Tuesday morning two weeks ago I woke up very early. One of the students in Agricultural Research Centre prepared some hot water for me, so that I could have some instant noodles for breakfast and a very tasty fresh coffee. First I thought it’s instant coffee, but then it turned out that there is a whole device in the small bag for brewing one cup of coffee. At about 6:20 I started my hike along the road I discovered the afternoon before. When I was walking up the farmers were already on the fields in order to pick the strawberries, but I could enjoy the beautiful sunrise. One of them waved to me, and I interpreted it as positive gesture. After I found the start of the path it was pretty easy to follow them. Hence, a lot of people seem to use it in order to hike up to Pha Ngaem. It took about 90 minutes to get to the crest, where there was a wide path. As I already did most of the altitude now I thought it’s easy just to follow the path along the crest…well it was easy up until the peak of Pha Ngaem. Then on top the path suddenly stopped, and when I was hiking down the short southern crest, I ended up at a ridge which was not wider than 50 cm and was pretty exposed to both sides. Furthermore, I could only see the southern peak of Pha Ngaem but not how to get down to the col afterwards. When I checked the map, then I realised that the path is bypassing the mountain on the west side. Hence, I drew the decision to go back and find that way…not an easy decision, but the savest one. After hiking down the northern ridge of Pha Ngaem I discovered after a few hundred metres the path. It was pretty hidden and only detectable by some kinked blades of grass. I’ve seen this several times ago by all the other guides and rangers that they’re kiniking from time to time some small branches or blades. I’m not quit sure why, either to mark the path for others, or just to mark that they were here, and due to the decay some people would know when, in case they were looking for them. The path condition stay as bad or got even worse the remaining three kilometres. Hence, a good sense of orientation was needed, even if you “just” need to stay on the crest. Mainly I was walking to high undergrowth, which could be higher than two metres and the visibility ranged from 5 cm to 5 m, depending if I had leafs in my face or not. I crossed the remainings of a camp directly in the jungle and afterwards hardly found the ongoing way, and further on the path suddenly disappeared, until it came back after 20 m through high undergrowth. Shortly before the end of the path I needed to bypass a military station at which communication devices are installed, and finally needed to go through some barbed wire until I reached the parking place were all tour minivans stopped, with all the tourists from Chiang Mai. Now I was suddenly back in the civilisation and out from the jungle. I passed the large sign, no it’s not the peak, even as all people are doing pictures there, and headed on to the real peak. But as the whole mountain is covered by trees nothing else could be seen.
As I entered the national park technically from an unofficial entry, I was happy that no ranger has saw me, when I suddenly dropped off from the jungle. Hence, I opted to walk down the road. This was with 18 kilometres to the next village Khun Klang pretty long and borinh, but therefore pretty save. After about 5 km I stopped at the two pagodas for King and Queen and at a food stall I got my lunch. Here I met Phong, which was very communicative and surprised that I walked all the way to the top – I’ve for sure not told him, which way I came. After lunch I visited the two pagodas and enjoyed the view, before I headed further down. On the road I’ve seen at least two dead snakes, but luckily I didn’t had any contact with them on my way up. When I was passing the ranger station, it was also not a problem at all. I’m not sure about entrance fees, but maybe you’ve only to pay for cars, minivans and scooters. Yes, there’re a lot of white minivans from Toyota, filled with all the tourists, driving up and down pretty fast, but still not as worse that I would have been scared.
When I arrived in Khun Klang my plan was to hitchhike back the 17 km to Khun Wang. But suddenly a scooter stopped next to me, and surprisingly it was Phong. He offered to drive me, but I told him that I need to go to Khun Wang and not down the road directly. I convinced him that he could also drive from Khun Wang back to Chiang Mai that this route is pretty scenic. So we started our drive, but unfortunately he had only a small scooter with automatic shift, and somehow I didn’t shifted in the lowest gear, when we drove up. Hence, unfortunately, I needed to walk about five times the highest sections of that drive. But after all, we managed o drive the whole distance in one hour. Therefore, I was already back after 9.5 h, much earlier than I ever expected. Phong really saved my day. Luckily he could charged his iPhone at the centre and during this time, we still had time to watch the blooming cherry trees.