Journey to the old tea trees. Part 2
Evening at the hotel
To say that we were excited by the news is to say nothing. We happened to practically achieve the whole journeyâ€™s end at the end of the first day of journey just by almost accidentally turning at a sign for unplanned place! No need to look for an old Chinese any more. Fortune smiled on us.
As it turned out from the further conversation, there were 100-200 years old tea trees not far from 1000-year-olds. "Which ones would you like to see?" - asked us manager girl. "Of course, both! And if there are any other trees, then them too," - we answered. "Ok then," - she said - "youâ€™ll see both. But the road is very bad now. Itâ€™s been rainy the whole week here already". Then she said that they can provide us a car but after a while, she warn us, we have to go on foot about five kilometers through the jungle. But we were not afraid of difficulties, that is what we replied.
The night did not promise us idleness and fun, we had a huge pile of clothing to dry. The hardest thing, by the way, was to dry wool socks.
Second day morning
In the morning we were offered breakfast and coffee. The breakfast was not so hot, but the coffee they made really good. After breakfast, it was found out that there would be three of us going to see the trees except driver, our "capital" neighbor also became interested in the â€˜tourâ€™. That was another success for us â€“ we got a translator. Free was his name and it is very suited to him.
Since the car was supposed to pick us up in about an hour and breakfast at the hotel failed, we decided to look for alternative food. Free volunteered to take us to small Chinese restaurant with good view by his car.
And then we had the opportunity to get to know our fellow traveler plainly. It turned out that Free works as a broker on different markets, including Forex and its Thai analogs. According to new well-equipped Toyota our new friend is quite successful. He lives in Phuket, and at that time was traveling in the north of the country for no particular purpose, just searching for beautiful places.
For a hike into the jungle we need more equipment so we went to the nearest shop to buy rubber boots and new raincoats. Me and Free picked right size boots without problems, but Jenia found himself in a difficult situation. Small feet Thais do not wear shoes of size 45 but Jenia is tall Russian guy and he does. He had to buy the biggest size available (which is 42) and walk by stepping on the bootleg all the way. Five kilometers there and five back â€“ ten kilometers of very difficult mountainaires trai in the jungle. But boots are really safety reasonable there because of snakes, leeches, poisonous frogs, spiny plants, and other biting joy which is in quantities especially in rainy season.
Jenia and Free are waiting for meals:
The view from the Chinese Restaurant. Horizon is not crooked, itâ€™s a slope of the mountain.
Bumpy ride to the jungle
We didn't have time to finish our second breakfast since get a call from the hotel telling us that the car is waiting. Toyota Hilux pickup is perhaps the most common car in Thailand. The driver was young and looked like gypsy. He turned on music, and off we went.
Five minutes later I realized that manager girl was not kidding us about difficult road. Although it was partly concrete-surfaced it reminded me of a ground country road of Russian backwoods sodden after heavy rain. The same fun but over a precipice. That bumpy ride was really scary although our gypsy fellow seemed to know the car and road well.
We reached kind of a settlement, drove down the main street and entered a shed canopy. There were peasants sitting in the ground and playing cards. Free talked with the driver and found out that we are waiting for guides. And he also said that the peasants were talking to each other northern Thai dialect, which he does not understand.
After a while two guides appeared and we moved into the jungle.
There was nothing but mist.
Then we stopped for the rest and found something. Guess, what Jenia is looking at? Here is a dialog between him and one of our guides (with Freeâ€™s help):
- Oh, this is tea tree!
- No, Itâ€™s too far to tea trees.
- But this is tea tree, I can recognize by the leaves!
- No, it canâ€™t be... Oh, yes, really, this a tea ..
So we met the first, very young, very wild, but cute tea tree. It was seemingly 50 years old. Tea trees grow slowly, and in the highlands very slowly, so such tea is appreciated. Donâ€™t be afraid of the road nearby, the tree has not be planted here for harvesting. Letâ€™s get acquainted:
It must be noted that Jenia didnâ€™t miss any single tea tree on the way.
The road into the jungle laid through coffee plantations. That dark green bushes on the photo are coffee. Then they became more dense so it was hard to go through and I put away my camera. Bushes were stuck round coffee berries. I picked and chewed redder one. Sweet, juicy, coffee taste is unobtrusive. I hoped caffeine would cheer me up but in vain.
After an hour we get really tired (especially my big feet friend) and, fortunately, there was a hut. You may not be impressed but we found it very cozy.
The water from the nearest spring was tasty, iâ€™d like to make tea with it...
There comes the jungle
Here they are, the jungle. The forest is still passable:
It was certainly nice and interesting. But, as often happens in those moments we did not have time to enjoy the beauty, just went ahead toward the goal.
In order to convey the atmosphere more fully, I decided to shoot a short video:
A little short break. Jenia with his tenacious gaze caught tea tree again. Now, I think no one doubts wildness of these trees.
How pleasant was to crumple a leaf and smell it! Fresh, elastic leaf of wild tea tree. It is another energy, not the same as in the bushes. The trees, of course, have a special power, even such young ones.
Our thai guide explained Jenia how to recognize the tea tree. He was not sure Jenia really knows how. Thais are looking at the shape and size of the leaf. And then they cut a leaf into halves and taste. "The taste should be sweet and astringent!"