Back to the high route trail of Phuket after a year off.

Feb 26, 2012

OK, was back out there two days ago and once again, this trail is just tough.
I don’t mind that I’m now in the most remote part of the whole island (just south-east of the airport in the high mountains to the east driving up), and it now takes me 2 hours just to get up to where I left off.
I’ve been up there 3 times now and each time, was turned back because it’s so thick up there on top with no trail found going the direction I desire.

But, finally, I persevered  and finally found some trail.
Of course it was short-lived (as always up there)
And in another hour, I was once again blazing (hacking) through thick vines and thorny bushes with blood running down my legs.

But, I would continually find trail, only to lose it again, over and over.
This gets hard, especially when it was one of the hottest days of the year so far.
Luckily we had a bit of rain in the past week so, I did find some small seeps of water to drink.
When I was at one of these (after falling down the steep bank surrounding it, I heard a noise  and looked up to see the biggest, fattest, and fastest wild boar (pig) that I’ve ever seen charging around the top of the ridge and coming my way.   Knowing my pepper spray wasn’t real handy, I started screaming and getting my machete ready for a charge.  Luckily he veered off when he heard my scream and turned away.    Whoo!   Talk about an adrenaline rush.

So, I realized after 3 hours or so, that I was not in as good of shape physically as the last few times I’ve been up here and was getting exhausted quickly.
So, hoping for good trail, I sometimes would get a little off my preferred  course to follow some trail that hunters use.
I believe they are hunter trails because I don’t know why else anyone else is up there and I did find a few empty shotgun shells and what looked like an empty .22 caliber ammo box.

Saw a few old, small camps where fires had been built.  Maybe someone was living up there???

Anyway, eventually I was so exhausted that I realized I wasn’t going to make it to the Jung road that was a GPS point I had marked and I bailed out where I saw some rubber trees down below.
Got cleaned up pretty good at a nice small swimming hole I found near a house, but no people.
Walking out the road however, I saw some Thai men drive by on their 3 wheeler looking a bit grim at me.
Usually I get smiles and a wave from Thai people.     Anyway, I finally got the big road and flagged down a  motorcycle taxi who took me back to my bike hidden in the jungle where I started.      It was right on his way so, he was happy for the 60 baht I gave him (he asked for 40).
Next time back, I plan to come in the other way  (from the road) and just meet up with where I left off.  Should be easy ( Yeah Right!)

Below are older posts:

Some of you may recall that I was attacked by a gibbon while doing my trailblazing for my hiking trail of Phuket last year.
I was so worried about going back into his territory that I put it off for over a year.
I wanted to bring some bear (pepper) spray back with me from the US last trip but then found out it is illegal to bring on a plane.

So, I waited and finally bought a small sprayer here in Thailand and went back out there this past week.  Twice.

I had to redo the whole section before the ape as I had accidently  erased the track from my GPS and I do need to have the track complete.   My goal of course, is to create a downloadable track or path so that anyone with a handheld GPS can go out there and hike the trail.
It is far from an easy section and starts with a bushwhack up a very steep mountain with cut bamboo at the top that is a lot like “pickup sticks”.   Very difficult just to get to where I left off from the last section.
Since I’m up in the mountains just to the east of Talang right now, this is by far the wildest portion of the island of Phuket.

So, I went out last week and redid that steep mountain with the bamboo on top and did find a few faint trails on the northern side and eventually got to about 200 meters before the spot where the monkey got me.  (I had marked the spot on the GPS last Feb)

I then found a good trail heading east and took it all the way down to a dirt road about 2 kms before the turn off for Ban Pae waterfall.

So, yesterday I parked my motorbike there (after the pack of 6 or 7 dogs guarding the rubber tree shack there tried their best to get me)  and started back up the trail.    Just before I got to the spot where I came onto this trail, I found a faint trail going right towards the monkey encounter spot.

So, I took a break, got my machete out in one hand and the pepper spray in the other and proceeded very quietly up to the spot.     Guess what?   No monkey today!    I was so glad but, that’s not to say it was uneventful.   About 200 meters past the spot, a swarm of bees seemed to come out of the ground and got me.  I ran and yelled as 2 of them stung me (only) I saw about 15 of them.

I always see many big spiders while doing my hiking here.  I have found that they are not harmful (at least to me) and I look on them as good luck when I see them and try not to bother their webs.

So, the area is abundant with faint trails as the gibbon rehabilitation people must go in there a lot to put food out or whatever.  I did see a cage with fruit inside at one point.

Sticking with my white track on my GPS (this is my preferred route that I designed on Google Earth 4 years ago that connects all the high mountains via ridges and is my desired trail)    I did my best to use their trails when I could with only about 20% bushwhacking in this area.
A few steep climbs later (and a nice swimming hole), I finally left their area (they use red paint on trees to define paths sometimes)

I was up on top and out of the monkey area and now had to decide what to do.   If I bailed out, back down some of their paths to a road, I would have to come through there again.   I wasn’t at all fond of this area after the attack, and even though I wasn’t properly prepared  (I didn’t have much food), I decided to continue on.
I’m not always the smartest planner and should have realized that this section is the wildest part of the whole island, with no access that I could see on Google Earth but, I continued anyway.

Big Cicaeda

Found some trails and one after a while that was right up there on top where I wanted to be.
Came to a junction of trails that seemed recently used that I assumed was a bailout point to the east and the one continueing straight on the ridge, where I wanted the trail to be.
This was probably my worst mistake of the day as I continued on as it was only about 12 noon or maybe 1 PM.

I did find a deep ravine that had water coming out of the rock.  Ah perfect spring and I needed one about now.   Drank the rest of my water and 2 more half-litres and continued.

The trail went for about 500 meters and then (of course) petered out.   Bushwhacking again.   What to do.  I wandered around looking for something as I knew I had to go a long way and didn’t want to go back.  (another mistake)
Finally I decided I had to bail out or risk losing daylight.  (plus I was hungry and tired)

According to my GPS, there was a road to the west exactly one km away.   You think that isn’t far until you are bushwhacking down a steep mountain that is thick with vines, sticker bushes and even mud sometimes.  (I figured this mud is made from rootings of wild pigs as I had heard they were prevalant in this area, although I have yet to see one)

At one point, after a steep slide, trying to stop but not grab thorny vines to slow down, I once again was attacked by a swarm of small bees.   The stings were like a bad jellyfish sting as it was over a square foot area or so.      Once again, I did my best to run away.

I stopped to rest a few times, eating a small portion of my food each time and eventually found a stream that was getting bigger and bigger although it really wasn’t going in the direction I wanted.  I followed it.

A few times it got so thick that I just had to walk in the water and try not to fall down the slippery rocks.  I fell in once and my camera and cell phone got a little wet but, i tried to dry them out right away.   By this point, I was so wet from sweat that the fall in the water didn’t make me any worse except perhaps my shoes were worse.     I was using up all my salt in my body and although I was drinking a lot of water (now that I was following a creek), I would pay for the salt loss later.

Finally about 5 PM, I got to a rubber tree shack and a small dirt track out of there to a road.    
I sat and waited and finally a few motorbikes came and after lots of discussion (they spoke absolutely no English and didn’t seem to understand my Thai) one of them decided to drive me back.
It ended up being about 20 kms back to where my bike was.   The dogs were crazy again but I headed out of there.
Stopped at a restaurant and ordered 2 meals, had a gatorade and ice cream for dessert.

Got home and took 2 magnesium pills and went to bed.  But I couldn’t sleep.  My body  was just cramping up all over.   My neck, hands, legs, feet, even my one finger,  just kept cramping up.    I went out and bought more Gatorade and finally 2 bags of chips for the salt.    Had a fitful night and here I am, still cramping and poor circulation in the morning writing this up.
I hope to go through my camera soon and add some pics to this post.
Thanks for listening.

June 5, 2013

OK, been out a few times since this last entry (above) and getting her done now.
I guess 3 or 4 times since that post above and last week  I bushwhacked back into where I left off last, looking for my GPS track which I do my best to turn on and off when I’m either on my trail or hiking in or out so that I know the way in again.
So, I was glad to be back in some good jungle with wild plants, not much sign of man until I got to the top where, lo and behold, I found a great trail again.
So, it was right where my white line (preferred route) wanted it to be.
I followed all the way down until about 300 meters from the blacktop road (route 4027?) I came to a rubber tree plantation guy’s shack and there was an old guy there who spoke no English (I don’t even know that he spoke Thai as he didn’t seem to understand mine).
He had one broken flip flop on and one good one (although they didn’t match) I felt a bit sorry for him but he seemed right at home up there.

A few more shacks with their dogs barking madly at me and I came to the road which I named exithere as I created a waypoint there.

There was a small store not far away and I was pretty thirsty so, I stopped and bought 2 Thai energy drinks (not the M150 but the sportsdrink) and there were 2 guys there.  I asked them for a ride and said I’d pay them but, on second thought, they looked pretty drunk so I just walked away.   I was walking down the road and a nice, new white SUV stopped and a farang named Peter asked me if I wanted a ride.  Turns out he has a company that does weddings so, we talked business and hopefully we’ll get some from him.

So, today, I went back and parked my bike back at that store after asking.
And went back into the rubber and palm plantations.
Didn’t take long for the dogs to start barking and then I had my first ford of a stream.   (picture to the right) 2013-06-05 10.16.09
It wasn’t deep, but I don’t like swamps and figured I’m going to have a lot of them coming up as it’s pretty flat for the next few miles.

Sure enough, 2 more fords, feet and shoes getting muddy but eventually I found some cattle tracks and followed them a bit.
Got to a power line which was where I need it to be but that got real  swampy fast.
Eventually I came to a small dirt road and hiked out to get a drink at a shop.
I was only about 50 meters from where I wanted to cross the big road and right near the airport.

Planes that were landing were flying right over my head.
So, my goal of reaching the airport today was successful.
I crossed the big road (carefully) and there was a steep bank on the other side so I had to walk the shoulder until I came upon a guy selling cotton candy or something and he had a little log bridge he built across the drainage ditch and right up to the barbed wire fence.
I asked him if I could use his bridge and he really looked at me funny as he didn’t understand at all where I wanted to go (in the rubber tree farm behind him)

Rubber tree farms are the easiest hiking there is here so, I made great time and did another mile, crossed a road and then was bushwhacking in some thick stuff again when I found this big, deep (killer) hole in the ground.   If I fell into that thing, I was dead. I knew that, but had to get awful close to it.  I relied heavily on my walking stick that I always carry as I have to bat down sticker bushes and stuff.

Anyway, a little later, I found some concrete steps in the middle of nowhere and they lead down to a well.
I guess the one before had been abandoned and they just left it.  Very dangerous.

Climbed up again steeply through bushwhacking and bananas and rubber and came out at a small road which I marked cutbank on my Gps.
Great views from here and I took some pictures back (south) of the airport runway and a beautiful WAT (temple) or so I thought.,
I ended up checking it out and a guy there told me it was going to be someone’s house!!!

2013-06-05 11.54.25  Phuket airport from Luxury House.


June 11, 2013
Out again today even though we’ve had 3 days of hard rain.
You can tell the end is in sight because I normally don’t like swamps and I had to walk in a lot of water today.
But, before that, I had one of my hardest descents from the hill with all the radar towers on about 2 miles north of the airport.
Coming off the north side, I had nice trail for a while and then I didn’t.
It wasn’t too bad at first as I could follow a barbed wire fence even though it was very thick.
I just had my machete sharpened and that was totally necessary as I chopped through a lot today.
Got stuck in vines a lot and had a steep, descent in thick thick jungle.
Had a few minor falls, once on rocks but was OK>
Told myself when I got to the bottom, I’d call it a day, but then it got easy.
Actually had a bridge to cross a stream that was roaring.  Even stopped to take a picture of it.
Wasn't sure it was going to hold me
Wasn’t sure it was going to hold me

Then I got to a large cleared area on the last real hill.
It was easy for a while but then I ran into where it had just been cleared and lots of brush around.

Met some workers there who were clearing it.
They were a little surpised to see me I think.
Seemed  like a whole family, perhaps Burmese people, about 5 or 6 or them.
Down the other side was full of mudslides and then the nicest rubber plantation I ever saw>
Only problem was between the rows there was often water I had to walk through.
Once it was thigh deep.
Got really far today but eventually came to a big, moving stream (normally) that today I’ll call a small river.
I wasn’t going to ford that as I had no idea how deep it could be and it was moving pretty good too.
So, I had a long hitch back and ended up paying a guy 200 baht ($6) to take me 9 kms.

Traffic back home really sucked and it took me 1 1/2 hours as I had the truck today because I was expecting rain.

I’ll take the motorbike next time.
If I’m lucky, and can get across that river, and not too many hurdles, I think I can finish on another long day!

We’ll see.

Friday June 21, 2013:  SUCCESS at Last!

Finished the trail today!   Put in a long day as I figure I went 10 kms on the trail and then walked over the bridge into Phangnga looking for a nice restaurant for a celebration dinner and then walked all the way back to my truck.  So, at least 20 kms today.

After contemplating Google Earth for a while, it looked like a crossing that perhaps motorbikes use about 100 meters from my Big Creek waypoint where I couldn’t get through last time.  So, sure enough, the river was wider and shallower there and motorbikes had used it in the drier parts of the year.     2013-06-21 12.03.09

After crossing, found some nice country for walking and often small trails that I connected together.    Went by only a few houses and then some fairly big coconut plantations.
I knew there were 3- 5 star hotels nearby so I wanted to stay away from them but Phuket really narrows here so, I ended up walking under a huge powerline for a while until it got too swampy as I was walking in knee-deep water for too long.    So, after clearing the last big hotel (JW Marriott)  I headed for the beach and walked the woods nearby until I got to the restaurants and then I hit the sand.    Came around the point and got my first glimpse of the bridge.   Good feeling and nice country here as it is a National Park.

Watched some fishermen throwing their nets around the point as I had to go about another km after 1st eyeing the bridge.
Finally got up on the bridge and called my wife.    After congratulations, I asked a Chinese tourist to take my picture in the middle of the bridge.

2013-06-21 14.20.18

Then I walked over into PhangNga and turned right (east) to the end of that road looking for a good restaurant as the one near the bridge looked closed.   On the way back, I saw some people were eating there so, had my congratulatory dinner there within sight of the bridge and got the waiter to take my picture.    Had to walk all the way back to my truck as I had to go through the police/army checkpoint this time and no one wanted to pick me up for that.   So, I got my exercise in today.    20 kms.
A good feeling all around.

Except:  Now what?

What’s next?

We’ll see.

Success and Dinner.
Success and Dinner.

The entire route has now been uploaded to a website where anyone can download it and install it on your own GPS and go out and follow my route.    The link is here.


Good luck!   Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I have.