Rajjaprabha Lake, Thailand
We are met at the airport and taken to the shores of Rajjaprabha Lake, a flooded dam created to generate electricity, provide irrigation, flood control, and fishing. “You can't take those big bags across with you” the guide points out. I wish someone had told us that before we left Bangkok, as we now find ourselves on a jetty, in the pouring rain, transferring underwear and toiletries across to our rucksacks, with a small army of boatmen looking on with bemusement.
The speed boat offers no cover from the elements, and the rain hits our faces like bullets as we cross the lake. It would be a spectacular journey if we were able to keep our eyes open, with its submerged trees, ragged peaks and lush hillsides. As we approach the floating lodge, we can clearly hear the generator motors. “No generators, that is the sound of the jungle” our guide explains. Wow!
The lodge consists of five small bamboo huts on rafts, with a main dining area to one side. The long drop toilet is up a flight of wooden steps on the hillside behind, and the bath is the warm waters of the lake.
The next day we are kitted out with leech socks, and begin our trek by wading thigh deep in the river, then up into the hillside. The socks certainly earn their keep, and we should have been covered from head to toe with such protection, as the little blood suckers get everywhere. A drop of salt gets them to release their grip, but they leave behind a tiny hole which bleeds profusely. My dad looks like he's been fired on with a shot gun, his pale T shit littered with blood stains.
At one stage the path runs through grasses taller than us, and the excitement mounts as we can hear what sounds like the roar of a tiger in the distance. I turn to ask the guide about it. Where is he? And the porter carrying our lunch? The armed ranger is missing too.
Suddenly feeling rather vulnerable, we stop dead in our tracks. We call out. Nothing. We walk back a few yards to see if we missed a turning. No turnings. We call out again. Still no sign of our leaders, and the only sounds are the jungle and the aforementioned roar. After what seems like an eternity, during which we discuss what to do and if anyone can remember the way back to the lodge; the staff appear, laughing at their little trick. A huge sigh of relief goes out amongst our small group.
We have been walking for around an hour and a half or so when we have to negotiate a steep muddy slope, made treacherously slippery by the recent rain. I take small careful steps down sideways, but I can soon feel my lower foot sliding. While the right leg continues downhill, my left foot gets caught in a root on the slope. By the time I land on my posterior with an almighty thud, my leg is grossly bent out of shape, with the left ankle touching my shoulder. Ouch. Convinced my leg is broken, I try to stand up. Nothing. No pain, no problem walking. Phew.
Our destination is a huge cave, where we have the picnic lunch so lovingly carried by the porter. Amazingly, the food is still warm. My leg is beginning to hurt a little by now, so I take a rest on a rock while the others explore the cave. By the time we start the walk back to camp, I can barely put any weight on the leg, and my knee has swollen to the size of a football. Oh dear. The others lament on how they are going to get me back to the lodge, and suggestions include making a raft and floating me down the river. I choose to hobble instead.
The trek back feels a hundred times longer that it did getting there, but I do finally make it, collapsing into a chair in the dining room. We'd drunk all the “jungle juice” the previous night, so I double up on painkillers before letting myself fall onto the thin mattress on the floor in our little bamboo hut, worrying about how I am going to manage to get up again with a gammy leg.
On return to the UK, my physician confirms that I tore off the ligaments completely in my knee. It sure was one of our more adventurous adventures.