Phuket High Trail Heroines’ Monument to Kathu

March 10, 2009

Well today i went out and had probaby my toughest day yet.  
I am getting further and further away from home (Rawai) and have to drive about 40 minutes now to start.
I went out for 2 days on the motorbike looking for an easier way into where i had left off above (west) of Kathu waterfall.   Didn’t have any luck so today, went back to where i parked the bike before to do the 480 meter ascent.

When i got there, there was a crowd of people, a backhoe backing up the hill, and as i looked to see why, noticed the concrete bridge that spans a small creek there was completely broken in two!xbrdge01

Seems the backhoe tried to cross the bridge and was too heavy for it and collapsed it.   Some rubber farmers were trying to get across and i went first and scrambled up the steep concrete ramp.   Took this picture as my battery in my camera went dead.   Looks like the start of a rough day so far.

Was glad to reach the top and the saddle where there is a house and the road turns to trail.   A lot cooler up here at 420+ meters.    Walked north for about 20 minutes to where i had left off before.   The waypoint on my GPS was Y4 and there were 4 trails at this point.  I tried all 4 of them and eventually (after a bit of rough bushwhacking) chose one heading west and down on that side for a while.   

Turned into some pretty good trail that seemed old but overgrown.   Eventually it got me to some rubber trees although they were old and not worked anymore.   The trail was good though and going almost exactly in the direction i needed so i followed it for about an hour?  

Then i got to a spot where i could see the next hill was completely logged and thick brush covering everything. From my experience, i knew this meant trouble and sure enough, i tried 3 different routes through there and it just got too thick to go.    I spent a good hour looking for a way through and finally found a little traverse cut into the east side that was somewhat doable.  (overgrown a bit but at least i could walk without getting completely tangled in vines and bushes)

Then it ended.    And i could see i had to leave the knob i was on and head east to another one that was jungle and doable for sure.   But, there was a big gully in between.  I worked my way down and saw a big dead tree that had spanned the deep gully and thought i could walk across it.    But, it has been raining lately and was slippery.   Exactly half-way across, i could tell it was too slippery to do and sure enough, i fell.    I fell about 6 feet and landed on my back.   In water.    I laid there a bit determining how hurt i was and was glad i could get up.  The nearest road at this point is probably about 3 miles away and who knows in what direction???  Lots of steep, terrain around and nothing easy.    I got up and took a good 5 minutes to reorient my thoughts and why i am doing this.

When i’m on trail, it is great and there’s no place i’d rather be.    But, when it is bushwhacking through the thick shit, it is hard.   Very hard.    I don’t know if a trail will ever be built.   If it is, it’ll be an awesome trail but will anyone want to hike the whole thing?   Or will the rubber tree farmers stay as friendly as they have been to me?   Or will anyone even want to do these steep climbs on their holiday?    I can only say that i would.   If a trail was already here, i would be on it every chance i get.   Because it is full of views, and jungle, and rubber trees, and well, this is Thailand.    The highway past Tesco, and Big C, and all the shopping and congestion and Chalong circle with it’s police only ever checking for helmets and drivers license, and the increasing road rage and traffic accidents and noise.   Is that what people come to Thailand to see?   Maybe, some of them.   Human nature baffles me sometimes.    

Anyway, back to my story.    After resting for a while, i bushwhacked a bit up the side hill and found a faint trail heading a bit east of where i wanted to go but was glad to be back on some sort of trail.   After 2 more hills, i came to a newly planted rubber plantation and knew there should then be some kind of access nearby.   Another 10 minutes brought me to a shack where i approached with my usual “Sawadee Krup” spoken loudly.    No dogs here but a man came out with sleep in his eyes.    He didn’t really speak but pointed to the trail that he comes in and out on when i asked him about “going down”.    
I followed this for a good mile before coming to another house although i could hear people working in the nearby plantations.    Then I came to another house, much bigger this time and a small road.   Following that brought me eventually to a road that a 4 wheel drive could come up.  I followed this down for a good 2 or 3 miles.

I was very tired by now as my GPS said i did 17 kms and i hadn’t turned it on until i got to the top of the 450 meter climb at the beginning of the day.     With at least 2 or 3 kms of bushwhacking in there, that is the toughest day i’ve had.     I came out on a concrete road that i had checked out before near Chong Talay.   It was a long and windy road so i just sat down in the shade and waited a good half hour before a man came along on a motorbike and i flagged him down and asked for a ride to the Heroine’s monument circle.   He shook his head and i climbed on the back.    
At the circle, i paid him 60  baht and went immedietly to a restaurant and ordered some food.   I hadn’t expected the day to be that long and it was now about 3:30 in the afternoon and i hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  

I was pretty dehydrated also even though i had filled up my half-litre water bottle at least 3 times in springs and small creeks up on the mountain.    So, i enjoyed some food and drink and then got a motorcycle taxi guy to take me the 20 kms back to where my bike was parked.    He showed me  a nice shortcut that went past the British International School or “Dulwich” as it used to be called.   That’s the 1st time i had seen it and was impressed as it looked like a college campus.    Of course at 600,000 baht tuition per student, it should looke impressive!

Getting back to my bike, i noticed a huge backhoe trying to do something with the bridge so that at least people could get across.   But i didn’t stick around as i badly needed a shower and some rest.    I was beat.  
It was one tough day.

Today, Friday March 13th, 2009   I went out to complete this section from where i left off at the windy road at my waypoint:  “1st good road” (on my gps) 
I still had about 3 kms to go to get to the big road near the Heroine’s Monument.

So, following that concrete windy road northwest, you come to a sign saying Land for Sale, 50 rai.   Go up the hill there which is a good gravel road and then turn left at the Y at the top.   You’ll see a sign saying “nature” or something like that and “Sea view”.    Go up until you see a pile of rocks (nice, natural, formation at the highest point) This is a very nice spot and they even have a concrete table and chairs there for a nice breather before going on in a northwest direction (All my posts so far have been northbound).  xrocks07

Some decent trail just to the east of the ridge and following some old rubber trees.   Not too far in and you come to a short side trail to the left and a good lookout point looking west.   I marked this with a waypoint “lookout 1”.   xrocks021xrocks04   Then continueing on and you come to a cliff where it appears some mining was done on the east side.   You must traverse the top of this cliff and our trail goes very close to the edge here but there are good views to the east and the south China sea.

Then the trail heads down through rubber trees and i find it best to stay on the edge of their property line.   That is usually the best trail as the rubber can become like  a maze, although that’s not a problem with the GPS in hand.  
Lots of cleared land and a maze of dirt roads at the bottom where you go under a huge power line.    Then through some shacks of Myamar workers.  One guy came out and talked to me.   (somewhat as neither of us had a common language except perhaps Thai???)    He got through to me that he was a farmer in Myamar but now makes jewelry at a nearby factory with the word “Limited” in the business name.  
I followed a trail around their small village of corrugated shacks until i came to a small vegetable farm at a half finished concrete (new) bridge.    But you couldn’t cross the bridge and the lady had her lane blocked off.   I was only about 20 meters from the main road that runs from the Heroine’s monument to Surin beach here so marked the point “Bridge1” and headed back.   

I retraced my steps all the way back and stopped for a good breather as it is very hot this time of year and it was around 1 pm now.   I stopped at the cliffs and finished off my water bottle.  

When i got back on my bike, i headed over to where i had marked the bridge and checked out a possible road that went directly to the main road and then crossed the big highway to look for something to get me to where the mountains start on the other (east) side.     Didn’t find much as it’s really built up around here but…………..that’s for another day.   I am happy that my trail has now been walked from Lam Prom Thep (southernmost point on Phuket) to the Heroine’s monument and over many of the biggest peaks on the island.    It has been almost a year now of this work and i thoroughly enjoy it.  (except perhaps for SOME of the bushwhacking that gets SO thick)    xrocks06
My wife thinks i’m nuts.   I usually come back full of cuts and scratches and very dirty, hungry, and dehydrated.    But, i’m learning so much about this island and it’s people who work the rubber and farms and how humble and inviting they are.     I will upload some pics from today and then start to plan my 3-4 day  backpacking trip to retrace ALL of the route so far. (coming up soon???)