Post jungle melancholia

Day XII – March 30

Ouch, that was a little hard on all of us this morning after lasting so long last night.
When I was woken by the sound of the singing gibbons at 6.30am I turned over, knowing they wouldn’t be in sight for another while. When I did go out at 7am I only found Alex up and he’d seen nothing yet.

Yesterday we got really lucky just before dinner; one of the families was swinging around ‘our front yard’ and they came as close as 50 meters, which is about as close as they ever get. They were still hard to see with the naked eye, but we all focused real hard to make out the black (male) and brown (female) dots moving around the trees and just that was so tantelizing!

Today we’re treated on a continental breakfast; white bread of that odd structure, jam that is just a bit too sweet and scrambled egg – but to be honest I’m starting to prefer local breakfast and I’m getting good at it too.

We’ve only got until noon to zip around, and are free to go our own way as we’ve been well enough familiarized now.

When we get back to base camp: kitchen n°1, Dett and his buddies challenge the boys from our group to the promised game of ratball. It’s the local ball, woven of bamboo, and the game is a mixture of football and volleyball.
As this is where all groups come together again there’s quite an audience. The locals are confident enough to give their guests a 10-point head start, but regret that half an hour later when their asses have been publicly kicked by a bunch of white boys, and they lost a few beers.

Then it’s time to go back to the real world and leave this paradise to the next group, who are already waiting at ‘the last village’ asking us for tips, so we tell them to get some sodas, beer and salty bites and get prepared to be amazed.*
We trade rides and I end up in the back of a tuktruck. Being out in the open feels nice, that way leaving to our beloved jungle is less rigid.

We’re hardly back on the big road when the smell of traffic and the smog caused by the many controlled fires surround us. Farmers light those themselves, to clean their land before planting, and to gain new land. I somehow always had this notion it was all big bad companies doing that and hadn’t expected it to be the work of the little man; why don’t they want to preserve their beautiful forests? Well, they need to cultivete the land to survive…
It’s impossible to make out the mountains we got to meet and love anymore.
It’ll be a while now, if ever I go back. I’m considering a trekking in Vietnam, heard some good things about Sapa. And there must be a way in to the jungle of Indonesia. Just imagine how astonishing it must be after rainy season?!

The worries of a backpacker: I have practically no clean clothes left when we get back to Huay Xai and no time to wash, as my Stray bus leaves tomorrow morning.
Dan and I check back in with Friendship Guesthouse despite the weird treatment before we left – we could only leave our big backpacks in his storage if we’d book a bus or something with him, and he’d apparently been really rude to some others. I take a quick shower and check with the www. It tells me somehow I’m still ok budgetwise as long as I keep my cool.
The smell of the fires has made it’s way into the city, and I can detect quite a few from the rooftop. They help set the melancholic tone I’m in, adjusting to civilization again, feeling a bit numb after the majestic jungle.
But I am feeling more and more at home in the odd streets with their unformed curbs and funny little vehicles and happy little people always trying to sell you one thing or another, nevertheless joking.

* At the office they will tell you not to bring any extra weight in the form of drinks etc. “It’s all inclusive.” But you might like a drink and a bite at night, or after coming back from the tough walk. I would’ve, had I known.

[A hindsight note on The Gibbon Experience:
Even though this was a much more intense experience… Everyone being so much younger, including the guides; still really cool people I’m glad to have met – they were nowhere near as involved as Sit and Sami were.
Of course this one was more about the ziplines as well and thus more like an attraction, with more staff and them therefore being more distant. The Canadian house told us their guide didn’t even come over for a chat or anything. I guess the whole thing was just different from what I’d expected, and the trekking in Chiang Mai spoiled my idea of a group tour.
Doesn’t take away the fact that I just had 3 amazingly awesome days I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!
It truly is an experience I can recommend anyone! Yes it’s a expensive for Asian standards, but absolutely worth it!]

Have you been on The Gibbon Experience, Flyght of the Gibbon (Chiang Mai, Thailand) or any of the other jungle zipping trips? What did you think?

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