I never imagined myself camping in a jungle before. And even if I did, I’m sure it would not have been an accurate depiction of what it’s like.
We started off by meeting some vets and travelling to the rural campus for the university. We stopped at the bridge over the river Kwai along the way, and the related prisoner of war cemetery. Which is quite a somber story for those who are unfamiliar with it.
Upon arrival at the campus we had some evening discussions on ecohealth and the troubles of a local mining area. The local vets are hoping to have the old mining area classified as a protected area for wildlife, but a study has to be conducted first on if the area is actually safe for the animals to use. We worked with the local vets to design a study to test for known contaminants of the mining activity.
That all sounds great, but the study involved us going to the mining area for one night, which ended up being an eight hour adventure through the jungle, periodically stopping to wield machetes at whatever the elephants had knocked into our path during the previous nights. Yes, elephants.
During one particular machete event, I was helping to move a log out of the path when I was pulled back as one of the vets yelled “Scorpion!”. Oh good. Once we were back in the poorly suspended pick-up truck I asked her if they were dangerous. She replied, “If you don’t touch them, they are not dangerous.” Well, she has a point.
We finally arrived at our destination. An old Buddhist camp. They set up small tents for us in the structure and we proceeded to make dinner.
In Canada that would have consisted of hot dogs and smores. Not in Thailand. We started cooking a full meal of rice, pork and egg tofu soup, and fish over a propane stove. But wait, SOMEONE FORGOT THE RICE. We noticed some of our jungle compatriots were gone part way through cooking, and it turns out they had gone back for the rice. I knew that it would not be the full eight hours since the place we got supplies was an hour in and the jungle road was now clear of elephant shenanigans; however, I did not believe their hour and a half estimation.
It was four hours.
Meanwhile, showering facilities at this camp did not exist. There was a small pond nearby, but I was a bit suspicious that it also contained contaminants from the mine. Even though it was disgustingly hot, that did not seem appealing. All during camp preparations we could hear thunder in the distance, teasing us with the possibility of rain. During our four hour wait for the rice the rain finally came. It is monsoon season after all. We saw an opportunity, and we took it. We grabbed our bathing suits and had a lovely shower thanks to mother nature. It was cold, but refreshing and contributed to the little sleep that I did manage to get.
During that four hours it was not conceivable that we should eat the meal without rice. However, we did have some snacks and see a lovely firefly display while waiting, which was rather adorable. This improved with shots of whiskey as we finally watched the long awaited rice cook over the fire.
As for the sleeping part, I woke up many times with thoughts of leopards, elephants, monkeys, snakes and other creatures that roam the jungle. But the intense blackness of absolutely zero light pollution cloaked whatever happened to investigate us. I was able to remove them from my mind with the false sense of security the tent walls gave me. I was grateful to be inclosed as we were originally told we would be sleeping in hammocks. I couldn’t help but imagine myself as a tasty soft shell taco hanging from the trees for whatever curious creature that happened to saunter by. Knowing that was the alternative, I was quite content in my little tent.
It was an interesting camping experience to say the least. One I probably will never have again. Though if I do, next time I will make sure we have the rice.