April 11th - April 14th:
For the final days we decided to go with Grom to his farm in Phatalung, a rural farming district to the Southeast. After a 4 hour ride in the baking heat in the back of his pick up truck we arrived at Phatalung. I must say that the we is me, Ricky, Steph and my very good friend Thadd who joined us from Singapore. After a night at groms place we got up early to drive to the local wetlands reserve to see some of the water birds and water buffalo. Followed by a boat ride right out into the middle of the wetlands. Now I am 25 years old and I saw more birds in that 2 hour boat ride than I have ever seen in my 25 years on this earth! There must have been thousands, and thats just including the siberian open billed stork migrating through Thailand. Herons of all colour shape and size were everywhere as were bright blue water hens.
The 13th of April marks the start of the Buddhist new year or "Songkran". A somewaht different affair to our, let say it, overhyped new year eve. Songkran is a festival of water, so we jumped into the back of groms pick up along with the younger memebers of his family and drove off into town. Along the way we were continously pelted with water and poweder by the locals, which as you can imagine on a 34 degree day is a very refreshing change! We then picked up a 100 litre drum from groms brother in law and put it in the back of the pickup. we then drove out into the country.... now at 5 miles per hour cold water is a refeshing change. At 35mph its like being hit by freezing cold bullets, but all in good fun! The reason for our drive to the country soon became clear, as we pulled up to a fire engine parked next to a lake. So can you guess how we filled up the 100 litre drum? Yes you guessed it! The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent driving all over the county throwing water over every man, woman, child and scooter we could see. All the while being covered ourselves. I can honestly say, I dont think I have ever had so much fun!!! One of the best experiances of my life!
We unfortunatly had to cut our celebration short to return to Phuket so we could fly out the next day. A reunion meal (all be it a short time apart) was heald on the same beach were we had our introduction meal. We then all said our goodbyes (to Luke and Emily) and went to find a hotel for the night. Ricky leaving soon after, then Thadd, then me..... and this ends my tale from Thailand. It was the best experiance of my life, and I urge any of you thinking about visiting Thailand. To just do it. Just go
April 7th - April 9th:
1st of all, I must apologise for my obsession with aliteration in the titles and the use of words that start with C. Its just how the cards fall I am afraid.
For the final week I was assigned with Grom and Kay (another Thail Ranger) to change the batteries and switch the memory cards for 18 of the 63 camera traps. The first task was to find a boat to rent, after a few hours of bartering at local fishing villages we managed to rent a shoe box with an engine on to move us around the lake. As we arrived at the 1st trail I saw a huge shape by the edge of the water from a distance. I thought to myself, that it couldnt be what I thought it was. However 5 seconds later the boat driver (Kay) tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the mass and said "CHANG!" for the 2nd day in a row it was an elephant. However this was a much better view and we were much closer than the previous day. We were able to glide the boat past the huge female about 15m away. We then pulled up at the trail start (50m from the elephant) and began hunting for camera traps.
On the 2nd day after spending a night in the kitchen of a raft house we set off for another day of camera trap hunting. After only getting a tiny glimpse of a Great Argus the previous expedition. I managed to get a full view of a huge male run right in front of me. After clearing out a camera trap which had been infested by ants, grom managed to spot a meter long snake cruising through the undergrowth. After going Steve Irwin, I managed to get within spitting distance (litterally) of an Indo - Chinese Spitting Cobra. Showing perfectly that snakes are NOT agressive, the fine fellow was just crusing along not even reacting to me in anyway. Eventually I let him drift of into the forest.
After getting to the pick up site... we realized that the boat was not there. After waiting an few hours, still no boat. So I decided to swim the 1km to the next river inlet to look for the boat and the driver. After reaching the inlet and searching I decided to return. As I came back I saw a HUGE water monitor right at the spot where I wanted to enter the water. After scaring him off I swam back to one of the islands I had used as a rest point on the way out. As I climbed out onto the mud I saw my foot prints from the outward journey. With monitor tracks over the top! The damn thing had been following me.. or had it? It could have been coincidence or maybe because my leg was still bleeding from a leech bite I had received a few hours before. Who knows! After returning to the pick up site it was obvious the boat ws not coming that night, so we decided to set up shop. Fortunatly I had brought my hammock and Grom had a tarp to sleep in. So after making a makeshift "fence" to stop elephants and gaur trampling us to death in the night we settled down to sleep. At 8am the next morning Kay turned up with the boat (why he had not found us I have no idea). After we had found all the camera traps on the 3rd day we set off back to the main island in the far south of the lake. As we set off we startled a fish eagle on a nearby dead tree, which then did a top gun esq
April 6th - April 7th:
The rains having truly set in, meant we were completly deluged while doing a mainland transect. For those of you have seen Jurassic Park, life was very much like the scene where Dennis (Fat Guy) tries to escape the island. But without the Dilophosaurus, obviously.
When walking on my own on the Island transect the same day, I almost stepped on a Dumeril's Monitor which was right on transect. After an unsuccesful capture attempt I let him be. This was the 1st and only time I have seen this species in Thailand.
The following day while walking the mainland transect with Ricky, we heard the sound of bamboo smashing to pieces. When we went closer to investigate the noise. More and more bamboo began to explode and shatter, to the point where we could now see the bamboo in the distance shaking and flying everywhere. We started to run after the sound and as we came to a downward slope we saw numerous tracks in the mud and it was then we realized what we were chasing.... Chang. Or in english.. ELEPHANTS!!
As we continuted to follow the elephants down the slope hoping to get a glipse, we realized how dangerous and impossible the task would be. The elephants were having no trouble keeping a head of us even as we ran at full pace (even when they started going up hill). So after we both glipsed a bit of elephant skin dissapearing over the ridge we decide to turn back and return to transect... both filled with adreneline!!
April 3rd - April 5th:
For the final week we were mostly based at a Ranger Rafthouse as it was closer to the drop of points for the camera trap expeditions and the new study island and mainland site.
The rafthouse also had some Canoes for use. Me, Luke and Ricky desided to make use of these free canoes and went for a midnight safari around some of the adjacent islands.
For a few days we were accompanied by a film crew from Reuters - Bangkok. The video can be seen here! I am the one in the insane hat. ENJOY!!
April 1st - April 2nd:
After the months of baking, dry heat, the rains have finally come. After a few days of witnessing fantastic lightning. A storm finally hit porcupine island. Fortunatly my Hennessy Hammock held up fantastically (Other Hammock brands are available). The change of temperature and humidity were a welcome change.
The following morning as I was walking down to the shore for lunch. The fish trap started rattling around and making an almighty noise. After getting closer it turns out we had accidentaly caught a water monitor. So the following 20 minutes I spent inside a fishing trap trying to help a very angry water monitor. Fortunatly by wrapping the bugger in a T-Shirt I was able to capture him and set him free with no ill effect.