Le Grand Détour

Khao Sok, jungle trekking

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france_french_flag Le ciel est couvert ce matin mais nous savons que ça ne va pas durer. Nous récupérons les sandwichs que Nan a préparés pour nous et attendons quelques minutes la navette qui nous conduira à l’entrée du parc. Aujourd’hui nous partons explorer la jungle, juste tous les deux, sans guide, à la découverte de quelques unes des sept « fameuses » chutes d’eau de Khao Soc.

Nous nous acquittons des 600 bahts d’entrée et nous partons, suivant le parcours de la toute petite carte qui nous a été fournie. L’auteur de la traduction anglaise de ce mini fascicule a peut-être séché les cours de marketing et de communication car la description des points d’intérêt n’est pas très flatteuse. « Cette cascade mérite à peine son nom puisqu’il ne s’agit que de modestes rapides », « Pas grand chose à voir sur cette partie de la rivière »… Il s’agit peut-être d’un touriste déçu par sa visite ici. Et il n’a pas complètement tort à vrai dire. Enfin, cela dépend des attentes que l’on a. Si l’on vend le parc pour ses superbes cascades, on est clairement dans la publicité mensongère comme nous n’allons pas tarder à le découvrir. En revanche, si l’on souhaite faire une balade dans la jungle profonde en remontant le cours d’une rivière avec quelques beaux points de vue, alors là on est déjà plus dans le vrai…

En guise de trek, le chemin est d’abord relativement large et balisé mais il n’y a quasiment personne. Il fait très chaud, nous dégoulinons. Quittant le chemin principal, nous empruntons un petit sentier tout en suivant la rivière. Nous marchons prudemment car la trace est périlleuse et pleine de racines mais nous voulons aussi faire le moins de bruit possible pour ne pas effrayer d’éventuels animaux. Même si les rencontres sont rares, nous aimerions bien tomber nez à nez avec les gros habitants de cette jungle sauvage.

Nous retrouvons le chemin principal et à peine quelques secondes plus tard, nous nous arrêtons net : un singe saute de branche en branche par-dessus le chemin juste au-dessus de nos têtes. Yes ! Il suffisait de demander, quoi 😉 Ca fait longtemps qu’on avait envie de voir des singes en liberté et à l’état sauvage. Rien que pour ça, la balade vaut le coup. Son camouflage est incroyable : si nous ne l’avions pas vu sauter au-dessus de nous, nous serions passé à côté sans nous douter de rien. Comme quoi il faut avoir l’oeil dans la jungle. Nous l’observons quelques minutes puis nous repartons, tous guillerets.

Comme le précisait le fascicule, les chutes des points N°1 et N°2 sont décevantes car il s’agit plutôt de rapides et encore, pas de gros rapides. Mais le point de vue est joli et nous avons vraiment l’impression d’être dans la jungle.

A partir du point N°2, le chemin se transforme en véritable trail comme celui que nous avons fait au Laos : tout petit sentier glissant, plein de racines avec la rivière à plusieurs dizaines de mètres en contre-bas. Le faux-pas serait fatal. Nous avançons prudemment. Nous ne tardons pas à faire une autre rencontre, beaucoup moins sympathique celle-ci, avec les sangsues locales. L’une d’elles m’a déjà pompé le tibia et alors que je la vire, une autre est en train de remonter le long de mon short. Dégage ! Sale bête ! Heureusement qu’il ne pleut pas car ça serait rapidement très désagréable.

Nous atteignons la bifurcation du point N°3 mais décidons de poursuivre jusqu’au point N°4 pour déjeuner. Sans le savoir nous venons de louper une bande de singes qui s’ébattaient de l’autre côté de la rivière. Dommage.

Ca grimpe, ça descend, ça glisse, ça sangsue et ça sue mais nous parvenons finalement à la « chute » du point N°4. Toujours aussi décevant en tant que chute, l’endroit fera néanmoins un bon point de pique-nique. Quelques minutes plus tard un petit groupe d’allemands nous rejoint et nous parlent des singes du point N°3.

Nous terminons nos sandwichs et revenons sur nos pas à travers la jungle, en espérant voir les singes du point N°3, non sans faire de nombreux arrêts « sangsues ».

Les singes ne nous ont malheureusement pas attendus. Au point N°3 nous sommes seuls au bord de l’eau. C’est « calme ». Enfin, pas tout à fait. L’occasion d’un haiku :

Jungle au bord de l’eau

Tous ces animaux qui chantent

L’oeil n’en voit aucun

Nous repartons après une bonne pause zen.

Le chemin du retour vers l’entrée du parc semble plus court qu’à l’aller mais la température n’a pas baissé, ça c’est sûr ! Nous continuons vers notre bungalow, à pied cette fois sous le soleil implaccable.

En chemin nous nous arrêtons au temple des singes. Il s’agit d’une grande grotte avec des statues de Bouddha non loin desquelle une « tribu » de singes a élu domicile. Très peu farouches, ils n’hésitent pas à s’approcher du touriste de passage pour quémander de la nourriture. Et ils ont visiblement l’habitude de ces visites. Il y en a bien une trentaine, avec plusieurs tous petits qui sont accrochés au ventre de leur mère. Je leur donne plusieurs morceaux de bananes ce qui me vaut immédiatement un succès fou… Mais moins fou que cet autre jeune touriste qui se retrouvera avec un singe sur l’épaule qui ne le quittera qu’après lui avoir uriné dessus. Nice.

Nous sommes de retour chez Nan vers 16h15, de quoi s’offrir une fin après-midi relax, à siroter un thé au gingembre sur notre balcon tout en rattrapant tranquillement nos aventures sur le blog.

Le soir nous dégustons d’autres plats cuisinés par Nan, toujours aussi délicieux.

Voilà, notre dernière aventure réellement touristique en Thaïlande se termine.

english_flag Nan had offered to take us on her scooter to the Khao Sok park entrance (her idea), but this morning she’s had a change of heart and has booked a pick-up truck for us instead. It’s kind of a relief though as I think she was planning on all three of us being on the moped at the same time…and maybe her son too! Once in the pick-up though, it seems a lot further than 2.6km we were told it was to get to the park’s entrance.

Having paid our 300 baht entrance fee, we duly signed the log book at the desk noting the date and entry time, our first and last names, our nationality and the name of hotel. Leaving the column for the exit time empty. After a quick toilet stop we were off on our hike at least to waterfall number three…or at least we thought we were. After nearly 100 metres we pass a little old lady in a booth watching the TV, she waves us over and we have to show her our tickets and sign into another log book, noting all the same information that we had to in the first one…give or take ten minutes on the entry time.

Khao Sok National Park is, according to their website (http://www.khaosok.com/index.php), “an amazing place”. Huge mountains made of limestone shoot up through what is advertised as the World’s oldest evergreen rainforest.

There are about eight or nine waterfalls that you can hike to from the visitor’s centre, but not without a paid guide. Without a guide you can get as far as waterfall number three (according to Nan and the woman at the visitor’s centre).

Let’s go then!!

The start of the walk is on a wide muddy road and doesn’t really feel like hiking so much as a stroll in the forest (ok, the jungle). I can feel that Stéphane is more annoyed about this than me and when we spot a narrow path leading off into the jungle to the left he’s tempted but manages to refrain himself!

So we continue along the mud lane and just above us Stéphane spots a monkey jumping across the road from tree to tree. I saw it as it landed, before it went and hid amongst the bamboo and the tree branches. We can still see him though, just…our first vision of a long-tailed monkey! ^_^ Just as we’re about to walk off a leaf falls in front of us…I look up and spot another monkey just above us, he’s much smaller and very cute.

We eventually manage to pull our eyes away from these monkeys to carry on with our “hike”. We spot a group of people coming out from a path to the side and decide to head down it to see what there is too see. I have a little voice in my head that keeps telling me that there could be anything down this path that maybe a guide would know, for example, if there was a tarantula’s nest along this path….paranoid!! In any case, we didn’t see one and made it back up to the main road 10 minutes later having done some more interesting walking alongside the river.

A little bit further along the main path a sign points us off the main drag to the first waterfall. Unfortunately there are quite a few people already here and another couple of groups arrive behind us too so we decide not to bother crossing the river over the boulders here and to head onto the second waterfall instead.

Which is where we see a big sign saying that you cannot go any further without a guide. We head down to the second waterfall which is very disappointing and not what we’d call a waterfall, it’s more like small rapids…and there’s not much water. Stéphane points out that during the rainy season the water level is probably much higher and therefore more impressive…it’s a good point!

We go into the wooden building to moan about the fact that we were told we could get to the third waterfall without a guide (and to see how much a guide would be, if we did want to go further). The man there told us that we could actually go as far as the fourth waterfall without a guide (YEAH), but we had to fill in a third log book!!!

The path from here on was much more interesting and really feels like a jungle trek and to make things more interesting in addition to the narrow paths, sheer drops and tree root lined, slippery muddy paths there are leeches!!! Stéphane got bitten by one slightly (as in it didn’t bleed too much) and I got at least three of the little buggers off my socks before they had a chance to get to the skin…keeping with me a trusty little stick so that I can explode their heads so that they won’t get me again on the way back. Thinking about it now, I guess that’s not the eco-tourist attitude, but it was what our guide Kip did on our trek in Laos (link to Laos trek article)!!! As we reach the signpost for the third waterfall (where you can go swimming) we decide to carry on to the fourth for lunch and then stop at the third on the way back instead.

The fourth “waterfall” is pretty, but again more like rapids than a waterfall…we stop here and eat our sandwiches that Nan had prepared for us — one cheese and salad (and onion) and one ham and salad (onion). As we eat we are set upon by a host of little blue butterflies that land on our skin and dip their proboscises into the sweat that is covering our bodies! I guess it’s their lunchtime too…just so long as they don’t touch my sandwich ^_-.

We cross a group of people that ask us if the fifth waterfall is far, we admit that we don’t know having only been as far as the fourth and that we’re heading back to the third now. They tell us that the third is wonderful with monkeys on both sides of the river…it sounds great!

Unfortunately, when we get to the third, there are no longer any monkeys or any sign of any monkeys. We sit quietly for a bit, but still nothing…oh well, at least we’d seen the couple of monkeys earlier. The water doesn’t look great for swimming in either so we decide to call it a day and head back to the bungalows on foot.

Obviously not forgetting to write our departure time in each of the three log books on our way ^_-, so much paperwork in the middle of the rainforest!

The walk back along the road is hot as there’s not much shade and it’s not very interesting either. We’re both pretty hot and a little worn out after the hike. We stop only briefly at the “Monkey Temple” that Nan recommended. After paying our 10 baht entry fee we spot a couple of tourists at the side of the lane crouching down and surrounded by…monkeys! Loads of them. Then we look up and spot them in the trees overhead and start to notice the bits of apple falling down around us as they chomp their way through them.

We walk as far as the temple in a cave in the rock face, but both of us just want to get back out to see the monkeys again so we don’t linger too long in front of these white painted statues of Buddha and the monks. On the way back out Stéphane remembers that we have a couple of bananas in our bag and as it’s “goûter” time (tea time) he decides that he wants to share his with the monkeys…one bit for Stéphane, one bit for the fastest monkey!

The little baby monkey even climbs up Stéphane’s leg to get his share — it’s very cute!

Once the banana was gone, a mini-van full of sunburnt German tourists arrived with bags of peanuts. Their guide tells them to keep the bags well hidden in the palm of their hands, though obviously they don’t all listen and quickly a few of them find their bags ripped out of their hand and the thieving monkeys run off to sit somewhere more peaceful and guzzle the bagful.

As we’re leaving the temple we spot a group of monkeys arriving along the electricity cables that line the road…before sliding, one-by-one down a broken cable that is just hanging next to the pylon at the entrance gate. From here they leap onto the temple’s sign and then onto the statue of a tiger before running off to the shelter of the trees with the others. We take a look at each other and giggle — it’s not every day you see monkeys sliding down electricity cables!

For our last dinner we return to Nan’s restaurant and ask her which dishes she prefers on the menu. She recommends a couple of curries that we haven’t yet tried here and, once again, they were gorgeous.

A couple arrive with their little girl and she’s causing chaos and won’t sit still at all…the mother looks worn out as she chases her around the restaurant and tries to take the menu off her. As everything’s cooked freshly here it can take a little time and so the woman decides that it is too long and they leave to try a different restaurant further up the road…their loss!!

We’ve had a lovely stay here at Khao Sok Holiday Resort thanks mainly to Nan and the other girls. Tomorrow we leave to catch the plane back to Bangkok for our last night in Thailand, but that’s tomorrow’s story. Goodnight.