|TOURING, THAI STYLE Pick up time set at 9:00; driver arrives around 9:30. Sorry Wendy I guess Bob could have talked to you longer, the elephant was waiting but...Bob could not leave on time anyway. During the wait a Tuk-Tuk driver pulled up and tried to pretend that he was our ride. As he did not know where we were going we doubted this but he refused to leave, we eventually had to get the hotel staff to translate to him that we would not take hispushinessis pushyness is not commorealere. Our eal driver did come and we had watched him stop to get directions from the barbecue chicken lady across the street (so close, but still so lost). Pick person more persom for tour; she had asked for 10:00 pickup, so he had to go into hotel to find her as she wasn't waiting yet. Family gets to ride in back of half-ton (seats lining the side for our comfort); single girl tourist gets to ride up front with driver. Slightly crazy drive up trekkingn to treking site. We don't worry (too much) as we have seen many tourists being carted around in the back of trucks. Only a booking at the most expensive hotel would get you an air-con mini-van. Only two elephants, so Lydia gets to make a new friend and ride in comfort. Three boys must famongst out amounst themselves for elbow room. Their elephant is truly huge. The trek is uphill through the bush (and of course, rubber tree pBeautiful. Beautifrul, hot, jungly feel to it all. At the top we have about a 15 minute walk through the jungle to the caves. This would appear to be their way to get you hot and thereby not so shocked by the heat to come. Our guide (who had been waiting for us at the elephant top stop) then give us 5 minutes to "cool down" in the Thai tropical jungle. This would seem a bit of an oxymoron, but there were excellently tall, old trees and lots of shade. CAVING The guide casually points that we go in over there, using a ladder, and will come out over there, a bit farther down the hill. He then takes his shirt off, a sign of the heat to come that makes us all cringe. We then are lead over rougher rocky jungle to the cave entrance, where we each get a head lentrancehe enterance is a triangular wedge in the rock that points up and which is so small, that even Simon has to duck to get into. True to the description, there is a bamboo ladder leading down. The spacing of the steps is almost twice as far apart as a ladder on a slide. I'm not sure how Simon does it. We are then lead onobstaclense obstical course that involved about 8 ladders (I lost count) of varying degrees of steepness, two bamboo plank walkways, numerous view of plunging away blackness (both up and down), and very constant heat. So hot that I actually was aware of drops of sweat falling off me. Luckily by glasses only fogged a little bit. Many places we also had to use carefully placed hand grips when raising or lowering ourselves. And did I mention the huge spiders with the glowy eyes? The main reason we first spotted them was that it looked as if some one-eyed creature was staring at us out of the dark. The final out involved having to lie flat on the cave floor to worm head first through a short (six feet long) passage. At the end there were also the expected bat colony. The bats were smart, though, and didn't bother going far into the cave. Inside the cave there were the usual stalagmites and stalactites but one was broken so teacher Bob had to show and explain the growtSensingrenthusiasmng ethusiasm that was npresentually pesent, Bob then continued to point out the wondefossilscoral fosils, and the difference in cause of regular and irregular stratification. Later that day, Bob and Simon were swimming and chatting. They spoke of the caving and Simon said that it was very fun but eventually it got boring. "When did it get boring?", Simon replies with a grin on his face, "Around the time you started talking" There were many other paths branching off up and downs in the cave that given the time and equipment would possibly take days to explore. We laughed about how cool it now felt outside the cave, compared to when we first arrived. We also laughed about the pictures in the brochure that showed happy tourist in their flip-flops in the cave. We were very glad we are not flip-flop wearers. Poor Sharon was, but she did well. She says she wouldn't have brought her carry bag if she had known how intense the caving would be. We had a lovely, downhill ride on the elephants back. The boys found it a bit steep and had to hang on for their lives. We girls had no problem, and I think it is due to the different in weight distribution: the advantage of a wider seat in being able to keep one's seat on a bumping downhill slope. The afternoon finishes off for the parents with coffee and beer at the beach while the kids make Stop-Action movies for fun...and of course a lovely Thai meal.