Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thung Yai 2.4

Lott and I switched seats upfront in the white 4WD Toyota Tacoma – not unlike the one I used to have in California, except this one had a backseat cab, huge off-road tires and suspension jacked to the max.

Lott would be my teacher, in essence, this day and the next, in what I jokingly referred to as the “Kamattan School of 4-Wheel Driving.” Thip provided translations for compound sentences.

I’ve driven in Thailand a fair amount, beginning in 1999 when I first met my wife. I’ve probably logged a couple of thousand miles, but most all of it on surfaced roads using an automatic transmission. So, I was already pretty used to the steering wheel on the right and driving on the left.

Yet, now I not only had to traverse a dirt road that could sometimes disappear, but learn to drive a 4-wheel drive manual transmission, and shift with my left hand instead of what I was used to (right of wheel stick). I had had absolutely no experience doing this, if you don’t count the 5 minutes I spent in our dried up rice paddies showing Lungpaw Boon Long and Lott that I could do it.

It took me two days to really get it down, but I got it and we’re all alive as testimony.

The track/road from Sanepong to Gosadeng mostly goes along the river Song Kalia. So, there were numerous river crossings (water 1-3 feet high) and sometimes the route ran along and in the river.

Ever since we had turned off Highway 323, we travelled through small communities that were more Karen than Thai. Wood or cement houses were nowhere to be seen. Bamboo, thatch, and woven bamboo were ever present and milled lumber or solid walls only a hope in a homeowner’s dream.

When we had made that turnoff from Highway 323, it was already mid-afternoon and while it was still light when we checked into Thung Yai’s northwestern gate at Sanepong, the light started to fade after the first couple of hours of my initial time behind the wheel.

That was another skill developed: driving through Thung Yai in the dark!

It was pretty exciting, actually; driving in and across the Song Kalia maybe 20-30 times and the lights go out and we still keep going – all four trucks – until we reached Gosadeng where we would camp out and spend the night.

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