The Thailand Trachycarpus

(page 2)

The jeep was very powerful. Rachun sat in the front with the driver, Toby and I in the open back, a plank having been fixed athwart to serve as a seat. However, as we began to climb, the road became so rough and bumpy that we were obliged to stand, from which position we had an excellent view of the changing scenery and vegetation. The temperature fell slowly as we went up, and coconut palms gave way to huge Livistona speciosa, wonderful and noble trees, growing wild in the forest. There were also hundreds of bamboos of all shapes and sizes arching across the road, sometimes forming a tunnel. Another interesting palm we saw was the trunkless Wallichia caryotoides, in deep shade.

The road became atrocious with deep muddy ruts and areas where the road had slipped away. The 4-wheel-drive was quite indispensable as the road was so steep as well as muddy. Sometimes the rear of the vehicle seemed in danger of overtaking the front and sometimes we slipped dangerously close to the edge of the road and a sheer drop.

We continued in this way for some two hours, upward and ever upward. From time to time we saw our destination through the trees - Doi Chiang Dao mysterious and extremely steep, one peak in a range of relict limestone mountains, separated by time and distance from the vegetation of the surrounding countryside. With binoculars we could make out hundreds of palm trees silhouetted on its crest. They looked far too exotic to be humble Trachycarpus, but that's indeed what they were. After this difficult journey we arrived at "base camp" an outpost of the forestry department, where lived and worked the forest rangers with wives and children, some 10 to 15 people in all. The time was now about 2pm, not enough daylight left for the climb up today so we would stay the night here and set off in the morning.

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