A Search & Rescue Mission in the Jungle

Although I did live at the Eastern Seaboard (the most industrialized area of Thailand) and within short distance of crowded beach resort places it seems still possible to find “jungle” area’s nearby. About 10 km from my house was a jogging & exercise park situated next to a reservoir and between some small mountains. Around this park & reservoir is made a mountain-bike trail. So a friend of mine and me had made the plan to do that trail on our mountain-bikes on a Sunday.

Mistake 1
To be more precisely on a Sunday afternoon, as in day time it’s bloody hot. That’s where the first of our series of mistakes started. My friend arrived at 15:30 at my house where we did put his bike in my car and we drove to the park. Not too late as the sun goes down at 18:30, right? Well not in the jungle. Start at sunrise!

Mistake 2
We arrived at the park and examined the explanation of the trails of the park. That’s where we made a second mistake. As being Dutch guys we did choose the 12-km trail instead of the 8-km trail.

Mistake 3
And at start I made a mistake by taking just a small bottle of Carabow Deang with me as drink. Luckily my friend took a big bottle of water with him. All geared up with GPS-receiver to see our directions we started at about 16:45. Take a lot of water with you!

Mistake 4
The first 4km were a piece of cake and nice riding trough the woods around the reservoir. At about 5km on the way we encountered our next mistake. Of course the trail does not always go around the small mountains, but actually also over it. And then suddenly they are not small mountains anymore. The trail seems to go straight up so steep that we decided to walk up with our bicycles. Here I started to experience how quickly I get tired. I had to rest a bit. After another 500-meter flat trail it went up again and that’s where we made our next mistake or actually I did. My friend saw that I was tired and that the trail was too heavy for me and he said “Let’s go back and take the short trail that we did saw about 1-km back”. As I was not sure if that was really the short trail I said “We are now halfway and once up we can only go down so let’s go on”.

Mistake 5
And we did go on, but of course not only down. Yes, also down hill very steep, so steep that it was dangerous for us without helmets (another mistake!) to race down over the slippery trail with rocks left and right of us. So we walked down the steepest parts and then back on the bike again.

I was getting more tired and needed to rest more and more, something that would slow down our trip much more as we thought. Altogether so much more that in the jungle it was starting to get a bit dark actually. The trail is once and a while marked with signs with phone numbers for help in case you have an accident or are lost. Get lost? Yes, there are direction signs but not always at all junctions. So sometimes we made the decision to follow the most used direction, but was that the right direction? So middle in the getting dark jungle at about 9-km we actually did not know if we were still on track. Our GPS position did indicate that we where still not going in the direction where we started. And I was really getting tired and needed longer rest periods. The trail was still going up sometimes and I was thirsty like hell. It was now about 18:00 and our girlfriends were getting worried and tried to call us. I could not be reached as DTAC did not give me any signal, but my friend uses AIS and he had signal. We told that we where maybe a bit lost and tired but that we would continue. My condition was going down fast now. I needed more water and I was getting pain in my muscles in my legs. At about 10-km and no way of being near the end I decided that we needed help.

As I had been many times at the park I had seen sometimes local boys on big off-the-road-bike. So I called my girlfriend to ask her to find these boys and ask them to start a Search & Rescue Mission for us. In the meanwhile my friend and I continued our struggle in the jungle. It was now almost dark and luckily my friend had lights on his bike, otherwise nobody would even find us here. After 20 min my girlfriend called me back and asked if we did see the motorbike boys already. After my negative answer she asked “Where are you?”…. yeah on a hill between trees! My muscles were hurting; I was tired and needed water! It was dark in the jungle and we kept on going up-hill. I was no fun anymore!

Then suddenly I did hear the nicest noise of that day, the sound of a motorbike! But it was fading again soon. So we drove on, but then I heard it again and now louder. Then I saw a light in a distance and soon the first Search & Rescue motorbike was with us. And within 5-min a second was coming from the other side, and a third one. On one of the bikes was a passenger, a young boy. We changed places and he would drive my bike back while I was on the back of the motorbike. My friend was still thinking of doing the all trail himself and started to drive on top again. But as it was dark and the trail not easy to follow he quickly made a wrong turn-off and also he was being seated on the back of a motorbike. So there we were on the back of big off-the-road bikes rushing trough the jungle. So quick that my driver even lost control and I had to jump off the bike. We went all the way up the mountain from where you have a really magnificent view over the valley of Pattaya & Jomtien. Unfortunately we did not have much time to enjoy the view. We drove on and that’s where even the local boys made a mistake and we had to make a u-turn to correct our route back to where we started. Finally after 15-km (yes not 12-km!) at about 19:45 we arrived back at our girlfriends who were very worried waiting at our car.

We offered the boys some money for their Search & Rescue Mission. They refused at first but my girlfriend said “It’s for your oil and time”. The team leader of them told us to go say thank you to his boss, the boss of the park, who was having a party with his friends in the park. He greeted us and invited us to join the meeting with his friends and to join the dinner with BBQ chicken, fish and of course beer and Seang Som. We explained our trip and he told us “You are lucky I was here, otherwise the Search & Rescue Mission would have started much later and you could have been found at midnight.” And right he was as I was told that this kind of things happen about 2 times a month, because the trail is actually not finished yet. There are still missing a lot of direction signs, as we did noticed! In the meanwhile the team-leader came back with more food and drink for us and he even wanted to give back the change of money. Which we of course refused and after some other small talk we jumped in our car to drive back home. A hot shower and sleep was what I needed!

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