Whingeing Down The River


This blog entry about the events of Monday, November 29, 2004 was originally posted on December 05, 2004.

DAY 408:  Of the many uses of bamboo — panda food, decoration and crafts, scaffolding for Hong Kong skyscrapers — one of the most fun is raft making.  When I originally heard that Day Three of my northern Thai jungle trek would be spent mostly in a raft, I imagined it being the inflatable rubber kind.  I was mistaken when I saw the bamboo rafts at the river on the edge of the village, which Boon and Sawit prepped up that morning by adding on extra bamboo to support our group’s weight.

“Marvin!” Claire called out by the riverbank.  Amazingly the puppy we named the day before responded and came to say goodbye with his little puppy dog eyes.  “That’s it, we’re taking him with us,” Claire said, but it was not to be.  We left him, his mother, and all the squealing pigs and crowing roosters of the village and headed off at the will of the Maetaeng River. 

We were divided into two uneven teams:  Elise, Lot, Hans and I led by Sawit; Claire, Nick and Luke led by Boon.  While according to age Claire was the baby of the group at 21 and Nick the oldest at 32, in terms of maturity on the river it was quite the opposite.  For most of the time Nick would whine and complain — whinge as they say in England — about falling in or getting his camera wet. 

“But it’s in the waterproof bag,” Claire told him as she tried her hand at fishing with a pole from the raft with no luck.  His camera could have stayed in the sack because I took most of the groups’ photos with my little digital spy camera from inside the transparent AquaPac sack I got from the Tokyu Hands store in Hiroshima, which made any point-and-shoot waterproof and submersible up to three meters deep — however, I hadn’t tested it out and didn’t know if it was water-worthy just yet.

Getting wet was inevitable, especially in my team’s raft, which was worn out and waterlogged and heavier by one person than the other.  “We need more bamboo!” Hans shouted up to Sawit.  Although still technically floating, our raft “floated” two feet underwater at times and often the water would come up to our knees.  From afar it probably looked like we were sliding across the surface of the river on our knees.  “Look at them, they’re not sinking,” Hans pointed out.

“Look at how green theirs is.  Our bamboo is all waterlogged,” Elise said. 

We rafted onwards with the current of the river, through sections of calm water where elephants came to drink and sections of mild Class I river rapids, which seemed a lot tougher in a rickety bamboo raft.  Hans and I, the two oarsmen in the back, listened for the commands from Sawit up at front. 

“Left side, left side!”  “Right side, right side!”

Sometimes the river was too deep and there was no floor to push off of with our long bamboo stick “oars.”

“There is no left side!” I’d call up.  At one of the deeper sections I lost my balance and was the first person to fall in, along with my life jacket and camera.  I swam back the raft in no time, but with my The Global Trip shirt all soaked.

“Did [your camera] get wet?” Elise asked me.

“It’s completely dry,” I answered.  “Successful test.”  There was no reason to whinge.

THE MAETAENG EVENTUALLY TOOK OUR TWO LONESOME RAFTS (picture above) to a village along the riverbank where we took a break to make my team’s raft more river-worthy.  At the village we finally saw other tourists on similar treks of different “non-tourist” routes.  With them came the reappearance of vendor ladies who approached us with their decorative tribal hats and stashes of bracelets and woven goods, even before we dismounted the raft.  “We don’t need trinkets, we need repairs!” Luke told them.

While Sawit and Boon worked on adding another bamboo log to my team’s raft, we wandered around the village.  Elise, who was not at all scare of heights, sat out on one of the few planks of the nearby suspension bridge; Claire pet a nearby elephant grazing; and Hans blew up and distributed some of the balloons he had to the village children.  He transformed what looked to be a bored sleepy village into a happy kids party.

Back on the raft, I was relieved of oaring duties for a while and sat in the middle with Lot, where there were no raft duties other than to stand and balance the raft with your weight if it started to flip one way.  When the Maetaeng got rougher, I was put back on the back oarsmen duties since it was a “man’s job” in Sawit’s eyes.  Even with the added bamboo log on our raft we still often sank and slid across the river about a foot below the surface, but we just sort of got used to it.  Elise who sat in the center keeping balance got her trousers completely soaked but didn’t seem to care.

Meanwhile on the other raft, Claire took one of the “manly” oarsmen positions while Nick took the center.  “My camera!  Be careful, my camera will get wet!” he’d still whinge as Luke, Claire and Boon kept the raft steady.  It didn’t always work though; Luke fell in at one point and during the end of one rapid, so did Nick.  Not only did he get soaked, his shorts got snagged on a rock and pulled them down.

BY MID-AFTERNOON WE ARRIVED at the end of our river adventure, the end of our three-day “non-tourist” trek.  We rested at the Ban Sobkai Riverside House a while for showers, Pad Thai and a group photo.  Three hours in the back of a truck later, we were back in the civilization of Chiang Mai.  Elise, Lot and I checked back into Mama’s Chiang Mai Guesthouse while Claire and Hans switched to another place and Nick and Luke did their own thing.  We agreed to meet up for a dinner of Western food after eating Thai for four days straight — and nothing was Western than the food at the Chiang Mai Saloon, a rustic wooden-panel eatery fashioned like the Old American West, whose logo was the familiar cowboy-on-a-bucking-bronco, only the bronco was an elephant.  Run by a Texan, they really knew how to serve up meat and plenty of it, and I gorged on a chicken and ribs platter.  Mmm… chicken and ribs.  Once it hits your lips, it’s so good.

After a day of being soaked in river water, being smothered in barbecue sauce was a nice change of pace, as long as my camera kept dry.

Next entry: Chiang Mai In The News

Previous entry: Pineapples and Four-Legged Friends

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Comments for “Whingeing Down The River”

  • Everyone whinged about their cameras getting wet on my trip too LOL

    Posted by Liz  on  12/05  at  10:43 AM

  • only wankers whinge ...

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  12:44 PM

  • Marvin is so adorable!  I would be so sad to leave him.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  01:05 PM

  • Rafting was the BEST!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  03:49 PM

  • nice t-shirt plug…IT IS the holiday season….

    rafting looks excellent…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  04:57 PM

  • AWWWW!!! marvin is so cute!!! i didn’t realize how small he was from the other post, but he is so adorable. what a tiny little puppy. i want him for myself! =)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  06:47 PM

  • mmmmmm.  barbeque sauce. mmmmmmm. So very Homer of you. Looks like fun—a half-sunken raft really made you a better riverman anyway. None of that wussy inflatable yellow raft nonsense for you!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  10:08 PM

  • LIZ:  Tokyu Hands rocks!  That AquaPac went swimming with me today in Laos…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/06  at  10:30 AM

  • Erik -I was just shopping there the other day smile  Glad to hear the camera is doing great with the AquaPac!

    Posted by Liz  on  12/06  at  11:42 AM

  • If Marvin is an American name, what would a British person name him?  Nigel?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/06  at  03:15 PM

  • Nigel sounds good…maybe “Jeeves”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/06  at  03:24 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Chiang Mai In The News

Previous entry:
Pineapples and Four-Legged Friends


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