Sorry I’ve been so rubbish at posting blogs, I can barely keep my daily diary entries up to date!! I wanted to post this at least a week ago but living in the mountains comes with it’s struggles of no internet! Here’s a little something of what I got up to in November.
On the 20th to the 22nd November the volunteers, interns and staff here at GVI Chiang Mai challenged themselves to a sleep out in the forests surrounding Huay Pakoot in Northern Thailand.
We did this to raise money for some of the elephants we have here in the village: Sah Jah, Lulu and Khum Suk are all funded through the GVI Trust, money donated by people like you. We need to raise £5000 per year to enable the elephants to remain here in the village and this was a challenge we set ourselves to help raise that! Please donate here! We were split into 3 teams (Sah Jah, Lulu (my team) and Khum Suk) and would be building shelters, fires, cooking and doing challenges in our teams.
On the 20th we all gathered at base to organise our packs and distribute the equipment we had been given between us. I carried a length of rope, a tarpaulin and a box of 30 packets of noodles on the hike to the area that would become our home for 3 days and 2 nights. Once we got there our teams were allowed to choose the area they wanted to et up their shelter in order of the winners to losers of a quiz we had had earlier that week. My team got second choice and had a large area of forest with a slanted fallen tree that we thought would be perfect to help keep our tarpaulins up.
It didn’t take us too long to raise a shelter (with the help of a mahout), with 2 tarpaulins over our heads and another on the floor. We spent some time collecting firewood, building a fire pit and creating some chopsticks and bowls out of bamboo as we had neither provided.
Then we had our first challenge: to make up a “jungle song” and make some instruments and perform it to everyone. We produced our own rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”:
“Forest sleep out we love you
Raising money for Lulu
In the mountains of Huay Pakoot
We need help from the mahouts
Forest sleep out we love you
Raising money for Lulu”
After just about managing to scrape together a meal of noodles, which we ate pretty sloppily out of our bamboo bowls, we went night fishing! I caught 5 fish, most of them pretty small, but some other people caught some decent sized fish which were fried and eaten. We headed off to bed, completely oblivious to the horror that was in store for us that night.
Usually what comes springing to mind when you think of the weather in Thailand is something nice and hot. Not at night in the middle of the forest, oh no. I have no idea what the actual temperature was, but due to the cold I manage to only grab one hour of sleep, and spent the rest of the night trying desperately to find firewood and bribe our fire to stay aflame the whole night. Other teams were having similar problems, including the staff, so we ended up with a few visitors during the night, each trying to stay warm or just spread some camaraderie. Seeing the sun peak through the trees was a blessing.
The next day half the group had to leave due to feeling unwell or exhaustion. The 10 volunteers that remained decided to group their efforts to create one large sleeping area (out of team Lulu’s original shelter) and a communal fire pit. We were treated to chocolate bars to keep out spirits up. Working together as one team was so much more effectual that 3 separate teams and later that day we had a raised sleeping areas and large communal fire pit with a raised seating area.
That evening the mahouts treated us to a curry, chicken and hotdogs and raised our spirits even more before we faced another cold night.
We all slept better, with 10 people in one area rather than 4 or 5, but I still only managed around 4 hours sleep. Morning came to grant sweet relief from the uncomfortable night. We dismantled all of our shelters, picked up all our belongings and started the trudge back up the steep path we had decended 3 days ago (fortunately to a truck waiting at the top to take us home).
Have a look at the video to see what we got up to, see if you can spot the elephant cameo, and donate if you can!