Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Village

 The Village
By Susanna (Stitch) Wolz
29yrs old, Australian. Volunteer for 2 weeks – December 2012

Picked up from the Eco Resort, a small group of 5 volunteers from England and Australia and I travel for about 5 hours out of Chiang Mai in a rickety old van called a song tow on our way to Huay Pakoot. We watch as the scenery changes from crazy drivers, litter and dirty buildings to breathtaking hills and lush greenery and stop once for a small trek to the tallest waterfall in Thailand.
We pass workers in the cornfields, multiple passengers on motorbikes, pick-up trucks stacked high carting rice and corn to sell, stunning mountains and eventually pass ‘top shop’; one of three little shops where you can buy beer and lollies and much appreciated icecreams after the hikes. Our Project Manager Nadia announces we have arrived. We take a short walk downhill to find a breathtakingly picturesque open house made from bamboo and wood that sits high on stilts and faces the mountains and forest; our base camp. This is where we will meet everyday for breakfast, lunch and many of the activities as well as where we start all the hikes.  Base camp is stunning complete with hammock, bamboo floors and a view like nothing else. Downstairs there is a small garden, a fire pit for Friday night fires with the locals, toilet and storage area. The villagers have built this and it’s my favourite place to watch birds and the mist drift with the sunshine every morning.
After our welcome, we are introduced to our host families and where we will be spending the next few weeks. I am so surprised that I will be staying in my own ‘hut’ made from bamboo with a thatched roof adjacent to the houses of our hosts since I thought we would be sleeping in a room of the host’s house. Although very basic, my hut is perfect and has everything I need including a mosquito net, small tables, verandah, power point and lights and a thin mattress. I unpack and immediately feel at home – it’s so comfortable and a lovely surprise to have your own space! We also have our own bathrooms with a squat toilet and a big barrel with a plastic scoop that sits under a tap for our showers. I am creeped out more by the spiders than the thought of using squat toilets, which makes me laugh, but it’s amazing how quickly you adjust. I do recommend having your showers after the hikes though, the water is as chilly as the mornings!

We soon meet back at base camp to meet the rest of the smiling, helpful and friendly staff who run through the program, timetables, chores and how the village and hikes work. Everything so far has exceeded my expectations and I am so pleased with the way the program is organized, the relationships GVI has established with the villagers, their welcoming faces and attitudes and the comforting knowledge that the hikes go at the pace of the group and no faster. I begin to get really excited and my mind is put at ease. This is going to be amazing.