Feb 11 – 18, Trang
My White Village Resort hostess in Ranong saw me off as I rode into the morning. She was probably a bit concerned as I had checked into her place at 9:30 the previous morning, obviously quite done for the day. I had hung out in the grounds a bit, but mostly I was comfortable only in my AC room. After too many days of over-heating, my body was fighting back. Mid-afternoon one of the lovely ladies came by with tea and toast, worried that I wasn’t eating anything. I did allow them to make a lovely dinner for me, and even had a beer so I can’t be that bad. So, with most of a day off and lots of fluid I was underway again. I was determined not to ride for long in the hot of the day, and I was committed to finding a place to take a full day off.
I stopped frequently to buy fluids that day and found a place after 80 km before noon. If my Ranong spot was all personal attention this place was not, but it was fine. The next day I started to fatigue too fast again in my estimation. I was away early and so had some cool riding and I drank a lot, but when I struggled into Sri Phang Nga NP after only 60 km I was done again, much more so than 80 km the previous day. The park is 5 km off of the highway and I was hoping to stay in a park cabin for two nights to get some rest and to do some birding. A cabin was available for one night only. There is an outdoor restaurant there that is open from 8:30 to 3:30 each day. I couldn’t eat anything but I did have some more drinks before I crashed on one of the four beds in my cabin.
About 1:00 I headed out to walk the 1.5 km to one of the sets of falls and to hopefully find some birds. Luckily it was a lovely deep forest walk, completely in the shade. Other than the falls I didn’t find anything. I am beginning to understand that deep jungle birding is just too difficult for me. This stop was the first time it became really apparent. I had a dinner at 3:00 and was in bed well before night-fall. In the morning I walked the road again, encountering a group of birders who were not having any better luck than me.
Everything about me hurt and so I rode the 5 km back to the highway and waited there for an hour catching a bus to the next town, Phang gna. This is a large town and not one that looked like I could productively spend some time in. I got into a hotel and spent much of the day and night on the toilet. Perhaps that would begin to clear things up. The next morning I caught the bus to Krabi, where I booked in for two nights.
I began to feel better, or at least good enough that I could walk and ride my bike around town without feeling exhausted. I went to the night market and on my day in town I hired a “Rooster-tailed boat” to take me into the Krabi River Mangroves to look for birds.
My driver tried but didn’t have a clue. I saw a few potentially good birds but he never saw any and by the time he would turn in or slow down the bird I saw was gone. It was a great ride but a hopeless birding experience in a place apparently rich with species.
The next day, feeling better I headed on my bike towards a park colloquially called KNC and Morakot Resort known as a birding hotspot. I booked for two nights. The route took me 44 km along the road south to Khlong Thom and then another 17 km into the hills. I again arrived at about 11:00 pretty bushed again. This just may be the way it is. Now I can at least walk a bit without feeling woozy.
I headed off on foot in the early afternoon; 600m to the park entrance. As I approached there were tourist shops, food kiosks and all sorts of people in swimming trunks and flip-flops. This was nothing like the write-up from the excellent Thaibirding.com site that I have been using as my birding guide. Now the prime attraction is not the Gurney Pitta, which might have become extinct in the time since the web content was created. I was looking for an indistinct trail, along which I would find a likely looking gulley to sit quietly by hoping the Pitta would jump out to give me a look see. I did find such a trail and did sit for close to an hour before making my way back, empty handed, to my hotel. I did not enter the park which has now converted the creek and the pools made by the creek into something called the “Emerald Pool”. Instead of attracting old birders by the ones, thousands come and enjoy wading in the pools in the deep shade of the jungle. I did finally venture in and it is lovely on a hot day.
I was back on the gravel road in the morning. My hostess at the Morakot told me there was no point going into the park and that if I just walked quietly along I would find lots of special birds but probably not the Gurney. I had spent three hours along the road finding a only few easy birds when I came upon a birder from Kentucky.
He was looking into the trees with his binos (binoculars for birders) when I came along not having seen anything for a long time. He was all excited indicating that he had seen half a dozen species in that one spot and he proceeded to point them out to me, and he knew what they all were. He is about 40, has been a birder his whole life, and has birded in Thailand before. He pointed out that the Gurney is likely no more. We had a nice visit and I came away completely deflated. I now know that unless the birds are bigger than and as obvious as crows I’m not going to see them. I have really always known this but every now and then I lose track of it. But I guess it is up to me to just enjoy birding without actually seeing any birds. At least I can hear them, without knowing what they are. But why am I carrying all this camera stuff?
I did observe men at the dangerous and strenuous work of harvesting palm nuts, one of the horrendous crops that is decimating the Asian forest habitat. It is so sad that this sort of thing seems so necessary today.
I was hoping to be able to cut down to the main highway from the Morakot Resort without going all the way back to Khlong Thom where I had left it two days ago. It was raining when I headed out following my gps route that I had teased out of Google by lying. I said I was walking, not a big lie I thought. At the second dead- end as I sat looking stupidly into my phone a smart young woman in shorts and police t-shirt came out to offer help. She indicated there had been roads at one time laced throughout the area but now most were closed. She helped me pick out a potential short cut and off I went, almost all the way back to where I had started the day. As I approached Khlong Thom she passed me in a car and stopped to ensure I was ok. She was now dressed in an Immigration Uniform. No wonder she could speak such good English.
I had frittered most of the good riding part of the day and so I caught another bus, which put me in Trang, about 150 km and potentially two cycle days from the ferry that will take me to Langkawi Island in Malaysia. I know I have had some sort of bug for the last number of days. Whether it was heat or food or water or lack of that had brought it on it has made my energy level low. Mostly I feel pretty good but when I am out pedaling I run out of juice pretty fast. Hopefully I am past the worst.