Hill Tribe Trekking (Day 2 – Pakhaolam)
We woke up at around 6.30am to the sound of pigs, cockerels and various animals. It’s incredible how clean and plump the animals look. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such clean pigs and cows!
The village has solar panels to provide light, but it’s sparse and the woman sat round weaving clothes and preparing crops, mostly rice. We played the international game of peek-a-boo with the toddlers. Their smiles were infectious and it melted my heart a little when they shook our hands to say goodbye. Their huge smiles and willingness to play was delightful.
We set off again for another 4 hours of trekking. Again we covered steep hills and only stopped briefly to inspect the leeches on us and remove them and then to shelter from the torrential rain shower. We crossed paddy fields by walking on the thin brick walls that surrounded them and found a clearing in the forest littered with wooden crosses. I learnt that the crosses symbolise no hunting in the area. We also came across several offerings to the woodland spirits, which consisted of little jars and mirrors.
We arrived at Huaynamdang, where we had a bite to eat before the elephants turned up. Three huge elephants wandered out of the wild and shared our pineapple and bananas. The huge majestic creatures joined us of their own accord, ready to take us on the next part of our journey. I discovered that elephants can only be happy and settle in a village where elephants have lived before. If they can smell their ancestors they’re happy. If completely wild elephants they live to around 80 years old but if they live in the wild and are cared for by humans they can live up to 120 years old.
I hadn’t prepared myself for the rocky elephant ride. I nearly got my leg taken off when it got stuck between the elephant and the wooden platform I climbed off and I have a fantastic multi-coloured bruise. We trekked for around 30mins with 3 people per elephant. I clung on for dear life as we climbed hills and manoeuvred almost horizontal pathways. They are so clever and sturdy, deliberately avoiding puddles. Our elephant was last in the pack and clearly found this frustrating so at every opportunity tried to overtake. Amazingly I made it to Pakhaolam the second village in one piece.
Here we got excited by giant spiders, our fabulous wooden cabin and had just enough time to visit the local school before dinner. The kids were so happy and content and all were enjoying a bit of gardening before their school day ended at 4.30pm. This village was also a Karan village but houses a mixture of Catholics and Buddhists. The local children came and sold their handcrafted jewellery whilst we helped chop veggies for dinner.