The next morning I wake up early, around 7.30 am. Early bird catches the worm. Well, I don’t like worm, but who gives a darn, I can see sunshine out there promising a beautiful day. However, I’m reluctant to get up because I feel a little dizzy from… well, I’m not sure. Oh wait, it might be caused by drinking a few glasses of lao the night before… But that’s no problem since the cool morning air helps me recover quickly.

Lazy DayThe next step of my morning routine would normally be to take a shower. This is not that easy here. There are washroom facilities at the park, but no showers. It is more like a basin full of water and you use a small bucket to pour the water onto your body. And let me add one more thing: have you ever asked yourself why this National Park is called Nam Nao? Well, nam means “water”, and nao means “cold”. Do I really have to say more?

In short, I reduce my shower routine to brushing my teeth and shampooing my upper body. Uhm, well, we are planning to do lots of activities in the forest, so it would be a waste of water to take a long shower, wouldn’t it???

Kyro is also awake already. We grill some toast and have a nice strawberry jam toast breakfast. Kyro’s idea of grilling some bananas is also fabulous. Everybody else is still in the kingdom of dreams. So guess what we do… Right! We just take it easy and do nothing until everybody has woke up.

The rest of the morning is spent mostly by Bow and Jonas preparing lunch, Glenny working on improving his arrow design, me taking photos and Seb and Kyro relaxing. Lunch is delicious, Bow is cooking Thai Green Curry (Gaeng Kiao Waan), with the help of her Swedish assistant.

We decide to spend the afternoon hiking on some of the jungle trails. Even Glenny joins, although the construction of his bow and arrow has not progressed far enough to hunt down our dinner. According to a sign in the jungle there is a 4.5 km trail which seems suitable for our limited stamina. The map tells us there is a viewpoint on this trail, which gives us enough motivation to get going.

In the beginning we walk along the same trail I had hiked the day before, but this time there is no snake. Proceeding further into the jungle, the ground looks charred as if there had been a forest fire. Later it becomes obvious that the fire is still ongoing. Rather, it is not a forest fire, but a slow process of smouldering. We see the trunks of some trees lying on the ground, felled by the fire and still smouldering. The former position of the trunk is reflected by white ashes lying where the trunk had been before. At some spots we can even see deep holes in the ground where the fire has not just burnt the tree, but also all of its roots. It’s a funny feeling to kind of be in the midst of a forest fire without actually seeing any real threat. It is almost unreal.
After the trail being fairly wide and smooth near our camp, we finally reach an intersection where we can choose if we want to get to the viewpoint by using a wide 2.5 km trail or a narrow and rather steep 1.1 km trail. We feel sporty so we choose the steep one. Still the results of the fire are evident everywhere around us. After a long uphill battle we finally reach a spot with a nice view and figure this is the viewpoint, so we take a rest.

After some time we continue along the trail, which will ultimately take us back to our camp. Some 10 minutes after leaving our viewpoint, we suddenly reach the actual viewpoint, which is much nicer than the place we found because it offers some benches to sit down. We gratefully accept the invitation and take another break before continuing towards the camp.

From now on the trail is really easy. Very wide, it gradually slopes down towards the valley. The forest fires must have had a greater extent than in the other areas we passed through, because here all the bushes and all the bamboo are gone and just the trees are still standing. It looks almost apocalyptic, charred trees growing in a grey landscape which is still smouldering every now and then. Later on, we see dry bamboo growing in the same burnt area, it is alomost incomprehensible how these plants could get away unharmed from the force of the fire. We even find a small pink flower growing in the ashes, almost as if from out of nowhere.

Finally we reach our camp again. It is now 4 pm and I have to pack my stuff since I have to be back at work the next day. So I take a quick kind-of-shower again (ok, I just wash the ashes off my feet), pack up things, say bye to everybody (the lucky ones are staying one more day) and head towards the visitor centre. There is a local bus at 5 pm and at 5:20 pm, so I have time for a quick dinner, moo phad grabpao before someone takes me to the main highway for 50 baht.
So here I am and wait for the bus.

4:55 pm. Cool, only 5 minutes to go.
5:00 pm. No bus.
5:10 pm. Hmm, the 5 pm bus was probably early. Ok, I’ll take the 5:20 bus.
5:20 pm. No bus.
5:25 pm. No bus. Will I ever get away from this place?
5:30 pm. I start waving to every passing pickup truck, hoping it might be the local bus. It is not.

5:35 pm. One of the pickup trucks stops. Nope, it’s not the local bus, just some rice farmers stopping to take a leak. I ask them if they’re going to Lomsak and they agree to give me a ride. So I sit in the back of a pickup truck with four charming rice farming ladies. The locals who overtake us can’t believe their eyes and always smile when they see the farang sitting with the farmers. But who cares.

The ladies are actually quite cheerful and happy that they have found a new victim to chat with. They are from Sukhothai but are now on their way back from Khon Kaen and Maha Sarakham where they have been harvesting rice the week before. A very long drive in this slow pickup truck.

The driver stops right at the station of the long distance coaches, which is a few kilometres outside Lomsak. I’m lucky, the next coach to Bangkok is scheduled to leave 10 minutes later. It’s only Second Class, but still air conditioned and costs just 179 baht. I feel no real discomfort, no being able to ride in First Class, the only thing missing are the snacks and the blankets. But that’s not an issue because the aircon in this coach is very comfortable and not too cold. But why do they have to watch this crappy VCD??? Fortunately they turn it off after a while, so I’m able to sleep during most of the trip. I arrive in Bangkok shortly after 1 am and catch a taxi back home.