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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's A Jungle Out There- Khao Sok National Park

Floating Lake Bungalows
16th-18th June 2015

Where to begin. Brandon of course loves fishing and has been dragging his fly rod around from country to country just waiting to get the line wet. There really hasn't been much opportunity, but he takes his rod everywhere he goes, just in case.

Through some work connections Brandon was introduced to Tatrawee via email. They exchanged a few messages and worked out a trip chasing Thailand's Mahseer, a beautiful golden fish with light blue iridescent fins. Something Brandon has been wanting to fish for since we arrived in Thailand. Finally, just before our Thai visa ran out we were able to go, and the trip was... interesting, to say the least.

Day 1:

We arrived at the pier and met up with Tatrawee and friends, the group we'd be fishing with for the next few days. We loaded our bags into a longtail boat and took off on the hour long journey up the lake to where we would be staying. Winding through huge limestone islands covered in thick lush jungle, we sped along to our secluded cabana, hoping to stay dry as the clouds rolled in and sprinkles were inevitable. The ride alone was beautiful enough to justify the trip. Tatrawee explained to us that the rivers we would be fishing are so difficult to get to that they rarely get fished. I wasn't sure if that meant the fishing would be easier or more difficult as a result.

Eventually we made it to our "lodge" which at first glance is very similar to a rustic fishing cabin half way falling apart. We walk along the broken floating planks in the lake to our bamboo bungalow paying close attention to keep our balance with our giant backpacks. It wouldn't be a great way to start off the trip by sinking to the bottom of the lake with my bag strapped to me. I have found through multiple instances that I am not as graceful as I once was.

The host lead us to one of the far end floating bungalow. This one was lovely. It was newly built with two open air windows on either side propped open by a bamboo twig, a simple mattress on the floor with a mosquito net around it, although a mosquito was few and far between, and just enough room on the porch to secure our hammock and enjoy the scenery.

The first afternoon of fishing was amazing. We walked along the river bank, wet wading in my Chacos and fishing up the river. The temperature outside was perfect and the water we were walking through was warm and flowing slowly. The fishing was great for the few hours we had to fish and one by one Brandon and I reeled in colorful Mahseers that put up a strong fight. We were told the best fishing was further in, and the next day we would hike in for about 30 minutes before fishing. Both of us excited to catch "the big one" of course we couldn't wait.

Day 2:
Back in the longtail we go around 8am with all our gear and travel about 20 minutes to the river where to begin hiking in. It all seemed easy enough. I envisioned a well-worn trail and a mildly strenuous hike to get to our spot, the usual. We were doing a full day of fishing in the jungle so I knew it wouldn’t be a cake walk, but I didn’t anticipate that the trek alone would be much of a challenge, especially since the focus was on fishing.

I was wrong.

Very wrong.

This hike was stressful, challenging, leech-infested, and exhilarating all at the same time.
Tripping over tree roots, and slipping on wet mud we trek through the wild dense jungle as our guides chop down small bamboo trees and thick vines to clear somewhat of a path for us. We see fresh elephant tracks by the dozens, and even a king cobra, which hold the rank as the largest venomous snake in the world. Further and further into the jungle we go, crossing the river multiple times as I sink into mud up to my thighs and water up to my chest. It hadn't started raining yet, but I was already soaked.

We finally make it to our fishing spot and get maybe an hour or two of fishing in before the monsoon came. We continue to fish hoping the rain will subside and fish will start eating again. Harder it poured and soon the river was muddied up. The once fishable river became so murky it was now nearly impossible. We break for lunch and I scarf down my warm fried rice in the rain.

River crossing
The rain never did stop and we ended heading back the way we came through the forest where the blood sucking leeches waited on the low jungle leaves for me to pass by and hitch a ride for a free meal. All in all Brandon and I had about 15 leeches each that we continually pulled off of us throughout the day, many of them leaving an open wound that left blood streaming down our legs.  Thankfully these little guys are harmless and somewhat easy to pull off, but what I did learn is high pitch screaming doesn't seem to affect them much.

Back at the lodge I soaped up from head to toe and jumped in the warm lake for a bath.

Day 3:

The last day of fishing I decided to stay back at the bungalow, lay in my hammock and write. While I may have made the trip sound miserable, I did actually have a lot of fun. Though tiring, this fishing excursion left me with a sense of accomplishment and rawness. The lack of people and nonexistent trail made me feel as though I had discovered a hidden gem that had been untouched by man. It left me to wonder what else is out there. It is because of this that Brandon and I travel. We travel for the sense of wonderment, adventure, and exploration.

The crew soaking up the last of it. (Rangers with proper weapons on the ends)


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