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9. Thailand Trekking Too
The women of our group complained of loud snoring from the male side of the room but, earplugs tightly nestled in, I heard nothing, slept soundly and could easily have been guilty. Quickly rotated breakfast plates of french toast and fruit, hasty cold washroom splashes, warm goodbyes to our tolerant hosts, then we were off again.
My virus had only minimally hindered me during the trekking, a perpetual irritation that couldn’t be helped. Much like that small boy a couple of days before, my endlessly running nose was an annoying presence you couldn’t do anything about; you just had to endure it.
Leaving dense forest areas meant less holding branches in place for the person behind to ensure it didn’t whip them in the face, and more challenging terrain. Steep, narrow and slippery in places, we descended into another open valley. A widescreen vista of greenness suddenly slammed into view; tier upon tier of neatly presented rice fields. Skirting the edges of the fields required careful judgement, with each step having the potential for a turned ankle or wet foot. I worried for those behind me when I manoeuvred around certain obstacles, but nobody seemed troubled. Wobbly makeshift bridges of logs over small rivers needed guided hands of reassurance from the porters.
Before arriving at our final village we were granted the opportunity of bathing in a waterfall. Our youthful cheeky porter took the lead, gleefully sliding down the rocks on his bottom, as if it were a waterslide. It looked fun and easy when he did it, but I never trusted myself enough to copy. I might have panicked half way down, stuck out a misguided leg to support myself and broken a leg. Rice beating in the fields was an optional activity in the afternoon. It was harder than it looked, sweeping a heavy broom-style implement containing the rice-plants over your shoulder, and hammering it down hard to explode rice over a plastic sheet. Native villagers were captivated by the style of one of our senior members. He had an impressively pneumatic, Terminator-like style.
Later on we were guided around the village, positioned largely on the side of a hill and facing the depths of a valley. Many of the huts seemed of a better quality than our homestay, boasting strong-looking, possibly varnished wood – a few with western looking windows.
That evening we took it in turns to fry eggs over a small fire, while keeping noodles hot. A queue of hungry, bowl-hugging children grew steadily to around 50. Once they’d all been satisfied we were rewarded with our own dinner of rice, vegetables, and dubious watery soups. The children’s dinner had looked better.
Later that night the children returned to provide our candlelit hut with entertainment. We sat on one side and around 30 children sat on the other. The cabin, fundamentally off-centre, creaked and groaned whenever anybody stood or walked across it. When a rare and heavy rain shower began outside and continued for a period, it developed the feel of an ark. The children sang traditional songs which we were urged to emulate with songs of our own.
As the children departed, I grew nervous about my increasing need for the squat toilet. I had to do it. Come on. Man up. How hard could it be?
Candlelight feebly illuminated the worst squat hut we had had to use. Being typically flimsy in its construction, I was able to hear a queue form outside. “What is he doing in there?!” one of my fellow tourists asked. “Is he, like, washing or something?!” This made me more frustrated and annoyed that I couldn’t just go quickly. It made me annoyed directly at her, the stupid American. This is not easy or dignified, ok? Neither was it ultimately satisfying, and I was in a grumpy sulk for the rest of the evening.
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