Khao Yai this last weekend: Part One


Well Hell’s Bell’s! Hugh Paxton’s Blog is a cock up! Part two of Khao Yai is up and running and part one has lagged behind!

Bear with me!

Khao Yai Part One:

Here’s how the plan began. I’d send you this series of images, each supported by a sort of droning slide show voice over. But the images appear in no rational or related order. My computer! Not me!

I’ve spent time on this fiasco.

I was going to delete it but then I thought of all the slideshow disasters I’ve witnessed and thought well let me join the club. The following images were all photographed over the weekend and it’s basically up to you to sift through the wreckage!


First image, we have a river in flood in the forest mountains of Khao Yai, Thailand’s first and grandest mountain rainforest national park.

Second. We have a plaque explaining how seven elephants drowned in it in one go. A baby got into difficulties crossing the river. Six adults went to its rescue.

Third. We have where the river took the seven struggling elephants.

Number four: Annabel and I are re-examining the plaque. Annabel now hates the waterfall. “It’s a waste of elephants! And why is it so fat?” “It’s bloating because it’s dead. Gas builds up in dead bodies then they burst.”

“I hate this waterfall!” My wife chips in with a bit of Buddhism and explains reincarnation.

HUGH: In all honesty I wasn’t too keen on that waterfall either. You have to climb down lots and lots of slimy steps to see it, risk breaking your neck, having a heart attack or falling off a cliff into the waterfall. Or if you skip jollification you just upset your daughter. And then climbing back up you have Buddhist metaphysics (Midi, my wife should never have gone to Bhutan. Three times).

I had a stroke of inspiration as I gasped and wheezed up the slope of central Thailand’s highest mountain. “Maybe the elephants have spirits that protect these forests? Maybe they are friendly ghosts and will warn other elephants not to be so damn stupid?”

Number five. six. Life on the struggle back up to the car I bent over backwards to cheer us up. I was alert to every flower, insect, bird whoop, lizard, monkey and pointed them out to my daughter.

When we reached the top of the trail Annabel was still slightly subdued. But we’d seen a lot of cheerful things. As we drove back down the meandering narrow road there were fireflies in the dusk winking and floating like drowsy comets, behind us there were no man-made lights apart from the red blink of the lonely Air force radar station on the absolute summit. Our car headlights worked but there was no light behind us. Utter black. The sort of black you don’t see in many places but in a rainforest where sunlight is coveted by the taller trees you see. Or rather you don’t see! A strange thing began to happen in the headlamps. Mist rose from the road and swirled slowly and shifted. We drove cautiously through this winding road of ghosts, at sometimes alarming ‘low gear’ angles and the phenomenon subsided and then wafted in and held itself close to the road. It was eerie. Some patches of road were simply dipping away and there were no mists. We could be driving through an obvious swamp forest area but no creeping mists.

Being a boring, reassuring sort of father I explained that the mist only appeared in places where sunlight had struck the bare exposed road surface, baked it, and the cold of the night altitude was stimulating vapour release.

“That’s why we aren’t seeing these sprites by ponds.”

“Oh, Gawd!”

Ponds! Mists! Sudden light! A massive electrical storm! The Khao Yai mountains were going Valhalla! We drove home to our bungalow to avoid squashing anything amphibian and we got there and it was warm and cozy and the thrashing of thunder only made it more so. It was safe and the thunder and storm outside made it more so.

Then we hit photo nine! Thankfully it was next day! The Spirit House! On the highest peak. And it’s full of zebras. (I’ll explain all that in a later post). But it seemed to reassure Annabel in some way and I’m sure it was a trick of the light but I’d swear one of those cocks gave me an encouraging wink.

On the drive back we saw dung, fresh, elephant!

Annabel was ecstatic! They hadn’t all drowned in the Falls!

Of course they hadn’t ! There are two hundred at least in this Khao Yai area. They can’t all fall off the falls at the same time. They’re elephants not lemmings! And the NP staffers have erected elephant barriers to prevent similar mistakes.

Her spirits rose and she was back in the rainforest with a determined air.

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