Bloopers: A Nighttime Jungle Hike
Daniel and I are only human, and that means that our adventures aren’t always picturesque and perfect. We’ve had many quirky, messy and – frankly – terrifying moments in our travels, too. But all the better to laugh at afterward, of course! This is one of those moments from our Travel Bloopers: a nighttime hike through the Thai jungle.
We're an adventurous couple. When we discovered a hiking trail that would take us up a mountain in Koh Phi Phi, we were 'all over that.' We wanted to watch the sun set behind the limestone cliffs from the lookout, so we decided to pack 2 bottles of water and a flashlight and leave with only an hour of daylight to spare. We called our hotel lobby for more information regarding the exact location of the trail, and our hotel told us that they would actually send their golf cart driver to take us to the part of the mountain where the trail begins. (Koh Phi Phi is a small Thai island that consists, basically, of one mountain and completely unfrequented by cars. Hence the golf cart.)
Our driver arrived and we jumped into the small vehicle. We went up and up and up until we arrived at an area where the concrete road that the golf cart was on ended, and a thin dirt trail began between the trees. With very little English, our driver pointed us to a phone - one that we could use to ask for a pickup when we returned from our hike. Then, he gave us a stick. He waved it in the area, miming what looked like a 'fight' with a small creature; then he said "monkeys" and put the stick in Daniel's hand. That should have been our first clue that this was more than just your average hike. But we laughed it off a bit, and were on our way, making jokes about the 'monkey shoo-ing stick' the whole time.
Immediately, the hike was intense. The jungle was thick around us - only the constant walls of green leaves and the call of birds kept us company. The trail was uphill to an extent where we would sometimes be climbing. About 15 minutes into the hike, though, it leveled out onto a dirt path with only a slight incline. Still, we continued forward. We arrived at an area where the trees weren't quite as dense and we looked around - there were about 5 shacks around us. Shacks with shoes on the porch and laundry hung in the back; shacks with only two or three walls and a thatch roof. But we didn't see any villagers. So we followed the sign that said "LOOKOUT ->" and moved on.
Tree after tree - barely able to see the sky the foliage was so thick - we continued forward. We were sweating, the humidity was so dense. Half way into the hike and we had already finished one water bottle. A little over an hour and some sore legs later, we finally arrived at the lookout. The view was incredible; we had arrived only moments before the sun would set beyond the haze. We could see everything - the village below us, the sand bars and low tide, the blue water and the longtails zipping playfully across it, the pink sky and bright red orb of sun. We sat down on a rock to rest our legs, and watched the sun disappear. It was a snapshot of a moment - the kind of moment where time stops and nothing matters more than watching the sky's colors fade into black in front of you.
Then, it was time to turn right around and go back down the mountain. We figured, on the night before the full moon, that the moon and our flashlight would be an adequate amount of light to guide our way. But boy were we wrong. Within moments of reentering the jungle, we were surrounded in the blackest night I had ever experienced. With the trees closing in around us, we could see nothing except the small piece of ground lit by our flashlight. Just imagine trying to climb back down a mountain in the darkest night. Now, add one thing we had not been warned about: an endless swarm of bats. It was just like the movies - we were surrounded by a blanket of black, and some of the craziest jungle noises you can think of. Monkeys screaming, unknown entities rustling in trees above us you and the grass beside us, bats flying only inches away from our faces. Meanwhile, we couldn't see a thing beside the tiny orb of light that our flashlight was giving off.
Like I said, Daniel and I are an adventurous couple. But a nighttime hike through the jungle may have just been the moment when we "out-adventured" ourselves. Thankfully, we arrived at the end of the hike without physical injuries other than racing hearts, and our ride arrived to take us back to our hotel room. Needless to say, we ordered room service that night. There was a moment, however, when we mentioned our thankfulness that we didn't have to use our 'monkey shoo-ing stick' after all.