The Gibbons Experience
After reconnecting with some friends from New Years in Chang Mai on Friday, Barbara and I took a shaky local bus ride from Chang Rai to the Loas boarder on Saturday. At one point the driver stopped at a house party and took a long swig of whiskey before reboarding and navigating us around switchback turns up a mountain. The boarder crossing was easy and we grab a room and did a little dance when we saw beautiful baguette sandwiches everywhere. Two months of rice have me craving bread and we ate two of them that night.
The next morning we watched a very short video on how to zipline safely and piled into four wheel drive trucks for a the two and a half hour trip along bumpy roads avoiding dogs, kids, pigs, cows, motorbikes, and all those other unexpected things. Then we forged a small river and took a red dirt road deep into the private reserve. After a quick regroup we headed up a rocky path to base camp where we dawned harnesses and did the mandatory trekking hurry up and wait before setting out for our tree house. A few Jump Now!! zip lines and a downhill trek brought our group of ten to treehouse number one.
Our tree house was three stories sitting 70 meter from the ground supported by beams and tensioned cables within one beautiful, ancient tree. We took our meals here, slept beneath heavy mosquito nets, enjoyed an open air rain-shower with a view, and woke to misty jungle mornings.
A mountain to your left, a stream bellow you, and a painting of green in every direction, you are flying and the prospective is a thrilling mixture of serial and completely natural. My words and pictures struggle to describe the freedom and grand sense of scale and respect the beauty in the trees gave each time I zipped across. Barbara and I spent the next day alone wondering through the trails and zips. We took our time and felt free to backtrack and take it in again. We returned two hours before the other 8 people in our group. Those were beautiful hours suspended in silence among a rainforest teaming with life if you dare to be silent and open your eyes. I saw one Gibbon high in a near by tree and just like a ghost she was gone again. The next morning we enjoyed their haunting musical calls and the surrounding fog before zipping back to base and made the long drive back to town.
I'm not entirely sure about the details of the organization, but it's goals are to raise money to purchase more land and extend the scope of the private nature reserve. The experience provides jobs and steady income to the villagers within the reserve and offers an alternative to slash and burn agriculture which eats away at existing rainforest. By backpacker standards the price is high, but I viewed the money as a donation and accepted the experience as it came.
For the next two days I will be on a slow boat up the Mekong river on my way to Luang Prabang.
Huey Xai, Loas