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Solitude & Leeches - Ratchaburi

In this hectic life that we encompass, one needs a little solitude, a little time away from it all to reassess and re-energise. Some go and stay in exotic ocean front hotels with exquisite décor and service, some have hobbies in which to unwind. I, much to my mother and fathers distraught, like to find my solitude in the jungle. I feel at peace in a place which is so alive and so harmonious. everything has its place in the jungle, life and death go hand in hand to create new life . There are dangers but only if you look at them as being dangerous. If you respect the jungle, the jungle will respect you, it can heal you in ways you never thought possible.

In an earlier post, I mentioned a trail along a small waterfall in a valley just north of Mt Khao Laem in Ratchaburi province. It has no name so we shall just call it, 'ban leech' (leech home), on the account of the happy go friendly leeches that inhabit it. The trail starts someway up a long damaged road to a viewpoint. the coordinates are 13.563528,99.209194 and unless you have a 4x4 truck, which we didn't, you have to walk it, which we did.

The walk up the main road is steep in sections and with the sun beaming down on you, can be quite the challenge in itself. There are some beautiful views over the valley and its very rewarding when you reach the trail point. You take a left off the main road down a small trail and you keep on going until you come to a clearing with two sets of stairs and a small bamboo bridge. I have heard that the two sets of stairs lead to another trail but have not ventured down them yet. We took the trail which starts after the small bamboo bridge. In the first section the trail is pretty straight forward and clear. There is lush jungle scenery and your first encounter with the waterfall and its stream which run along side this trail.

Trails like these can often be thousands of years old. In this area during the Mesolithic period, hunter gatherers lived on the mountains, usually taking shelter in the numerous caves along the streams and waterfalls.

The than thong waterfall in chaloem rattanakosin national park - อุทยานแห่งชาติเฉลิมรัตนโกสินทร์ - in KANCHANABURI, has some prehistory drawings depicting what are thought to be snake scales. It is said that they may have worshipped snakes or may have merely been fascinated or scared of them. Speaking of than thong waterfall, wow, a truly great place to chill out. The waterfall hike sticks close to the lush waterfall and it is not very difficult with awesome scenic rewards. Below is a picture of the drawings along the waterfall. I am not sure what the date is and i could have the period wrong by a notch either way. I did however find it touching that offerings had been left by the base of the drawings, I find that special and typical of Thailand where the sporadic acts of kindness can be euphoric in thought and meaning.

Back to ban leech, the next stage was a series of small trails meandering back and fourth over the small streams with a few very small levels of waterfall. the atmosphere is awesome with a touch of leech, this is where you will first encounter the leeches. they are all along the trail and without leech socks, which we didn't have, you are truly screwed. Never have I encountered such acrobatic Hirundinea. My partner was first to be feasted on as you can see below. Once all the meandering is done, you start to climb a little and follow the waterfall on a ledge to its left.

You can really imagine hunter gatherers using these trails, going back and fourth collecting food and materials. There was little exploring past your local area back then. It wasn't long before they left the safety of the mountains and caves, came down into the plains and begun to farm the land. That was really the start of who we are today; part of me thinks we should have stayed in the mountains and caves. What I would give to spend a few months with them, learning and observing; surviving off nature, living in nature and not exploiting or destroying it. To be possibly standing or walking along a trail they walked along is truly special and it is something everyone should experience. It somehow never feels alien to me as if the nostalgia is still in our genes, I am sure every human will feel the same.

It was a nice day, we were high on nature and excitement, we talked as we walked, pointing out the variety of different bugs and plants. My partner has an amazing eye, in-particularly she seems to be able to spot animals through some of the most dense foliage, she seems very at home in the jungle, knowing the risks but addicted by the rewards. This trail was abundant with life, we saw multiple lizards, spiders, ants and some stunning flowers

When you hike a new trail in the jungle, you never know what is around the corner. It could be a dead end, an impassable section or no clear route at all but you just try it and see where it takes you. From here on the trail becomes difficult with various routes that you might have to venture down before you get the right one or the one that seems the most sane!

There is this one section when you come to a small sloped clearing with a fairly large tree and a nearby rock ledge overlooking the waterfall. we spent an hour in this area trying the different trails. We counted about 4 altogether, 3 of which turned out to just disappear into green.

We were about 4 hrs in and the day was starting to turn. We had reached an area of fairly high elevation as we began to see the fauna change in characteristic. The leeches were still on our tails but we were in less humid air and a more spacious environment. We could hear the waterfall in the distance and we felt the trail was going away from it too much. Without GPS, this could be dangerous for us as we always try and use the waterfall as a pointer. We also smelt a rotting animal of some size and with tigers now living in the area, we thought it best to retreat until another day and a GPS device.

We think that the trail may end on the top of Mt Khao Laem and are eager to find out. along with the other two trail heads at the start, this area of Ratchaburi seems to be littered with some really isolated trails. I would not advice doing some of these trails on your own or at least take a GPS with you and maybe a flare. Below are some more pictures of the hike, including a leech that fed on me for quite some time.

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