the 4WD would not be able to cross the river or survive the disastrously muddied track to come and meet us. An eight our hike out of the jungle would be the only option to get out the next day. And with Bec’s bad knee, this was not what we wanted.

But rain it did. Non-stop through the night. Damn.

Next morning, and we had time for a few last minute zips across the jungle before we took breakfast and began the trek out. The clouds were still hanging around in the valley in front of our treehouse, meaning from where you stood hooked onto the zip line at the bottom of our tree, you couldn’t see the other side of the valley. Taking a running start and then floating out into the clouds was a tremendous feeling. Out in the middle of the huge zip line, flying along at speed, there was nothing around me but cloud. All I could see was cloud to my left, cloud to my right, cloud below my feet, and infront of me a black cable running off into the nothingness. A surreal experience I doubt I will ever have again.

For the expected seven hour trek, we taped Bec’s knee pretty solidly, and she loaded up on pain killers. The first two hours of trekking were tough. Solid hills where the mud meant each step was taken gingerly took the wind out of everyone, and got my heart beating right up in my throat. I grabbed Bec’s hand as we waded through the thigh deep muddy water of a small river. Back through the tiny village we went, until, after two-and-a-half hours, we heard the sweetest jungle sound of all; the revving engine of a Land Rover.

It was bringing a fresh load of people in for the Gibbon Experience, and so we stopped and waited whilst it dropped them off further back on the track, and then came back to pick us up. Those dirty old uncomfortable bench seats in the back had never looked so good!

Filthy, tired, hungry and thirsty, but happier even than Larry, we arrived back in Huay Xai, took a few group photos, and went our separate ways for a badly needed shower before the group met up later that evening for some well earned beers.

Now there’s a couple of days I don’t believe I will ever forget!

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2 Responses to “Bokeo Province Jungle: Tracking Gibbons”

  1. Bec Says:

    Unforgettable is certainly the word for our time there.

  2. Posted from Lao People's Democratic Republic Lao People's Democratic Republic
  3. Mark Hogan Says:

    Yeah, but did the EFTPOS work when you got back?

    Congrats guys, great news all round!

  4. Posted from Australia Australia
  5. admin Says:

    Mate, I’m getting to that…… (but thanks for reminding me, I’m starting to forget a few details now that we’re trying to organise a wedding in Australia whilst we journey through Laos)

  6. Posted from Lao People's Democratic Republic Lao People's Democratic Republic

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