I checked out of Post hotel and went to the backpackers guesthouse down the road. Tru and his wife welcomed me warmly. Tru was a former guide in the park but now had his guesthouse. He was still able to organize activities in the park though and today I was going to go on a trek with a guide he knew. Tru drove me on his moto the 2km to the pier. I met my guide, Twat ( I kid you not! Hey, that rhymes! Hahaha!). Probably not spelled like that but that was what his name sounded like. He didn’t speak english but seemed like a nice guy. We took his boat on the lake for 30 minutes to reach the trailhead.
Ba Be park is composed of rugged limestone mountains covered in rainforest. The trail was steep and we were going uphill for a while. Although it was only about 22C, humidity was about 800%! I was drenched in sweat in no time. It felt great though after all the freezing I did in China, I welcomed any sweat. I was finally back in my element, hiking and sweating in the rainforest. The forest was also a hotspot for Amorphophallus species, also known as Stinking Corpse Lily. These plants have the tallest inflorescence in the plant kingdom, up to 2m high. True to their name, they also stink like rotting meat to attract their fly pollinators. I have seen different species of Amorphophallus before in Asia but never in flower and it didn’t seem like that was going to happen here either. The plants send up their huge flower spike and then the petals wither and the plant goes to fruit on its huge stalk. Then they enter their vegetative state. Most of the plants I was seeing here were in fruit, easily over 2 dozen of them. The others were in the vegetative state. Judging by the different foliage, I saw at least 2 different species. The giant flowers of the Stinking Corpse Lily would continue to elude me!
While hiking I started to notice a few land leeches. I have plenty of experiences with them but haven’t seen many my last few trips. I stopped a few times to take a few off of my boots. I was almost happy to see them. Leeches don’t bother me much and to me, they are more a sign of wet and healthy forest. I pulled about 10 of them off of my boots. Even at the end of the day none of them had fed on me. Except one! I picked up a larger one that had been on my boot, quite fat and about 5cm long. I put it on my hand to take a photo. This leech didn’t waste any time though. While I was photographing it, it bit into my hand. I could feel it slightly and when I was done photographing it, I pulled it off. It left a curious little bit mark, a small circle with 3 lines meeting in the center. I took a photo of that too later!
After about 2 hours of nearly constant uphill, we reached the first village Tru told me about. I didn’t bring any food and was hoping we could stop for lunch. I communicated this to Twat and we went to a friend of his house. The guy’s wife kindly cooked us rice with some very salty eggs and greens to go with it. While we waited for lunch, our host brought out a 2L bottle of local rice wine. This is strong stuff and normally I don’t like to drink during the day, especially while trekking but I thought I would be polite and at least do one shot. Well that wasn’t enough for the host. He poured another round minutes later but I firmly refused. I was not going to drink more and all the urging and pressure of the host couldn’t make me. Twat, on the other hand, kept drinking. We were there for about 45 minutes and he must have had at least 8 shots! At the end even he was refusing drinks but the host was persistent. Twat was a bit wobbly on the trail but otherwise okay. I would have been plastered!
We walked through villages the rest of the way. There were fairly small but spreadout. I saw a cool few butterflies around and then a praying mantis right on the trail in front of us. I lied down on my stomach to get a cool camera angle, the whole time Twat was chuckling at me but I didn’t care. I was a little disappointed though. I thought we would have been hiking through more forest after passing through the villages but we didn’t. We crossed the lake and I started walking uphill towards the guesthouse. It had been nearly seven hours since we started the trek. I hitched the 2km back to the guesthouse and got a free ride on a moto.
I washed all the clothes I was wearing and just relaxed till dinner. Tru invited me to eat dinner with him and his family and even gave me a free beer. Dinner was delicious. Thinly sliced potatoes with dill, meat and gravy, warm salad and rice. One of the best meals I’ve had the whole trip.
I wasn’t sure of my plan for tomorrow. My other options included a pricey boat ride around the lake for the day, which didn’t interest me much, or a guided hike outside of the park to a viewpoint. This was mostly through villages and cultivated land and didn’t appeal to me either. Maybe I will just have a lazy (and cheap) day? Write some blog and relax.
Jan 22 2012