21 January 2013


How quiet the jungle. Following our light-footed guide, it seems we are circling though we are going straight. The leaf litter is dry beneath our feet and there are no leeches. Occasionally we hear birds high in the canopy. There are dark holes where creatures live – scorpions, snakes and small mammals. Vines hang like electric cables or wind their way up to the light. Some of the trees are three hundred years old but behind us a rotten branch crashes to the ground, landing with an almighty thud.

How cool the jungle and how old. The light is dappled. Occasionally shafts of sunlight descend like spotlights on the lower greenery. We are in Eden. In this very forest wild elephants live, honey badgers, timid jungle deer, macaques and gibbons and perhaps the very last of the region’s tigers. We hear cacophonous gibbons calling, defining their territory. Sometimes we step over great fists of elephant dung. It is good to be in the jungle.

We see ants and termites and leaves glued together by spiders. Perhaps it’s because it’s January but the jungle seems friendlier to homo sapiens than I expected. In the pick up truck, I was the idiot with the shorts, sandals and tiger T-shirt. The other five looked as though they were sponsored by outdoor clothing companies – boots, goretex tops, fleeces, mountain trousers, jungle hats and insect spray. Unnecessary as it turned out but they’re nice people.

There’s thirty something Zandra and Tomasz from Prague, a delightful lesbian couple from Magburg - Irina and Natalie, and Connie who is also German and a stone restorer who has pedalled her bicycle from Chiang Mai, through Laos – travelling over 2000 kilometres in forty five days. They all speak passable English and we chat happily through the day tour which lasts a full twelve hours.

Our guide, Beer, seems desperate that we should see wild elephants and after the jungle trek we are back in the Toyota pick up truck, travelling this way and that along the national park’s network of roads, looking for these elusive elephants. It’s when the sun is setting and the forest is being absorbed by the shadows of early evening that we finally see a young bull elephant five metres from the road. It’s as if he’s there but not there. You hear him more than you see him in the gathering gloom. He’s crashing into a small bamboo grove. His tusks are his main give away. Otherwise he might have just been shadows.

He’s munching the bamboo and then he leaves pushing deeper into the pristine forest. I kind of like it that we saw him in these circumstances – mysterious and unphotographable. And I feel sad that the human race is gradually destroying these natural forests or turning them into virtual theme parks. There are far, far too many of us for that young bull elephant and the gibbons calling to us from pre-history. All too soon they will be gone.


  1. So you joined a Teutonic Lesbian Cycle Tour of the Thai Jungle?

    What an imaginitive way to pass the time. Makes my life positively boring in comparison!

  2. That is so not my sort of environment..it just doesn't appeal to me at all.....I really think I would like wide open prairies instead...how funny we all are...glad you are having fun though YP.

  3. Sounds idyllic, but perhaps you could have omitted the word lesbian when describing Irina and Natalie, or at least included the sexual preferences of the rest of the party! (Including the elephant)

  4. The Honorable Killer of Parrots has a point and we commentators should set an example. My inclination is toward tall slim women of any sexual orientation who lean forward when playing their bridge hand. That's worth a few points in anyone's book.

    As I keep assuring my wife, it hardly matters where I acquire my appetite, so long as I dine at home.

  5. Or maybe all of us will suddenly be gone and the jungles and their inhabitants will have the planet to themselves.

  6. I feel slightly nervous when you describe that list of jungle inhabitants. We have such tame jungle in New Zealand. The worst that could happen here is being startled by a particularly loud birdsong.

    You have turned your description into a lovely piece of prose.

  7. I agree with Katherine. Lovely piece of prose indeed.


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