We had to set our alarm today as we have arranged to go hiking to see the Rafflesia flower. We have our breakfast of banana porridge and Klaus introduces us to Kai, our guide for the morning. Kai has been a park ranger for 16 years and a guide for the past 10. Before we can enter the park we have to go to the park headquarters and pay entrance fees of 400 baht for Simon and me and 200 for the kids. Klaus takes us in his pick up and then drops us 1.5km away at the foot of the mountain with Kai.
Immediately we enter the jungle it is obvious that this will be a tough and tiring climb. The paths are narrow, very steep and there are lots of stones and roots to step over. We climb up for about a km and then make our way along a river bed. It is quite shallow as it hasn’t rained here for 3 months and we get muddy rather than very wet. After about an hour of exhausting effort, Kai tells us that we are nearing the flower sites.
The Rafflesia flower is the one of the world’s rarest as well as largest flowers. It is parasitic and only found in the jungles of Malaysia and Thailand. It only flowers once a year and once opened the bloom lasts for 4 days before the flower turns black and rots away. It was named by Sir Stamford Raffles when he discovered it whilst in Malaysia. When we were in Taman Negara the flower had opened but it was an 8 hour round trip hike to go and see it and we subsequently didn’t.
At last we reach a small bamboo platform, Kai is ahead of us and calls back that the flower is closed. It is a huge disappointment after our strenuous efforts and we sit looking at a black rotting carcass of a flower and a massive unopened bud. Kai suggests that instead of turning back we continue on for another hours climb in the hope that we may see a Rafflesia flower in bloom at another, slightly higher site. We aren’t too keen but he encourages us on with informative explanations of plant life in the jungle and shows us wild bee honey comb, scorpion holes and cicada nests along the way. The Rafflesia flower is fast becoming the holy grail of flowers and we keep going despite the heat and difficulty of the hike.
Suddenly Alister shouts out in excitement and there it is, at last a blooming Rafflesia flower. It is around 2 feet wide, with large spongy looking red petals and a spiky centre. It is on the side of an extremely steep and slippery slope and Kai has to hold my hand to stop me from sliding off. We take photos and are careful not to damage the surrounding area as we get close up .Its really great to see it and I feel lucky and privileged to have had the opportunity to show it to the kids. Nearly 4 hours after we set off we arrive back at the roadside and Klaus is there to meet us. We are soaking wet through with sweat and agree the hike was really difficult but well worth it.
After a cold beer back at Our Jungle House we set about moving. The tree houses have become available and we have decided to take them for our last night here. The houses are built in between 2 trees and very similar in construction to the riverside cottages. The rattan walls open up completely and we decide we will leave them open all night. Effectively we will be sleeping out in the open with only our mosquito net for shelter and it is very strange sitting on the bed feeling completely exposed to the elements. Having a shower in the open air also feels liberating ( I feel like a Herbal Essences girl) and slightly scary as you wonder if someone will come past despite the isolated setting. Simon says he has never had such an amazing view sitting on the crapper before!
Tomorrow we are leaving here and visiting a lake setting where we have planned to stay overnight in a rafthouse. I have enjoyed staying here in the jungle immensely and am looking forward once again to moving on and seeing what the next place has to offer.