18 October 2008

Letter 3.68

Two days after writing the last letter, I was walking up the track to the hotsprings when I met a Landrover returning from there. The Landrover had been rented by a group of Europeans. The person I talked with was a French photographer free-lance but on assignment to do a photo article on the most difficult roads a Landrover can travel. He told the car rental agency that he wanted rough roads and they told their driver to take him here. I was surprised that the river was fordable and even more surprised that they were able to get past two particularly bad points, one where a culvert -- the only one on the track, had collapsed (but they managed to squeeze past it, going over a mud flat with 2 wheels) and another where a huge tree root covered most of the track (but they squeezed by, with 2 wheels going on a rather steep incline). The photographer took a few pictures of me, so perhaps in a few months I will appear in a French automotive magazine. And he also took your letter to mail.

In the month I stayed at Pung Duat there was only one other vehicle on the track, a Jeep which seems to belong to the son of one of the villagers -- a rattletrap affair held together with wire and bubblegum -- which for several days, at odd hours, carted odd goods from one place on the track to another. I don't know exactly what that was about.

And those were the 2 most exciting events of my stay here, which is coming to an end, for tomorrow I expect to continue on my way to Mae Hong Son, near the Burmese border. Either despite or because of its lack of eventfulness, Pung Duat has not only been very pleasant but very useful for my practice. I'd certainly stay longer, but as it happens I have to be back in Chiang Mai by the end of June if I'm to stay the rainy season at Wat Palad. I'd stay the rainy season at Pung Duat if it weren't that (I'm told) it's already reserved and the next most suitable forest hermitage I know of is Wat Palad. So I'll have a look at Mae Hong Son before I head back.

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