Tarzan like he swung through the jungle trees
05.08.2009 - 08.08.2009 19 °C
Well my last activity in Laos was certainly a case of saving the best for last! I had signed up for what is known as “The Gibbon Experience”. This is an eco-tourism project in the Bokeo national park of Laos which is right on the Laos/Thailand border. This project's aims are to protect the delicate eco system in the park from the flora to the fauna using the Gibbon monkey as its poster child. They work to achieve this goals by getting funding from tourism as the Laos government can't afford to pay for park rangers or any kind of conversation in the country's national parks. Indeed Bokeo national park is the only national park in Laos that has park rangers to project the animals from poachers. This projection is fully paid for by tourists who partake of the Gibbon Experience.
As part of this Gibbon Experience I spent three days living deep in the Laos jungles of Bokeo National Park and sleeping in a network of treehouses suspended high above the jungle floor. These tree houses were quite impressive structures complete with beds, a kitchen area and a toilet complete with shower.
There is very few showers where you look directly down and see the ground 100 metres below you through the floor and then are able to look around you to get a panoramic view of hills and jungles bathed in a gentle mist.
To get around the jungle and from tree house to tree house you used an extensive network of ziplines.
These ziplines were over 150 metres above the jungle floor and would allow you to glide over the canopy of the jungle and grant you magnificent views of the surrounding hills and valleys. These were no short trips either, the longest zip line was just short of 400 metres long and took about a full minute to traverse. It was an unbelievable experience to glide for so long. Although you need that amount of time to try take in what exactly you were doing and to enjoy the scenery about you. It was without the best thing I did in Laos and is one of the highlights of my trip so far. It's near impossible to describe the feeling of freedom and giddiness you experience as you glide high above the trees. You are essentially flying effortlessly from tree top to tree top, there really is very little I can compare it to and I certainly don't have the talent to describe it.
What was particularly cool about the time in the jungle is that it wasn't too restrictive. In Europe if such an experience was to exist it would be totally tamed with health and safety restrictions. Here once you were shown how to attach yourself correctly and how to use the zip lines you were given total freedom on where you went and when you went. This made the experience all the more liberating as you never fell part of a tourist attraction. You really were out on your own in the jungle living in a treehouse. The only time you saw the guides was when the came with dinner or when they would take you to another part of the jungle to experience new tree houses and zip lines.
On our second a heavy monsoon rain set in and didn't stop until mid morning on the third day. This was slightly unfortunate in one sense as the mists obscured some of the views but yet at the same time it was fantastic to experience the rain forest as it naturally is. Zip lining along became a flight into the unknown as sometimes you could barely see 10 metres ahead of you. All you could see was a cable disappearing into the mist. Suddenly a tree would appear out of no where and you were slamming on the brakes to avoid a crash. It was certainly an exhilarating experience to fly blind. I did a few runs in the dark and that really was a chilling experience as you had zero visibility and you glided high above the tree tops on your own which only the eerie sounds of jungle to comfort you (they were no comfort I tell you). Trekking through the jungle in the rain was also a lot of fun once you stopped caring about trying to stay try. Trekking in the rain through the forest was so reminiscent of a scenes from a certain TV show I like that I was keeping my eyes peeled for polar bears:-)! The only downside of the rain was that it kept the Gibbons away. We unfortunately didn't get to see any, unlike the previous group, but we did hear the gibbons sing during the night. Their haunting song echoing through the dark jungle was we played cards by candlelight in our tree house shelter. I'm thinking about contacting the Guinness Book of records to see if my house of cards can be classified as the highest house of cards in the world since I was about 100 metres up when I completed it!
It was also nice just to relax and enjoy the view
and to spend time with some of your tree house mates
To emphasis exactly how remote we were I can tell you that since we had a day of rain the 4X4 vehicle that brought us to a village near (about a 1 ½ hour hike from the 1st tree house) could no longer make the journey to pick us up as the road was no impassable. We would have to return by foot. We hiked for 22km over very steep hills through incredibly muddy paths to return to the roadside.
Hell we even had to wade through two rivers, the second having particularly strong currents and a water level that rose to my chest.
After just shy of 5 hours of hiking some very tired people arrived back to civilization. Tired we might have been but exhilarated and changed people we were having completed the magnificent and incomparable Gibbon Experience. A truly once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget!
I have some videos that I took while travelling on the zip line but I couldn't be bothered uploading them. You can look up youtube to get an idea of what it is like ：http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyN96htgpwU