Phu Kradeung is a mountain and national park area in Thailand, popular amongst the locals.
Many couples and adventurers flock to make the 5.5km upwards trek to the summit and a further 3.5km walk to the tabletop peak. Here you can stay in tents or small villas.
We set out early on the 7th of December 2009 to drive up to the foot of the mountain, stopping for chicken and trying on funny hats along the way.
At the mountain’s base, we got our bags together and organised a Sherpa to carry them to the top of the mountain.
There are no motorbikes or cars allowed in this area, so these guys (and girls) make a living from carrying bags up and down the mountain for about 10b (20p) per kilogram.
For my 20kg backpack, the Sherpa got about 200b (£4) to carry it 5.5km up a mountain, taking probably 2 1/2 to 3 hours. They take more than one bag (about 50kg in total), using a strong bamboo pole to balance everything from gas canisters to bags of coconuts.
All day long, they trek, sometimes barefoot, up and down Phu Kradung.
We started our hike early and soon realised that the Sherpas would easily beat us to the top.
The climb was fairly pleasant, with differing levels of steepness and a few food areas serving refreshments.
I grabbed a bamboo stick for balance and enjoyed the steady climb to the top.
We took a wrong turn. Trying to take the slightly harder route, we ended up scaling rocks and trying to force through branches and bushes.
After getting back on the right path, we arrived at the top after about 3 to 4 hours.
Here we saw one of many great views over unspoiled forests and mountains.
The Phu Kradueng mountain trek is a challenge for Thai couples – if you can help each other out and reach the top together, you are meant to be. If you argue and fail, then it is time to go separate ways.
We saw no arguing couples, but we did come across many curious Thais wanting pictures with us. It must be rare for them to see Farangs (westerners) at Phu Kradung.
At the top of the mountain, we walked the final 3.5km to reach the main area – campsite, restaurants, shops and the luggage pickup point.
We shared a three-room villa between the five of us which provided the basics. A single kept us clean with ice-cold water while the outside cooking area attracted the local deer.
Thailand is a very hot country, but the top of Phu Kradung is not. During the day, temperatures peak at about 23 degrees celcius. At night they dropped close to and below 0.
The sun goes down at about 6:30pm, rising again at about 6am (this is constant throughout the year in Thailand), so there were plenty of cold hours.
Our villa was not insulated, and the walls were made of wood. I prepared for a little bit of cold, and fortunately, Craig brought over some thermals for me, but I didn’t expect to be shivering in the middle of the night.
Craig and I shared the main living room, and although we might have gotten a bit close for warmth, I felt Tik’s comparison to Brokeback Mountain was a bit unfair.
We soldiered on, rising early in the morning to see the sunsets and mountain biking our way to the various viewpoints during the day.
We made a stone tribute by the waterfalls, ate tasty lukewarm Thai food, sunbathed by a lake and watched the stars at night with a cup of hot coffee.
There was talk of wild elephants around the top of the mountain and, although we saw some dung, our animal experiences consisted of feeding wild deer and Craig getting attacked by a leech.
For three pleasant nights, we stayed in touch with nature until, after the sunsets and sunrises, many of the same Thai meals (“What’s for breakfast?”) and too many cold showers, we reversed our trek back down the mountain.
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