24th April 2019 – The Headhunter’s Trail.

Not the best night’s sleep last night. A combination of the heat and the less comfortable bed, along with other Chinese travellers getting up very noisily at 5.30 am made for a sleepless night.

We needed to be up for a breakfast of noodles and fried egg at 7am. The heat did calm down overnight and when we woke it was relatively fresh. However, none of the wet clothing had dried and even the dry clothing felt mildly damp.

An all round view
Before we start! Mel, Kim, Jake, Connor, Peter, Cat, me, Yvonne, Ed, Amy, Chuck, Leanne and Nizam

We started our walk at around 8am with the temperature starting to climb. The first section took us up past the swimming point to another monkey ladder rope bridge. Then we headed back down the river bank on the opposite side.

The terrain was similar to yesterday alternating between stone, mud and planks. As we walked there were markers every 1km to tell us how we were doing! After about an hour we had managed to cover just over 3km and the humidity was starting to become very high.

By 6km, we were all dripping with sweat and it struck me quite how remote we are. There were no roads to the camp 5, and so there really was only one way to go… On! At 7km we came to a crossing where the original monkey ladder rope bridge had been destroyed by a falling tree. Here we had to remove our socks and shoes and wade across. As I removed my one shoe there was quite a bit of blood just before the ankle and it was clear that a leech had been having a meal at my expense! The small round was still bleeding even after I had waded across the river through the knee high water.

Crossing the river

Just on the other side we stopped to put our socks and shoes back on and for some of us to tend our wounds. Ed also had been host to a leech just before he went into the water.

We walked on, glad that we were over half way. However, the heat and humidity we taking their toll and we were all starting to get very tired! The forest wildlife also seemed to have woken up to the fact that there was fresh meat around and Ed had another leech on his wrist and an insect such stung him on the stomach.

Eventually, after almost 5 hours, we arrived at a river bank where there were boats waiting to take us down stream. A very welcome sight. I can honestly say that I’ve never exercised is such extreme conditions and the headhunter trail may ‘only’ have been 11km, but it certainly felt much longer.

Made it. Just as well you can’t see how sweaty we are!

The boats were a slightly deeper version of the ones that we’d been on yesterday and also had seats fashioned out of plastic chairs with their legs cut off. We climbed aboard, glad to have made it! So, the headhunter trail, a great challenge and one to be proud of!

A welcome sight

We had a 30 minute journey downstream with alternating for water and ‘rapids’. Just before we stopped for lunch there was a section that we had to get out and walk around! We stopped just after where the boat handlers had prepared a lunch of vegetables, aubergine and sweet and sour booked egg, with a watery melon for pudding!

You can clearly see the rock formations

We then got back on our boats for a 3 hour journey downstream to our accommodation for the evening. At first the sun was out and the views of the winding river were beautiful, with the rain forest rushing from either side. However, the clouds started to roll in and before long it rained. Hard!

I was in a different boat to Ed but I grabbed my plastic poncho and pulled it over my head. However the hood came down and before long my face was drenched and water was trickling down my neck. The boat driver ploughed on as the rain bounced off the surface of the river. Fortunately it wasn’t cold!

After a while the rain subsided before starting again just before we arrived at our destination…a long house homestay. We got off the boats and sheltered under a tin shed until it subsided a little. When it did we walked a couple of minutes to our accommodation.

It’s raining!

The long house is essentially a type of terraced house where neighbours share a common space at the front of the building and this was to be where we were sleeping in little ‘pods’ to protect us against the mossies! The traditional longhouses would have been wooden, but now they are built from concrete. We arrived, a bedraggled mess and were greeted warmly, although it was a little unclear what we were to do. There were some shared toilets and a shower. However, in the end, Ed and I decided to simply dry off and put some dry clothes on from our large bags which we had just been reunited with!

After some time relaxing with a couple of cold beers and then we shown how our meal was to be cooked using a bamboo stuffed with chicken and spices on a BBQ.

A cooking demo!

After a while, the owner came to explain that a local TV station was filming a piece about the local tribes and, in particular, how they use herbs and spices in a sorry of make shift sauna. The two American lads were volunteered to be the models and we spent the next 45 minutes watching the film crew take the shots of the presenter interviewing one of the elder ladies about the techniques whilst the models roasted on the sauna made of rattan carpets covered with a cloth roof. All very bizarre!

It was now about 7.45 and time for tea. We were served the chicken along with rice and some spinach and done tasty spicy pineapple curry. We were all flagging a bit by now but there was still the cultural display to watch, although some choose to head to bed. (As it turned out, this was a bit of a mistake as the display as taking place at the other end of the common area so there was no sleep to be had whilst it was taking place). First one of the older ladies danced, followed by a man doing a warrior dance. Then, of course, they tried to get us to take part. I declined, but a couple of the group ended up having a go whilst the local film crew filmed! We were also served some rice wine!

Finally, it was time to retire to our pods, although it’s another stiflingly hot evening and the fans can only do so much.

Overall, an interesting, bizarre, tiring, but ‘enjoyable’ day!

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