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Sangklaburi - Sanepong - Laiwo - Jakae - Lay Tong Ku - Pueng Klueng jungle walk & Karen village homestay: 11 - 17 April 2007

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A house in Thilaipa Karen village
Just after noon time we entered Thilaipa - a Karen village close to Thai-Myanmar border at Mae Kasat river. We were given lunch at a house together with the assistant village head and defence volunteer service head. They told us to continue to Jakae after lunch because there was a truck being readied to go to Jakae (Sakae) village. "A truck!," one of our team exclaimed in surprise. Yes there was an old truck probably older than me. The Toyota truck from Jakae was coming back from Sangklaburi carrying some load of provision for the school.

An old truck under fixing
When we were talking in the house the truck arrived with loud noice. We later found out that one of the people eating together with us was actually the assistant village head from Jakae. We went out side and found the truck under the fixing. Its radiator was leaking, the water circulating pump was also leaking. Its cover had only 3 bolts instead of six. The original gasket was long gone and now it was using a paper cutout. I had a sense that we might not make it to Jakae tonight in this automobile from the World War II era. However this was a rare opportunity to face a kind of trouble and see what it was like. After all this trip was without paying tourists.

Passing Mae Sakat river
So at about 1:30 p.m. we said good bye to Thilaipa village heads, got onto the truck and left the village. We passed the Mae Sakat river, not by the bridge, but simply driving in the water. Mae Sakat comes down from the watershed hills that surrounds Thilaipa villages, and flows into Myanmar (Burma) to join Atrium river which goes into Salawin or Thanlwin river just before draining into the Andaman sea.

Fixing again the broken parts
Five minutes later the water pump cover leaked large amount of water and we stopped. We opened the front engine cover, took out belts, and opened the water pump. We had to replace the gasket with something we had. And we had to deal with inadequate number of bolts too. At the same time the radiator needed some attention. While we were doing on it the rain came, and it became heavier. It was like Sangklaburi to Thilaipa was dry, and after that it was wet in the north. We even had leeches on the ground.

Chaining the driver wheels
Putting the chains on the rear driving wheels to cope with the rough terrain and muddy wet ground.

Wild flowers in the forest
Wild flowers on the walk to fetch water. At 2:30 p.m. the rain stopped. While some were working on the engine we went out to look for water to refill the engine and to carry as extra. As we did not know the place very well it took some time to find a small stream down in the valley.

The truck rolling down the dirt jungle road
The breakdown happened a couple more times. Each time we stopped to do repair work we were wetted by extra amount of rain, and our feet bitten with thirsty leeches in the wet jungle floor. I thought we had spent riding the truck all together less than 15 precious minutes, and most of the time we were fixing the 50 year old engine.

Above photo shows the last time the truck rolled down the muddy jungle road at 5:40 p.m. before it went dead again. By all estimates we were sure we were not more than 3 km from Thilaipa village. That was still 4 to 5 hours walk to Jakae!! So finally we decided to sleep in the jungle. We had no food to eat. We did not even have a good knife. We broke tree branches by hand and built a fire. Around the fire we put coconut leaves on which we lay down to sleep in the leech infested land.

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