Visions of Johanna

I’m a solo explorer, who’s been lucky enough to see a fair bit of our planet. The freedom to roam isn’t something I take for granted; it’s the biggest privilege a human can have. You won’t find many useful travel guides here, but I hope you find travel tales that inspire you to visit new places, live like a nomad, embrace new cultures and travel solo. I’m happiest in nature, on the ocean, and exploring different ways of life. Being curious sometimes means I’ve pushed life to its limits, taken the biggest risks, and fallen from the greatest heights. It also means I’ve met some of the world’s best humans (fact!) and my life is full of stories and experiences, and that is the humble of offerings of this travel blog…

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Again waking early we ate a breakfast of boiled eggs bread and pineapple. Today was rafting day! Overnight the locals had built us rafts out of bamboo sticks with tripods in the middle to support our bags.

The river was pretty murky and brown and the current fairly strong. We climbed aboard, 5 people per raft with a local at the front to do the real hard graft. We balanced in the centre of the rafts in a line and held our sticks whilst our feet sank in the water. When we set off along. It was exhausting and I was only slightly prepped as I’d had a quick go at punting in Oxford a few weeks before I left for Thailand – the skill and muscles involved were almost identical.

We rafted for 4 hours and rode down rapids. Most people ended up in the river! It was fantastic, exhilarating and the lush green plants and trees around us made the setting beautiful. Giant butterflies and dragonflies landed on our rafts and took off again and the birds each with their unique sounds created a jungle chorus for our whole trip down the river.

I’d relive this experience in a heartbeat and although the comfort level was clearly not as good as an inflatable dinghy (which you can choose to use) I’d choose the bamboo makeshift rafts any day.

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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.

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I had a read about the hill tribes outside of Chiang Mai before heading there and took in a large amount of discussion as to whether it was ethical.

There are many arguments for and against visiting the remote tribes. Some say western tourists shouldn’t visit and if so should be conscious and check that the tribe they visit isn’t being swamped with tourists bringing their western ways to these people who live isolated lives.

Some argue that it isn’t a negative as it provides the tribes with an income and helps them stay in their untouched lifestyle, living off the land rather than having to find their way to nearby towns and integrate. I asked our guide and he was adamant that he speaks to the people (who all speak different dialects to Thai) and they welcome visitors. I chose to go ahead as I was fascinated by their lifestyle and wanted to experience it first hand.

I was completely unprepared for just how tough the trek would be. It beat the 16 mile trek in a Tanzanian rain forrest I did a few years back and any other exercise I’d experienced. We trekked up steep hills, through tiny muddy paths and at the highest point reached 1,700 metres above sea level. I spent the uphill trek breathless, using a walking stick our local guide Sammy had made me out of a tree branch. The downhill was tough in a different way, much of it spent slipping sideways down the tiny mountain paths. We enjoyed a brief break at Morg Fa waterfall, where we bathed in the murky but cool waters before heading on.

It was only around 4 hours of walking but it was tough. It was all made worthwhile when we caught the first glimpse of Maejok village (inhabited by a Karen tribe). A smattering of wooden huts appeared on the hillside and as we approached the villagers were all coming out of their church. Interesting this tribe were all Catholics. They converted when Catholic missionaries visited around 50 years ago and helped them improve their facilities.

The people looked interested in our arrival but not unhappy about it. We made our way to our wooden hut cabin on stilts which would be our bedroom for the night and enjoyed a supper of various Thai dishes and a barbecue of pork and beef. We showered in a hut with running clean water before collapsing onto our thin mattresses.