The last weekend in October was spent trekking through lush green mountains, staying with local hill tribes, singing around campfires, riding elephants, swimming in the river, playing in mud, and floating down the river on a bamboo raft. It was one of the most fun and most relaxing things I have ever done, and I am so happy I’ll have the opportunity to do it again next semester!
We started out Saturday morning, stopping at a maket to buy the food we’d be cooking in the village. After, we cooled off in the glory of a majestic waterfall, so big and so powerful. A small, clean, pool gathered at the bottom that we reveled in, smiling, laughing, and excited for the weekend ahead. We got lunch and then started the long trek. Regardless of length, the beauty of the mountains took my soul and lifted it, allowing me to appreciate the amazing place I was in, rather than the pain of hiking for so long. When we finally arrived, after picking leeches off of each other and slipping down wet slopes, all I wanted was to jump in the cold river and wash away the rewarding sweat from the day.
That night at the village was so peaceful. I showered in the river, and helped cook. We told stories with our guide and all became closer. When the food was done, it only took minutes for it to be devoured. We were so hungry and the food was so good! An evening singing by the campfire, looking at the stars, and telling stories was the perfect ending note.
Waking up early the next day to toast and cheap instant coffee, my tastebuds were actually thankful and happy to grab some nourishment before another trek. We were moving to another village for the night, and this trek was much shorter. We sang along the way, laughing until we stepped foot in the village, where we laid down to rest for a few minutes. Our options were swimming, having lunch, and riding elephants. We got to do all three, our choice was when we did it. I opted for the river first. The cool, refreshing water welcomed my hot skin as I sunk below the relatively fast current. We held on to rocks as we washed our hair, watching a few water buffalo cross the river so powerfully only a few feet away.
I rode the elephants with the last group, and loved every second of it. We got to ride for a long time, laughing and learning about these amazing creatures the whole time. I rode on his neck, which was hard, but definitely something I will never forget. I used every muscle to stay on when he decided to reach into the forest for a snack. His soft ears rested against my legs and I was breathless as I realized I was in the jungle, in Thailand, riding a beautiful elephant.
The evening was open to play soccer with the locals, build bamboo rafts, and help cook. I watched my friends play soccer, talking to a village local about current events. I helped tie a few bamboo logs onto the rafts, and then got distracted with the soft mud on shore. We bathed ourselves in it, which was exhilarating, as I am normally not one to put mud all over my body! It was fun, we laughed, and played with the little kids as we swam to wash it off.
That night we had a talent show where the village kids sang songs and danced. We got to share talents as well. We had a delicious dinner, and spent countless hours talking around the campfire. I saw fireflies for the first time, which was so magical. I talked to our tour guide who told me stories of his life in Burma before escaping to a Thai hill tribe. He was so genuinely happy, you could see it in his eyes. He was an inspiration.
The next day, we had to say goodbye after another breakfast of coffee and toast. We drank out of freshly cut bamboo cups and grilled the toast over the campfire. We eventually loaded onto the bamboo rafts that would safely float for a few hours down the river, taking us home.
The rafts were so much fun. We went down rapids, barely floating on top, getting soaked but enjoying the refreshing water. We may have crashed a couple times, and almost capsized, but our guide’s smile was reassuring as he steered us in the right direction. The scenery was unbelievable. The bright blue sky and pure white clouds complimented the countless shades of green in the forest. Water buffalo poked their heads out of the water as we floated by, and dragonflies danced across the water. It was serene. It was a scene from a movie. But I was experiencing it, every moment of it.