Sunday, September 5, 2010
Haew Suwat Waterfall - the one that got away!
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.