A Ride in a Long-Tail Boat

Our trip in a long-tail boat from The Ton to Chiang Rai, Thailand

ThaiBoatTrip - 11

After two coffees each in the bakery in Mae Salong we stand on the street waiting for the first yellow songthaew of the day to take us down to Tha Ton in time to catch the 12:30pm boat to Chiang Rai.

To our slight consternation the yellow songthaew never arrives. Eventually a green songthaew stops and we decide to take that part way down the road, knowing we will have to switch to a yellow one later. Twenty minutes down the road we stop to pick up James and Suzannah, a couple from Gympie, Australia, who we had first met just as we were leaving the Akha Mud House in Hloyo. Our travel plans for the next few days roughly matched and we agreed that travelling together to Chiang Rai would give us the minimum of four people required for the ‘once-a-day’ public boat so we made our plans.

After a brief pause for James and Suzannah to clamber aboard we continue down the road. Ten minutes later we reach the little ‘bus station’ at the next intersection and are pleased to see a yellow songthaew waiting which will mean we can continue our journey to Tha Ton with very little delay. It isn’t long before we are there. We enjoy the short walk across the bridge and along the river to the waiting boats.

After some discussion about the merits of taking the public boat or hiring one which will make a few stops on the way down river we opt for the private hire. As luck would have it a young Italian couple stroll up at that point and they are quickly inveigled into joining us by James, which gives us all a slightly less expensive ticket, plus the few stops along the way and a chance to meet someone new. After a quick coffee we are back to board the boat and we are on our way. As we leave we pass the Guest House where we stayed in The Ton

To begin with the river takes broad turns through the fertile plains just south of Tha Ton. We see many different types of crops as we pass by the irrigated fields including maize, sugar cane, and rice. In places the river is gradually eroding the banks and in others it is depositing tons of sand. In a few spots there are dredges at work to keep the river navigable and to collect sand for building. Even so, some parts of the river are obviously pretty shallow. The chap steering the boat does a great job of sticking to the deeper channels … albeit with just one eye! In the shallower stretches he has to lift the propeller out of the water and we glide over the sandy bottom. With seven of us in the boat, plus luggage, the water is only inches from the top of the gunwales.

Up ahead we can see that the river is going to pass between a range of hills. It isn’t long before we reach the first hills and the river narrows and we are making our way between rock-lined passages. The scenery is great and the jungle comes right down to the water’s edge. Our redoubtable captain now has the challenge of steering his way through several small rapids and rougher water. Sitting in the front as we are we cop a soaking a few times. But it’s a warm day and this is great fun.

We are still within the range of hills when we make our first stop at a village and we can stretch our legs.

ThaiBoatTrip - 4ThaiBoatTrip - 5ThaiBoatTrip - 3ThaiBoatTrip - 6

Some of the scenes along the Kok River

ThaiBoatTrip - 7ThaiBoatTrip - 8ThaiBoatTrip - 16

Our second stop is at a national park and we take a small walk to see the hot springs (56 degrees Centigrade).

ThaiBoatTrip - 17

As we make our way down the river we enjoy the scenery and the sights.

Our last stop enroute is for a very tasty lunch in a small town not far north of Chiang Rai.

We are surprised when we are dropped off just short of Chiang Rai and there is a songthaew waiting to take us into the city. We had expected to be dropped much closer but we go along with it and after dropping the Italian couple at the bus station we are soon at the place where James and Suzannah are staying. There is no room for us but we quickly find something nearby but our room won’t be ready for thirty minutes. We head back to meet James and Suzannah and have a beer with them and make arrangements to meet for dinner.

James and Suzannah are great travellers as well and you can follow them on their Facebook Page and Blog

ThaiBoatTrip - 1

Our thoughts now are that we will move to a place slightly closer to the city centre tomorrow and then figure out what we would like to see in Chiang Rai.

Advertisements

On the Okavango

We just arrived in the Caprivi Strip in the far north east of Namibia. We’re staying at the Nunda River Lodge on the banks of the Okavango River, tough view from the bar huh? We have two weeks left on our three month Namibian visa and plan to have some r&r time after all the travelling so we’ll be at this campsite for at least a week. We’ve seen so many wonderful sights in this country and I’m way behind on my blog posts but hopefully I’ll catch up while I’m here. Naturally Paul will also be working on his huge backlog of photos, he has so many extraordinary images it will be good for him to have more time to spend preparing them for sharing.
We’ll also need time to explore this amazing area. Here the Okavango has flowed out of Angola and along the border between Namibia and Angola and just 80 km downstream it flows into the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Apart from taking drives into the nearby Mahango Game Reserve we hope to see hippos passing by our campsite on the way to their feeding grounds and a sunset cruise is also on offer.

A Bend in the River

Reflections from a camp on the Ord River in Western Australia

Ord River, Kimberleys, Western Australia

Sunset on the Ord River

We have spent a lot of time near the sea in the last year so it was a very different experience to camp on the banks of a large inland river in the north of the Kimberley region of Western Australia. This was not our original intention when we left Kununurra though!

On the recommendation of the “Unimog Mob” (who we met on the Canning Stock Route) we thought we might head to Cape Domett on the coast about 150km north of Kununnura. Unfortunately we discover that the access road to the coast passes through private property and the owners have closed it to the public. So instead we continue west along the road towards Carlton Hill Station and then, on a whim, turn south along a bush track for five kilometres and find a very quiet spot on a bend in the Ord River where we camp for three nights.

Sitting beside the river we are fascinated by its rythms. The liquid patterns of the currents and eddies on the surface of this broad river flow past in an ever-changing continuum. Patches of calm water and turbulence form and re-form around rocks, fallen trees and in the shallows. However long you watch you can never be sure that the flowing lines, textures and light ever repeat themselves in quite the same way. After a day or two it seems to us that the river has created its own subtle definition of time that has become the measure of our day.

Ord River, Kimberleys, Western Australia

currents and eddies in the Ord River

It is also the centre of life for an abundance of wildlife. Black Kites and Whistling Kites quarter the skies above us, instinctively flying the angles across the breeze for lift and speed. A Black Kite drops briefly to the river bank to drink some water then flies a short distance to a dead tree higher up the bank. It waits there until a gust of wind blows along the river and provides the lift for an almost effortless take off. Within seconds it has climbed many metres above the river.

On two occasions we watch some Brolgas, beautiful pale grey storks, come down to drink at the river’s edge. Both times they are accompanied by one or two small kangaroos which hang back until the Brolgas have finished drinking. This takes a little while because their beaks are so long and they are so tall. They scoop small amounts of water up and then throw their heads back to swallow. We saw several kangaroo on the drive in here and we hear several more in the brush behind our camp. Their tracks and droppings are everywhere.

On the first two days we watch a Whistling Kite eating its catch on a branch over-hanging the river very close by our camp. On the first day he eats a fish, but on the second day he has caught a small bird, the plucked feathers floating in the breeze until they come to rest on the surface of the water and float on down river.

Ord River, Kimberleys, Western Australia

Ord River, Kimberleys, Western Australia

Corellas and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos fly overhead at dawn, catching the early light on their snow white feathers, and several times a day fly down to the sandy bank on the far side of the river to drink. They stand in the shallows at the edge of the river, dip their thick beaks in the water, then lift their heads too swallow.

Ord River, Kimberleys, Western Australia

Corellas

For the first two days we don’t see any crocodiles at all. On the third day as we walk along the river bank in the shade of some large paper-bark trees we hear a big splash from around the bend in front of us. We look for tell-tale marks along the bank to see if we can spot the tracks and slide marks where a croc has entered the water but it is very difficult to be sure as there are plenty of kangaroo tracks along the bank as well. A little later, on our return walk, we spot a croc on the far bank of the river and assume that this is the one we had disturbed earlier.

Saltwater Crocodile, Ord River, Western Australia

Saltwater Crocodile

When we get back to camp and we are sitting having coffee another crocodile launches itself from between some rocks and then walks up onto the sandy bank opposite us and lies there sunning itself for a few hours. It is a fair sized saltwater crocodile (a “saltie”) so Paul is a little more vigilant when he is filling buckets from the river.

A hundred metres to the north of our camp a dead kangaroo is lying in the middle of a section of dry river bed. In the early morning we see eagles and kites feeding on the carcass but they don’t stay long because they get too hot if they stay at ground level in full sun for very long.

On our way here, to get to our camping spot under some shady trees, we drove for a while along and then across part of the dry river bed, picking our way over the harder stone and rocks, and avoiding the softer sand beds. Such a beautiful spot. We see several willie willies pick up a lot of dust as they travel across the sandy river bed behind us and over the far bank of the river. Apart from providing shade the trees around us act as a wind break and keep most of the dust away from our camp although once or twice the wind does shake things up a bit.

In the shallows of the river opposite our camp are three elongated rocks in a line, the first smaller than the second and the second smaller than the third. In the low light at dawn and dusk they look like the back of a gigantic, partly submerged crocodile. Another large rock extends out from the opposite bank and I take a few photos of it. Towards the end of our stay we find out that the place is called Skull Rock and named for this rock.

Skull Rock, Ord River

Skull Rock

As we sit in our camp and look down river to the west we see tree-lined banks and a hill behind the bend at the far end of our view. In the evening the sun sets behind this hill giving a red glow to the sky and turning the length of the river gold. Green and blue reflections light up the river during the day. On our first and last night we cook on a camp fire. Then after dinner we sit and watch the stars and their reflection in the river.

Front Row Seat

Front Row Seat

All around our camp the trees are stacked up with flood debris. Twigs, branches and whole trees are strewn about. In the wet season we figure that the area we are camping in will be underwater when they release water out of the Argyle Dam. At least it makes collecting firewood easy.

One afternoon a pair of Jabirus (Black-Necked Storks) fly up river from the west. They don’t see us sitting in the shade of our camp until they are directly opposite. One of them gives a short squawk and then they pass behind some trees overhanging the river.

When we leave we both agree that we will make an effort to return to this part of the Ord River when we travel through Kununnura.