The Thailand Trachycarpus

(page 3)

There was not much to do though we did walk half an hour to a vantage point to have a closer look at 'our' mountain. My goodness it looked awfully steep! On the way we came across some very large Cycas pectinata. Some of them must have been hundreds of years old, and were forked and branched. At about 8pm we retired and slept surprisingly well on the hard and thin mattresses.

Up at 7am, an hour later than planned. Breakfast for me was a bowl of plain boiled white rice with milk and sugar, about as close as I could get to breakfast cereal, and a cup or two of coffee. The weather was quite cool as the sun was only just rising. There were 6 of us inn the party: Toby, Rachun and I, Rachun's worker and two guides who knew the way up to the top. There was also a small dog with us the size, shape and colour of a fox, who experienced no difficulty keeping up with us. We set off taking the same path as yesterday. At first the going was quite OK with the path clearly defined but as we ascended it became less clear, more muddy, and with the vegetation closing inn. We climbed up the muddy path, slipping and sliding, and hanging on to the plants for support, tantalising glimpses of our goal appearing from time to time. Up and up we went, around the side of the mountain. It was very steep in parts and very heavy going. My boots which were rather for walking than climbing didn't help much and even my small camera bag began to feel very heavy. After a couple of hours' slog, we departed from what little path there was, to make a direct assault. At this point the going became even tougher.

What appeared from a distance to be short grass - turf even - turned out to be 6 feet high, and studded with huge limestone boulders the size of cars, and always the dilemma was to go around or to go over them. Both had dangers, as you couldn't see one foot in front of the other in either case. It was awful. The Trachy's got closer and closer but they were absolutely on the ridge crest and demanded a high price for access. We aimed for one particular palm whose leaves I could see arising from the far side, and slowly inched our way towards it. The last few metres was over the bare rock itself, sharp ridges had been formed by erosion. I slowly made my way towards the crest and this tree, but as I reached the edge and looked over, expecting to see a gentle slope on the other side, my heart stopped - the far side was absolutely sheer, you could have dropped a brick and it would have been in free fall for several hundred feet. Terrifying!

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