Today was trek day. We had our walking boots, waterproofs and water packed, as well as swim stuff and mozzie spray. We were kitted out and raring to go. Shame we didn't book with a proper eco-company or something then but here goes…
We were picked up at quarter to 9am and whisked off in our minibus to the Orchid and Butterfly farm. Riveting stuff… thankfully only there for 15 minutes. Hence the boring flower and butterfly pictures, pretty as they are!
Then it was off to the whitewater rafting. I say 'whitewater' but it wasn't exactly the "grades 2-4" we were promised. More like grade 0 to grade 1 and a half! Any time something remotely exciting happened it was because the guide had staged it by rocking the boat or steering us towards a rock. However, we laughed and played along and probably quite genuinely got swept up into it all!
Then we went to the waterfall. It wasn't that big and we pretty much have waterfalls at home. We didn't go in and then the heavens opened. Big style! I haven't seen rain like that in ages. Torrential!
From there we went for lunch at the elephant camp. Now, we didn't like this place. It wasn't a particularly eco-friendly looking kinda place, with young elephants swaying and pulling against their chains, and chained-up adults practically eating their own poo. But we were assured they were fine and, again, played along. Now, everything had been pretty staged so far, but by humans. These were animals, with no choice. But still we climbed aboard our huge elephant and tried to relax about it all. After crossing the river on our pachyderm we decided that maybe it was like humans keeping horses in stables and forcing them to do the same walk over and over for human delight. They sway out of boredom in their stables and no one blinks an eye. Other people chain their dogs outside in kennels, which is apparently fine. So, we relaxed a little more and started to enjoy the gentle meandering of our huge animal. They are so graceful and really enjoyed the walking down the river part, blowing bubbles with their trunks and swishing them around. Once safely back to camp we were feeling much happier. The mahouts seemed to genuinely care for their animals and they didn't look harmed in any way. The elephants were being de-kitted and we enquired about where they went for the night. Our guide pointed to the other side of the river and said they go to the wild forest for the night. We thought that was excellent. "So they can roam free during the night then?" we asked. "No, no" she reassured us, "They are chained to a big tree". As if that was better! We were quite appalled and stood back from the Italians, Spaniards and Greeks, feeling like the only people there who seemed to think there was something wrong with all this, with the chained-up baby elephant they were all now posing with. Time to leave.
We then continued down the river on bamboo rafts. Now that was fun - a really lovely way to drift through the forest and talk animal rights!
Off the raft after about 30 minutes and we were shuttled off to do a 'walk'. When we got to the start point we were ashured, however, that our flipflops would suffice as it was all along a path anyway. So much for the 'trekking' part of our 'trek tour' eh! We walked for about 20 minutes, hot and chafing, to a Long Neck village. Again, staged. The ladies come from Burma, where the Long Necks do originate from, to do this job. But they bring families and children and earn a living. Which makes them happy apparently, but it certainly keeps them safe from the troubled land they come from. They are refugees in Thailand and have to have government permission to leave their village. They sell scarves, jewellery and other souvenirs and happily pose for photos, though both Dan and I took photos from afar or took photos of photos, which is cheating I know! They also have 'Big Ear' people there, as they are politcally correctly referred to and a monkey in a 2m cubed cage, who again was of great attraction to the animal-loving Europeans we had shared our tour with!
So, back to the hotel for about half 5. We were tired, achey and determied to have an early night. Shame there was a film on TV, but we managed to leave the room about half 7 for dinner at the Good View by the river. We stuffed ourselves silly, had a couple of beers and came home to watch another film in bed!