03-Jan-2005 -- This is the fifth in a series of six confluence visits/attempts during a trip to Thailand in December 2004/January 2005 (Start).
We had not planned on visiting this part of Thailand; by this time we were supposed to be on the beaches in the south. The tsunami changed all that. In fact we had had reservations for one of the resorts that got completely destroyed. When we sat down to review our travel plans we noticed this unvisited confluence and included it in our plans.
We got here from Chiang Mai via Pai and Mae Hong Son. This part of Thailand is known for it’s karst mountains and the caves that go with limestone. After spending the night in Mae Hong Son we headed south on Hwy. 108.
After about 35km the highway got within 3.5km of the confluence. We found a small road that took us towards some mountains and in the right direction. The dirt road became rather steep and sandy as it climbed towards a ridge and we were forced to park. At this point we were 1.1km from the confluence. Since it was not obvious on which side of the mountain the confluence was we decided to hike up the road a little to get a better bearing. Once we reached the ridge we had a good idea in which valley the confluence was located. Fortunately it was on the side where our car was parked.
We returned to the car and drove back down to the valley floor and parked at a trail leading roughly in the direction we wanted to hike. The GPS showed us 1.75km from the confluence. We packed plenty of water (didn’t want to run out again like at (18N 101E ) and some snacks and set off.
After just a few hundred meters the trail turned right towards the confluence. It led us into the forest while staying close to the valley floor and a creek. The valley narrowed, becoming a canyon and the trail continued. It suddenly ended in a bamboo grove, but now we were within 150m of the confluence.
The canyon walls were rather steep and there was a dry creek in the general direction of the confluence. Since we were not sure on which side of that creek the confluence would be located we started scrambling up the creek. At about 35m from the confluence it was obvious on which side we needed to be, but the hillside was just too steep and loose to climb up. So we took some pictures in case this might be our closest approach and turned around.
Once back at the bottom I decided I could do better and get closer to the actual spot, so I headed up the steep hillside. As I was climbing I noticed very faint trails and a lot of cut bamboo. The bamboo just had holes (5cmx5cm) cut into it; we think that someone may have come here to collect the big grubs that live in this bamboo. We had seen the grubs for sale on the markets. The trails helped in getting up and along the hillside and I finally got a spot where the GPS showed all zeros.
The confluence is located on a steep hillside facing south. The forest is not very dense and there is not much undergrowth that would make reaching the spot difficult. The ground was rather slippery due to all the fallen leaves. I did not stay long since the mosquitoes discovered me as soon as I stopped walking and began swarming me. So I quickly took my pictures and went back down hill.
We hiked back the way we had come and continued with our trip down the highway along the border with Myanmar (Burma). On the way we passed 18N 98E, but the road never got closer than 8km to the confluence and there were no real promising roads in the right direction. With limited time we decided to not even attempt this one on this trip.
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Next: 17N 103E