my oh my where are the Gibbons today?
28.04.2008 - 30.04.2008 30 °C
The Official Gibbon Experience account
Written by Jen
Edited by Ted
The Gibbon Experience is a really cool program that happens in the forests between Huay Xai and Luang Namtha in Laos. The National Protection Area is an enmorous area that is inhabited by many villages and species of animals. The project was created in conjuction with local tribes to protect the forest, help pay for rangers to watch and protect the area (with AK-47 machine guns), increase awareness and decrease slash and burn farming. oh and also protect the rare Gibbon Monkey! This was definitely appealing to Ted and I...plus you can take zip lines through the canopy of the forest and stay overnight in a tree house!! This was definitely something we wanted to check out!
The experience is not for the faint of heart! There are limited amenities and lots of hiking but it is well worth it! The experience starts with a truck ride up the highway and then a 4X4 adventure into a small village to begin our hike. We were in a group of 8 people and we had two guides. This is low season and so it was easy to get a spot but apparently it's a lot harder during high season. We chose the Waterfall Experience...a bit more hiking but it included a waterfall - we are always suckers for a watering hole!
The trek was beautiful but hard. Lots of climbing and it is very hot and humid. In the truck we overheard that there are leeches on the trail this time of year. That freaked Ted and I out a bit but we are tough and decided just to wear our long pants. It was approximatey a 1/2 hour in before our guide pulled the first leech off his foot. I wasn't worried because he only had flip flops on (everyone in Asia wears flip flops to hike). I didn't think I would get a leech. Moments after that another girl on our trip screamed and started shaking her leg. She had a leech on her ankle. Her boyfriend struggled to pull it off while she was dancing all over the place. I'd like to say that the leeches were 8 feet long and had mouthes the size of humans, but they actuallly looked like earthworms! They were however, very ambitious and hungry. As you walked over them they would stand up to jump on you! I'm not kidding!!!! - they were out for blood! It wasn't long before Ted and I had leeches on us too!
It took an hour or so to hit our first zip line - a nice relief from leeches!! We zipped all the way to the treehouse! The lines were long and the views were spectacular! Absolutely amazing. The treehouse was really neat - two levels with a little cooking area and everything! And no leeches! Ted and I were especially excited because we reserved the "private tree house" for the night and were anxious to get over there. After a swim in the "waterfall" - more like some rapids into a pool (remember it is apparently dry season), we were escorted by our guides to our treehouse. The guides are funny - they are true Laotian - so easy going that they forgot to tell us most things! Ted and I zipped into our treehouse without really knowing when we would see everyone again!
The view was awesome and we savoured this alone time! We ate a great sticky rice dinner and spent most of our evening shoeing away cockroaches and other bugs! We fell asleep to the sound of rain!
It rained the next morning so Ted and I enjoyed a leisurely coffee and leftovers! We finally met up with everyone when we were called down for breakfast at 9:30 when the rain stopped. This began our 3 hour mud hike through the leech forest. The leeches were everywhere and so you were always foused on your feet and not stopping (as they were really fast when you weren't moving). We were pretty exhuasted by the time we got to the second Tree house. It was beautiful though and we had a great afternoon visiting, playing cards and zipping with everyone.
It rained again that night and so in the morning we plodded our way back to the village through a lot of mud. We were rewarded with a few awesome zips which lifted our wet spirits! We were done! Smelly, sticky and tired!
We must say this was an experience. ....no gibbons but lots of stories and some good leech welts!! (I found two on my upper thigh after several hours of them feasting!).
The long and short of it is....the forest and experience are super cool and if it was actually the "dry season" it would be really fun! but we enjoyed it and kept smiling and now I will always ask when I begin a trek "Are there leeches on the trail?"