12-Nov-2004 -- The first time this point was attempted the party was made up of Jim, Nonglak (Tou) and David Roberts, Poungporn Panya and Tanapong Saartloen. The weary party had reached 2 points the previous day and some members enthusiasm was waning by the time the reached Phayao in an attempt for 19-100. All was going reasonably well until baby David Roberts exploded
( the last nappy had been used ) a mere 3.6kms from the goal forcing the mission to be aborted.
Several months later with some of the original members of the party having been willingly substituted to home base team, English born navigator and driver Jim brought in ring man, South African head tracker Desmond du Plessis, leaving exploding baby Roberts at home. The party set off late morning of the 12th November from Chiang Mai with Canadian Bev Brummelhuis designated planner / photographer and Tou Roberts taking on the role of translator and community liaison officer, a very necessary job when trying to explain the importance of Confluence point hunting to the local mainly rural population.
Driving north from Chiang Mai on the road to Chiang Rai we stopped at a naturally occurring hot spring south of Wang Nua were some duck and chicken eggs were boiled for brunch. Continuing we then turned East at Wang Nua and followed the road to Phayao. We decided to attempt the point from the East side first, driving through Dok Kham Tai and trying numerous small dirt tracks from the 1251 road blacktop with little or no success. After talking to some of the local farmers working in the hilly crop covered area, Tou informed the group that there was no vehicle access available closer than the group was currently standing, a mere 4.3kms away. It was decided to return to the road and try from the Western side, as time was now running short.
Driving round to the north of the point we continued south on road 1 and turned off at Mae Tam reservoir, approximately 20kms south of Phayao. This road ended around 6kms from the point and we found ourselves driving on dirt road again within a forest skirting the large mass of water. Eventually the tracks ran out and the vehicle was parked at the end of one of these 3.4kms from our final destination. It was now 16:10 and the group decided to finish the job on foot with the intention of returning to the car by 17:30.
Setting off with a Garmin, water, 1 camera, a packet of cigarettes, mobile phone and 2 lighters the group headed off leaving translator Tou with the vehicle. After following tracks up and over hills through the heavily wooded forest to within 1km we found ourselves in corn fields and orchards. Here the tracks stopped and the fun began.
After tiptoeing through the ground spider web field and discovering the prickly weed now known by the team as “the nasties ” we came to a dry creek bed just 150m from the point. Dropping into the steep sided creek the group soon discovered that “the nasties ” could also penetrate clothing as they tried to find a way up the other side. After eventually finding a break in the thick thorns the group scrambled up the other side to find themselves in a tall cornfield. Walking steadily through the corn the point 19N 100E was finally reached much to the joy of all participants. After a brief rest and a batch of photo’s to record the event, the group then turned their attention to the return trip.
It was now past 17:30 and would be dark within half an hour. Considering it had taken over 1 ½ hours to arrive at the point getting back before darkness was now not going to be possible. A quick call to the Tou explaining our expected late return was made and then a discussion (later debated over and over again) on the merits of taking trails versus fields ensued with the trail group coming out the eventual winners. Setting off down a small trail we walked for about ½ an hour when a local farmer and helpers returning from work in the fields came by in his pickup. We wish we had found this track….. After a brief discussion in Thinglish ( a mixture of Thai, English and hand signal charades ) we jumped up with the workers sharing the back of the small pick up with full rice sacks.
Des was keeping a sharp eye on our original Garmin track as we drove through the now dark forest and all seemed to be going well when we arrived at an intersection. The farmer proceeded to turn right with Des insisting that we needed to go left. Once again the mobile phone was used and Tou was asked to explain to the driver that we really needed to take the left turn as we were trying to get to our truck parked somewhere on a hill. As she tried to explain to the farmer what these Farang (foreigners) were doing out here and why they really needed a ride back to the truck ( it was now pitch black ) a second farmer and his wife pulled up and seemed more sympathetic to the cause.
With the help of Tou on the mobile and Bev’s Thinglish, Des and the farmer sat in the front of the cab complete with Garmin and lighter ( must fix the internal light in the Garmin ) whilst we all jumped in the back of the pickup together with his wife. The farmer took us as far as he could go where tracker Des informed the team that we were between 50 to 200 meters from our original trail. As we thanked the farmer and his wife they seemed reluctant to let us go across the fields in the dark and offered to take us back to their home for the night. It was quite evident they had absolutely no confidence in our ability to find our way to the truck in the dark and as we walked off across the corn fields we heard the farmer yell ‘See you tomorrow”.
Having a good nervous laugh over this we quickly left the fields and followed Des back into the forest of trees. With only the confluence point God on our side (and the Garmin) we miraculously found ourselves back on a trail that tracker Des claimed was the one we wanted. We had been following this for a km or so when we heard Tou honking the horn of the truck, which brought a loud cheer from the now very weary point party. Much to the relief of all we arrived at the vehicle around 5 minutes later ( 1 ½ hours later than planned ) where the celebrations began to round off another successful confluence point trip.