To Soppong and Cave Lodge
Nov 23, 2005
|23 November - To Soppong and Cave Lodge
Took the 0830 bus to Soppong. On the bus chatted to a nice English couple, Gabi and Engin who are travelling for up to one year and taking in South America, Japan and Australia, so quite a busy trip. Arrived at Soppong just after 1000, they were going on to Pai.
I had decided to stop here as 8km away are some caves of interest, also another chance of doing some trekking. Near the caves is Cave Lodge - accommodation that my old company had used for family trips in Thailand, which sounded really nice, so I was keen to stay there. The only way there however was either to walk (fine without a heavy backpack) or take a motorbike taxi. A girl getting on the bus said if I walked I would likely get a lift from someone as she had. I didn't want to chance that and end up walking all the way - she was far more likely to get a lift as she was at least 20 years younger than me! So I reluctantly opted for my 3rd motorbike ride. The driver only had one helmet and i wasnt going 8km without one, so he gave me his, which made me feel pretty awful. However, survived the journey, although I couldn't see much as I'd had to take my glasses off to get the helmet on, which had a dirty visor.
Cave Lodge is situated amongst trees near the river in a small village near Tham Lot - a large limestone cave with a stream running through. Accommodation is in huts, a mixture of sizes, some with and some without attached bathrooms. Also a very large area for eating, with a table tennis table, open fire, big kitchen and their own bakery where they bake their own bread, pizzas and muffins. I immediately talked to a few people, who were very friendly, about to go off walking and invited me along, but I declined as wanted to settle in and see what there was to do. I spoke to a Danish couple (Luki and Jens) who were staying there for 3 days as part of a tou, leaving for Cambodia tomorrow.
The place was built 20 years ago by an Aussie called John who is married to a Thai, and speaks the language. He has done a lot of work locally in investigating and finding caves, and helping architects. It has a very laid-back atmosphere and you could probably stay there for weeks if you were so inclined. There was a strange older Aussie chap called Derek, who had been there for a week and has been visiting alsmost since the place was built. He wears the same clothes every day and when you asked him what he was doing that day, he'd always answer "Oh, I haven't decided yet" plop into the hammock and stare into space. There were lots of activites on offer (if they had enough people of course!) - trekking, kayaking, caving etc. I was hoping to be able to do a 2 day trek from there.
In the afternoon I walked to Tham Lot, but decided not to go into the cave, but instead walked to the exit where dead on 1730, thousands of swifts entered the cave. It really was an amazing sight. At another part of the cave, thousands of bats exit, but it happens when it's dark so missed that show. The evening was quite sociable over dinner with the others staying there. Decided to go caving tomorrow as noone wanted to trek.
at 0930 I set off with an American couple - Michael and Jessie, and a German couple - Guido ad Diana. John took us up a hill with our guide,Wat, in his 4WD. From there we walked for about 30 minutes to the first cave, Fossil cave. We were given helmets and lanterns. This cave contained some fossil shells over 200 milion years old. We had about 30 mins walk to the next cave - Waterfall Cave. This was obviously filled with water and a couple of times we had to lie on our stomachs and edge through the cave, with a very small gap between the water and the top of the cave. I must admit that I never thought i would do such a thing, but I couldn't go back. It was quite a small cave, but the waterfall drops for 30 meters. We later learnt from John that a Dutch chap had falled over the edge and drowned and it had taken them 3 days to get his body out. We were absolutely soaked and muddy when we came out, but all enjoyed the adventure. However, I won't be repeating it.
We had lunch in the sun to try to dry out a bit - vegetable rice and a home made banana muffin, absolutely delicious. Then another walk through the fields to Spirit Cave. The gap into the cave was very narrow and at first thought I would give it a miss, but went for it. It was a small cave with some 1700 year old teak wood coffins. We saw some human teeth in there, but apparently porcupines have eaten the bones. There are about 30 known such caves in the area containing coffins. Some ceramics have also been found with them. The walk back to the lodge was an hour and a half, mainly through forest which was lovely.
Everyone was leaving this morning, except for one couple who had arrived yesterday afternoon. I decided to go for a half day walk with Pat, one of the female workers, who speaks reasonable English. We left the lodge at 1000 and crossed the river. We walked up a hill opposite and Pat seemed to be having problems walking uphill, and told me she was fit enough. It was just a one hour walk up, stopping along the way and a good view of the town from the top. It is a really beautiful location and so tranquil. The way back was mainly on a road, so not so interesting. She took me to her house briefly. Back at the lodge by 1300 where I had lunch and chatted to two older couples originally from Zimbabwe who had just arrived in their hire car. Spent the afternoon reading and writing, and have decided to leave tomorrow.