From memory we were in Thailand for just over a month, I have 32 rolls of film so I think I must have rationed myself to one roll of film per day. Here is film-roll/day number two in the trip.
As before, I have included everything I took, including the rubbish. This is a little concerning for me as I’m sure most photographers would admit to only one or two images on a roll being any good (if that). But even if they aren’t great images or are repetitive, they can still be interesting.
The image of me in the jungle looking up was taken by my friend Phil. Staying at a nature reserve not far from Bangkok, we had been told of a trail that lead 16Km into the jungle, ending at a waterfall; Phil took this picture on that walk. He took it shortly before we realised we were sitting ducks for the leaches on the trail. They would rear up and wave around ahead of us as we walked so I believe they could sense the vibrations in the ground. With a mouth at both ends and a bite that gave both a local anaesthetic (so you couldn’t feel them) and an anti-coagulant (so the blood didn’t clot as they fed and even when pulled off the wound kept bleeding) they were formidable predators. We could see them ‘walking’ up our trouser legs and when you stopped to pull them off we could see others making their way towards us and climbing on board. Our only solution was to run the entire way and not stop for anything.
When we got to the “waterfall” it was rather disappointing, more like a bit of rippling and rapid at best. Or perhaps we had the wrong place? I put my foot into the water, glad to be able to stop without worrying about blood-sucking leaches and when I pulled my trainer covered foot out and put it down on a rock, the water oozed out very red in colour – they were between my toes. So we spent a while looking at each other to make sure we were clear of them.
By this time it was getting late in the afternoon and we really didn’t want to be out in the jungle when it was dark, the footpath we started on 16Km back had gradually turned into just a crude track and frankly had completely petered out by the time we got there. We had been told that a short while ago a local had been taken by a tiger and a couple of weeks ago a tourist had been trampled to death by a wild elephant. We had no food, no water, no compass and now I look back on it – no common bloody sense. It would get darker earlier in the dense jungle than it would outside of it.
On the run back, with me in the lead, I noticed something jet black and a couple of inches across walking our path; a land crab. Phil was taking some kind of biology doctorate at the time so was interested in anything that moved of its own accord. A little further on and I had the sensation of someone hammering a metal tack into the back of my head. I stopped and turned round to Phil to warn him to speed up. He was just about to respond to me when he exclaimed ‘OW’ and held the back of his head; our invisible assailant had struck again as we passed through its territory. We ran on even faster.
Then the worst thing ever happened. With me still in the lead (I only had myself to blame) I realised we were no longer on the trail! It was going well (kind of) and then it just disappeared. Lost in the jungle would mean our deaths. We didn’t even know what direction to go in. I explained to Phil. We didn’t panic (though mine was definitely in there somewhere and just as definitely wanting to come out). The two of us slowly retraced our steps and thankfully found the track again – back to running.
We came out of the jungle in exactly the same place we had entered. We walked up the path to our lodge chatty and full of a ‘thank God I’m a still alive’ sort of feeling and met three or four young American guys walking towards us. We gleefully said hello to them but they just stared back at us aghast with their mouths open. This we didn’t understand until one of them said “Where the f**ck have you guys been – you look terrible!!!” We were covered in blood (literally), sweat, dirt, leaves and our clothes were all torn and falling off us.
Life is so good sometimes.
For more general information about this series of photographs of Thailand from 1988, go to the first in the series: B&W Photographs of Thailand in 1988 – 1/32