Sure enough after about 10 minutes we saw the branches of one of the fruit trees moving. We took out the binoculars provided by our guide and looked into the tree. I could see a small hand reaching out to pluck a green mango on the end of a limb. As the seconds passed more and more monkeys showed up, my guess is that there were at least 40 of them. They were all moving around, jumping from tree to tree and climbing down vines to the edge of the falls. There is a small rocky island covered with green moss just in front of the falls that some of the monkeys leaped to. They were eating the moss and it was so cute seeing the babies hanging on to and some riding on the backs on the mothers.
I asked the guide if this always happens like this seeing the monkeys as if on queue and was told there are many monkey families along the river and if we didn’t see this one, we would most likely see a different family down stream.
It was time to leave, as we had to meet our 4-wheel drive vehicle around noon. We boarded our rafts as quietly as possible as the monkeys stared at us and some fled for cover in the trees and up the vines. It was great seeing monkeys in the wild and not at a temple waiting for handouts or on a leash. We were only a couple hours into our journey and if this is the way it starts we just couldn’t wait to see what was ahead as we still had 5 days to go and we weren’t even in the rain forest yet.
We continued down stream with fantastic rock formations and cliffs with several waterfalls until we reached our take out point. The raft men continued down stream where they would meet us again in a few days while we were going to the 6th largest waterfalls in the world and over night in a hill tribe village.
We boarded the 4-wheel drive pick up truck for the 40-minute ride to the forestry camp. The road was dirt with big ruts and only wide enough for 1 vehicle. We crossed streams and up and down tree and bamboo covered hills until we got to the forestry camp. We could here the roar of the waterfalls, which was a 30-minute walk away.
We had a nice fried rice lunch and fruit at a pavilion at the forestry office then started our walk to the waterfalls. The trail to the falls was not difficult along a beautiful stream with very large trees and the largest bamboo I have ever seen at least 10 inches in diameter. There were signs along the trail telling about the different trees and foliage. There were colorful wild flowers on the ground and orchids in the trees and the further we went the louder the roar from the falls and then we arrived.
It took our breath away and everyone said WOW at the same time then the kids started using words such as awesome and radical. They had it right, as there is no other way to describe it. It wasn’t just the raw power and beauty of the falls but the location as well. Here we were at the beginning of the real rain forest with the most beautiful lush green I have ever seen. This huge cliff of red, black and gray lime stone and sand stone with an unbelievable amount of water pouring over the top.
It is broken up into several sections the main section being in the middle and several small sections on both sides. The total width must have been at least 300 meters wide with ferns and large trees between the sections. From where we were we could see that the falls was some 200 meters high but our guide said we can only see about half of it from here and we would have to climb up to see the rest. The kids said lets go for it so we climbed up a small trail to see the next section.
Up here we could see the falls was at least another 100 meters higher and was told that there is still another section but there is no way to get to it. The section we were on had a few small pools where we could wade and sit in the cool bubbling water. I felt like we were in a National Geographic or Discovery channel movie. One of those places you always wanted to go to but thought it was not possible yet here we were.
We didn’t want to leave this remarkable place but it was time to move on. I asked if camping was allowed at the falls and as told that is a highly restricted area. This meant no smoking and no food or drink is allowed within this area. We could however camp back at the forestry camp if we wanted to. We talked about it and decided our original plan to sleep in the Karen hill tribe village was best.
We walked about 30 minutes back to the forestry camp and when we arrived there were 6 elephants and their handlers waiting for us. As they were loading the supplies on the backs of the elephants we noticed there were 2 baby elephants standing close to their mothers. They were so cute and we wanted to pet them but we were told it is not a good idea. Baby elephants can be very aggressive at times as they don’t know their own strength. They are very playful and can knock you down easily. They like to chase each other and people if they are in a playful mood and run very fast. It is best to observe them from a safe distance of 5 feet or more.
Once the elephants were loaded the handlers had them lay down and we stepped on their leg then up onto their neck and into the chair on their backs. Each elephant holds two persons and we had plenty of cushions for our bottoms and on the back rest. There is a bar on the front of the chairs that you place your legs over and I wondered why. I asked our guide and she said you will find out when the elephants go down hill. She gave us pillows to put under our legs so the bar did not rub against them. Once the elephant stood up and we got comfortable we were ready to go.
We started out on a small path for bout 10 minutes then turned into the jungle with no path at all. The lead elephant was carrying our supplies and had to go first to cut the over hanging branches from the trees and bamboo. He would take out his large machete (a large knife) and cut the small branches he thought might catch us in the face and arms.
We traveled through stands of bamboo that was the largest I have ever seen. It seamed that the elephants never stopped eating pulling the top tender bamboo branches with their trunks. All the while the baby elephants were right in front or next too their mothers. If the baby went too far away the mother would give a soft roar (more like a low rumbling sound) and the baby would come right back.
We rode about 30 minutes when we came to a beautiful stream and were told we could walk awhile if we liked. The kids and I got off the elephants and the misses had the chair on the elephant all to her self so she wanted to ride a bit more. Ott, our guide from All Thailand experiences, stayed on one of the elephants to ride along with mom. We were given our small day packs with bottled water and snacks and our local guide, Kit, brought along a fishing pole. Our guide said we can walk much faster than the elephants can so we soon left them behind.