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David's Asia Journal


The Trek:

Jan 11, 2001
I have returned to the city of Chang Mai. This is a wonderful city full of wonderful things including Internet Cafe's with high bandwidth connections.

Earlier I was on a Trek. A very grueling bushwack through the mountainous north. Several times we got lost and the porters from a Lahu village we visited on the last day had to take over. Our guide, the illustrious Diew mentioned in a previous report was too high on her special high potency ganga that she and the two Swiss tourists, one of whom she was having relations with, embibed nearly every hour to the point that we were not able to get to our first night's planned destination, the mouth of some fabulous cave somewhere. Instead we slept on the bank of a river, the other bank having cascading waterfalls for some 100 meters or so. Despite our exhaustion and disappointment, the site was truly breathtakingly beautiful. And, as expected, the food was fabulous.

We woke to the news that the second day would be tougher. We had to make up lost time from our dawdling the day before. This became more than disheartening when at once we began to ascend a very steep trail. In addition, the bushwacking really began in earnest. Where the fuck were we? What had we gotten ourselves into? Even Diewís foreign fancy was beginning to question the likelihood of ever reaching civilization again. And then my thighs began to chafe. This was no normal chafing either. This was the sort of sandblasting that comes from a jungle hurricane; heat and moisture and some personal funk thrown in for good measure. I started to warble in my walk, attempting to keep my thighs from touching each other. Finally the march down the last mountain into the village. Could my knees be any weaker?

Diewís trek had been twice the price of any other. We had expected a little more than just a good meal. In the village, we didnít even get that. There was a celebration of sorts going on and four pigs had been slaughtered for the festivities and all the locals as well as those from near-by villages had been invited. It seems that one of the residents had gotten into a motorcycle accident and hadnít died and so, he had decided to celebrate. For dinner, we had some of one of his very own pigs and we were given the choicest cuts with the most gristle. I had piled my plate high with it before knowing what it was but my first bite was telling. None of the others had the courage to eat this land blubber. Having been the last one to enter the village I had something to prove. So I piled on the chilies. Enough hot chilies and you can eat anything. Plus it seems to pass through you quicker as each organ passes the spice off to the next like a bunch of kids playing hot potato, screaming and laughing and getting all hysterical. In this way, I garnered the respect of those who thought I was just another big white guy from America.

The village turned out to be the highlight of the trek and made the whole think kind of worth it. The celebration was more than just a party. It had been organized at the instruction of the resident shaman to help entice the sole of the man whoíd been in the accident. It seems that his sole had fled the body just before impact from the shear terror of the incident. The dancing for the celebration took place around a holy mound where no other activity was allowed to take place; women solemnly moving near the mound, circling it counter-clockwise and men loudly stomping in the same direction around the mound on the outside. We all participated as best we could. The steps looked simple but we couldnít quite get it, even as we held the hands of encouraging villagers. The music was eerie and exotic, eminating from a wild contraption being played by one or more of the dancers. This dancing went into dawn but Ann and I didnít have the stamina.

In the morning we were invited to witness the ceremony where the sole was formally invited to return. This involved a lot of food and a white paper man dangling from what looked like a fishing pole and took place at the scene of the accident. The shaman spoke some chants and the man in the accident drove by in hopes of getting is sole back. It seemed to me as though he did.