Sunday, September 5, 2010

Haew Suwat Waterfall - the one that got away!

- The Park and waterfall in question - Photo Louise Urwin

I'm not really sure where to go with this post as it is one that I'm stoked about but on the other hand super gutted about. Basically my year has been plagued with various injuries which have kept me off the water a lot and just when things were going good it turned upside down again!

- Things not aloud in the park... kayaking is not on there? Yet - Photo Lou Urwin

Since my last trip to Thailand I have been on the search for new stuff to explore there and that resulted in a big list of potential runs and drops but one National Park stood out above the rest. Khao Yai National Park is located 120km North East of Bangkok City and is Thailand's oldest National Park. Khao Yai is home to wild Elephants, Tigers, Monkeys and even the extremely rare Siamese Crocodile! With high expectations early in the trip we headed there only to be shut down minutes from taking our kayaks off the roof in the car park. This was a huge disappointment but we knew we could get around it someway. One option was to paddle from higher up and sneak past the Rangers and hit the drop but this would mean paddling through the home of the Siamese Crocodile and 2km of dense jungle.

- Looking at a map figuring out our options for the mission - Photo Lou Urwin

Option 2 was to try get permission from headquarters in Bangkok which in the excitement of other trips got forgotten about till the last day.
Then due to another injury to my arm I was forced to stay off the water in case of making things worse. I was hoping to be ready again for the last trip back into Khao Yai but it was not to be...
In the park again we found the waterfall in question running with even more water and looking sweeter than ever! I made the very hard call to drive shuttle and act as a distraction as the others got their kayaks to the water. About 5km up the road everyone geared up and re-tied the kayaks so they were ready to pull straight off and go. As we drove toward the car park it seemed reminiscent of driving the crew into Royal Gorge earlier in the year but this time we knew the authorities were just over the other side of the car park. We stopped and the crew unloaded and split into the bush. I kept moving into the open and could see the Rangers moving towards the others. I got out of the car with all the cameras and the car they knew well by now. This caused enough confusion for them to get close enough to the water before the Rangers turned back to them in pursuit. Tyler and Toni made it safe and Lou was within striking distance of a junior Ranger. "Stop you can not swim here" stuttered the mostly Thai speaking man. "Its OK we don't want to swim" replied Lou as she dragged her kayak to the edge and pushed off to join the others on the other side of the river safe from anyone. While this was going on i snuck around and set up my cameras on a platform 100m from the lip. A few minutes was taken for them to get their kayaks to the lip and scout from there before I heard the whistle of Tyler as he set up to go. It was at this moment that i realised injuries suck the most. A clean waterfall I had found months before and I was behind the lens and not rolling off this beauty and nor would i probably ever get too. As Tyler rolled off the drop it all went smooth, the camera was rolling and i was snapping shots on the still camera as fast as i could.

- Tyler Fox - First descent of Haew Suwat Nam Tok - Photo Josh Neilson

Tyler had been in the pool for less than a second before i heard the whistles and loud speaker... I turned to my right and saw the Senior Ranger running toward me telling me the police were on their way and we were going to jail. I assured him everything was OK and that after watching Blood Diamond the night before could only say "I am the camera man". I turned the camera back to the falls and lined it up for Lou's run.

- Louise Urwin - First Descent of Haew Suwat Nam Tok - Photo Josh Neilson

She came in with wicked angle and half way down tucked for impact and straightened up perfectly to go deep and pop out the bottom.
Toni was next and i was hoping she would be fast as i could see people gathering in the car park and a lot of commotion. Less than a minute later Toni appeared from the trees and styled the drop breaking her paddle on impact but able to roll up and away from the falls with ease.

- Toni George - First Descent of Haew Suwat Nam Tok - Photo Josh Neilson

But this was just the start... I quickly packed up and met the crew at the bottom to plan our escape. I then went and go the car and they headed through the bush to avoid the people waiting at the top. Before we could do this they jumped in a truck and headed for the park entrance to lock us in. At the gate they told us to wait then escorted us to the Park HQ for questioning and mug shots to be taken and to wait for police. This was then to turn into a pretty relaxed situation with no one really knowing what to do with us. In the end they told us we needed permission to paddle it but we were not able to do it ever again. From here we headed back to Bangkok to drop off Tyler and rest after the big day behind us.
It was cool that this drop got paddled but spending so much time doing the research on these areas and having to sit and watch it happen without you is a huge downer for me! Hopefully one day I can find the right people in power to let us go back there and paddle it again without the stress of this descent.
Enjoy these photos and if anyone wants to go back there one day let me know and I have contact to one of the rangers in the park who may be able to help.

- Another drop in the park that at closer inspection does not go but the george below might hold some goods. One for the next trip maybe - Photo Tyler Fox

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mae Panning for gold

Back to Mae Pan Waterfall... This drop alone was the selling point for my trip to Thailand in 2007 With Sam And Will so the idea of a return visit was pretty cool! We got turned away a week ago due to low water but on this day it had come up a bit and although a bit low, it was going to be our only chance to get in on this trip. Once we had hiked the boats in and hauled them up the canyon wall to the top of the drop it was go time. Due to the fact park rangers were not happy with us being there I suggested Tyler and Toni go first so as I had done it before. They came down looking a bit flustered at the bottom saying its a hard hit... I knew this but i wasnt prepared for what happened next.

- Mae Pan round 2 - Photo Toni George

-Tyler dropping in for his first time - Photo Josh Neilson

- Lou preparing for the big hit - Photo Tyler Fox

- Me getting my tuck on - Photo Tyelr Fox

Lou and I were at the top with our boats and I got in with my line in my head. I turned on my waterproof camera mounted behind me on my kayak and rolled off the lip. Half way down I ramped out a bit and hit the bottom with some angle and on impact put my mouth into my arm. I have had a dead arm for 2 days now. The camera was ripped from the boat (even though tied on and stuck on too!!) and sunk to the bottom. Next up was Lou and she hit very hard also but was ok.
I decided to walk out drop there as i was not in the mood and my arm was dead and the others ran 3 more drops and hiked out with me.

-Lou ramping into the triple drop below Mae Pan - Photo Toni George

- Toni slightly left of good - Result.. Broken boat - Photo Lou Urwin

- Tyler getting air on number 2 - Photo Lou Urwin

- Lou on entry - Photo Tyler Fox

- Lou on the last drop - Photo Tyler Fox

-Toni boofing into the last pool - Photo Josh Neilson

All in all it was a good day but much harder landing than I ever remember. Next time I will only do it with brown flooded water to make the landing soft! On our way out we were met by park rangers and when asked if we were kayaking the girls shook their heads and said no we were just taking photos. Thailand has got to be one of the only places ive ever been where kayaking is such a bad thing to do. They have no idea what we are even doing. They just say no and thats that.
We are heading out east now to Chae Son and Tard Luang Waterfalls and then heading south toward Bangkok to drop off Tyler next week! Wish us luck!

Cobra Falls in Chiang Mai

New drops are always fun to find whether they are big or small. After a couple of days running some more well know rivers at super high flow we went searching again. On a map of Chiang Mai I spotted a river super close to town which had a Waterfall marked Nam Tok Mae Yoy so we decided to check it out. Heading up the creek we noticed that it was not high but had been 2 meters higher recently. This was a good start as it rains a bit up here and potential good run. After missing all the signs to Mae Yoy we found one that said Tat Krok Waterfall.

-Me at the lip of the cobra - Photo Toni George

Even though there was not enough water to kayak we decided to go check it out anyway. We started hiking the 1km up hill to where we were supposed to find it but at the top of the hill we figured we were lost as there was no river. We found some locals picking mushrooms and asked them where it was. they pointed down the other side of the hill, smiled and walked off. To our surprise there was another creek right there on the other side which actually had a bit of water and what was to be named Cobra falls. This was due to the 2 Black Forest Cobras we almost stepped on trying to find it!
We quickly gathered our kayaks and gear and headed back into the drop and one by one ran different lines off it. We all had a few goes to try master it but this one was a tricky one! We called it a day after my last one where i hit the wall at the lip and fell on my head. Soft landing but not worth trying again!

-Tyler through the trees - Photo Josh Neilson

- Toni making the line of the day - Photo Josh Neilson

- Me at the lip on attempt 2 - Photo Toni George

- Nice boof at he top - Photo Josh Neilson

-The view from the top - Photo Tyler Fox

- In the cave at the bottom - Photo Tyler Fox

- Tyler ramping in - Photo Toni George

Today was a super hot day and foolishly we left town with no water so by the end of our little mission we were all severely dehydrated so raced back to town for frozen cokes and water! Tomorrow we are off on another mission of potentially lots of driving but hopefully some good new waterfalls!!!
See ya soon

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thailand-Part 2... Mae Sa Upper, Middle and escorted out from the lower!!!

- Nice rice field heading to Doi Intanon National Park - Photo Toni George

-Temple on a hill - Amazing - Photo Toni George

After a fun park and huck session on Si Dit we were ready for more! With the drops in Si Satchinlai National Park Un-Runnable we decided to high tail it to Doi Intanon National Park to what I thought would be a sure thing... Turned out that there had been no rain in the area and we were looking at a half dry river bed.

- Mae Pan with not enough water- Photo Josh Neilson

With high hopes for the next stop we headed for Mae Pan Waterfall but that too was very low. Even though it is a low volume waterfall and creek run it would have made for a very hard hit at this flow so we opted for some sight seeing and headed toward Chiang Mai. On the way we decided to head up to Mae Wang and find the waterfall run in 2006 by Steve Fisher and Ben Brown resulting in Ben's broken back. When we finally got to it we found it was kinda high and looked soooooo good! There is no visible sign of a rick in there but we were not going to go totally against ben's word and run it. Instead we decided to do a bit of underwater recon and did some bamboo probing, and came to the conclusion that in fact that yes there is a rock shelf in there that we could hit with the bamboo 50% of the times we jumped in. This was reason enough for us to head back to the car and go eat fried rice. This drop is super sick and at raging flow would be runnable without going near the shelf. It is about 1 or more Meters under the water on the left half of the drop.

- Josh, Bamboo probe in hand - Photo Toni George

So from there we enjoyed our fried rice and woke the next morning to head into the Mae Sa River. One of my favorites from the last trip. To avoid park fees we decided to run the upper first and see where we got to. The flow was good and we were set for some good kayaking finally. We made our way into the jungle to the first drop where some dudes waved us down and warned us of the Nam Tok (waterfall) just down stream. I gave them the broken Thai/english version of its ok and we were going to run it anyway. They excitedly moved aside and watched as we dropped in.

- Tyler on the first boof of the day - Photo Josh Neilson

- Tyler on one of the mini gorges - Photo Toni George

A bit further on we got to the one that pinned Will last time and with a bit of probing decided its not worth it! Not much further in we got to the best section... The first is a double boof drop right next to some huts which leads into a 6foot boof into a bouncy slide into the big slide at the bottom. One by one we ran each part and it was great. This section could even have more water to make the slides a bit nicer but good at this flow too.

- One of the funnest drops only 20 mins from down town Chiang Mai - Photo Toni George

Drop 2 clean boof - Photo Toni George

- Entering the middle slides - Photo Tyler Fox

-Tyler in the middle slide - Photo Toni George

- Toni, right after getting her paddle caught in a Bamboo tree - Photo Tyler Fox

- Toni on the bottom slide - Photo Josh Neilson

- Tyler getting his slide on - Photo Toni George

After these drops the river mellows as it makes its way through Mae Sa Elephant Camp and then drops into the middle and lower sections. Last time we ran the lower but the middle was still un run.

- Big Elephant casually washing on the side of the river - Photo Josh Neilson

- Me on the first part of the Middle run - Photo Tyler Fox

- Tyler on the middle slide - Photo Toni George

- Toni running a crack drop - Boof into the undercut is the line almost - Photo Tyler Fox

- Tyler dropping in too - Photo Toni George

- Me on the first runnable drop in the lower section - Photo Toni George

- Lou on the line - Photo Toni George

- Me from Below - Photo Tyler Fox

The next morning we headed in with a good amount of daylight and found some goods in the middle section. It was much longer than i expected with some portages in there too. We just made it into the lower section and ran 2 of the drops until we made it to number 7.

- Slightly dark shot as Toni sneakily shoots us getting caught by park rangers - Photo Toni George

Right below this was a ranger post and the ranger on duty swiftly rounded us up and told us to walk back to the top.... Not possible sorry its a jungle up there... He then made some phone calls and then told us he was escorting us to the gate where we would have to pay a fine and leave. We picked up our boats and followed him all the while plotting a plan to escape. At the gate we kept walking and they yelled and followed us. On the main road we flagged down a car and jumped on the back to our car. The dude waited for us and we just loaded out boats and drove off. I hope we dont get stopped at the boarder and taken to jail!!!!
All up a good mission and good to see whats in the middle there.. If you go in there be prepared to get shut down or made to pay a fee.
Next up was a high water run on the Mae Taeng. EPIC... Coming soon

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thailand 2010 Part 1 - Success level rising

So it all began in Bangkok when we arrived at 9pm and by 11pm they could still not track down my paddles that were once attached to the kayak and were now missing!!! Finally they told me they would hopefully locate them in the morning and send them the following night to our accommodation!!! From here things pretty much stayed on this level of dissapointment with Tylers gear not turning up and then getting shut down on some of Thailands best waterfalls due to the fact 'its too dangerous'....

- Looking at one we are not aloud to run - Photo Lou Urwin

Im going to leave it there and not go into these stories too much as we have a plan to do a stealth mission through the jungle later in the trip to run these drops and will show you them then!!!

- Where to go next... -Photo Lou Urwin

After all the stress of not kayaking we really needed to kayak so when we found Than Tip waterfall, even though it was not epic, we were keen to get wet at least. Our Kayaking efforts were quickly overshadowed by local kids wearing jeans not only jumping off the rocks into the water but climbing massive trees till the overhung the gorge then dropping in from there...

- Tyler Fox Boofing into Than Tip Waterfall gorge - Photo Toni George

- Josh Neilson on Than Tip - A nice start to the trip - Photo Tyler Fox

After Than Tip Waterfall we headed north for more and more rivers and drops with no water in them. We planned for the rainy season but the rain was not doing its part. That was Until we made it to Si Dit Waterfall. With the threat of getting shut down on yet another waterfall we stealthly unloaded the kayaks and ran them to the waters edge and got in. Lou and Toni went and set up cameras and Tyler and I waited for the go sign. Si Dit was a very un-natural looking drop that looks like you are boofing off a concrete slab but its not. Its a Natural drop with a soft pool at the bottom. Again although there was not heaps of water flowing off it was still a great way to kill the depression of not kayaking.

- Josh on Si Dit Nam Tok - Photo Toni George

- Lou Urwin Boofing Si Dit Nam Tok - Photo Josh Neilson

Josh at the Lip on round 3 - Photo Toni George

- Tyler Fox with Go Pro attached on round 2 - Photo Toni George

- Toni Georges turn, Si Dit, our first good drop- Photo Josh Neilson

One by one we ran the drop and got some sweet angles. After that it was back on the hunt. Next post will have more. Check back soon people...