I was up early again this morning as we were to visit Rajjaprapa Lake.
We drove for over an hour to get to the small pier where we would catch a long-tail that would take us across the lake.
The area is spectacular as limestone cliffs covered in vegetation jut out of the water reaching for the skies for as far as the eye can see.
The water was glassy calm, and we simply skimmed the surface as we wove our way around the stacks towards a small island, which had another lake in its centre.
Getting there involved a “very easy” trek. A description that I take issue with. For the Himalayas, it probably was but it certainly wasn’t a gentle stroll. The ground was very slippery underfoot, and I was glad of the big stick that I had grabbed to use as a hiking pole.
When we arrived at the other side, we refuelled with sticky rice snacks before clambering onto a bamboo raft. This was by no means a sturdy raft, and indeed it sagged under the water in places. Unfortuately, one of those places was were I was sitting and I ended up sitting in a few inches of water soaking my shorts and shoes.
At the other side we were to visit a cave and this required climbing a little staircase which soon turned into bare rocks. I climbed up to the entrance of the cave and stepped inside but did not go any further.
The cave was slippery at best, and with my now drenched shoes, the water coming off them made even standing still treacherous. Thinking that I have another 6 months of travel ahead of me, I figured that this would be a good place to call a halt rather than risking slipping and breaking something in the cave.
I waited for the others at the cave entrance and joined them on the climb down.
The bamboo raft was in even worse condition on the way back, with pretty much the entire thing sitting below the waterline. We passed another on the way back and I could not help but notice that the bamboo canes of there raft were out of the water.
The hike back to the boat didn’t feel as bad as before, but this was probably down to knowing what was to come, and the knowledge that there was a small stand selling cold drinks near to where we were moored.
Back on board the long-tail, we sailed over to a pontoon which I recognised from my guidebook. This consisted of a few jettys lined with straw huts, and in the middle a cafe.
We ate lunch and afterwards I dived into the water for a swim.
It was the greatest feeling in the world. A couple of hours earlier, I was dragging myself along, hot and dripping with sweat and frankly knackered. Now I was in this beautiful water. Cold, but not too cold, clear and of course in these magnificent surroundings. Suddenly instead of being on the point of dropping, I was awake and full of energy.
The water was unlike anything I’d swam in before. It was fresh and clean, but it was just so flat. There was no current to take you along, and even in a swimming pool you get a few small waves as the wake from your strokes bounce back from the pools edge. Here though there was none of this, and even though I knew the bottom was some 60 meters below me, I revelled in just swimming around until time was up
I climbed back into the boat still soaked through and we turned to head back to the pier.
As we neared the pier, the skies darkened and the guide started to hand out plastic ponchos. On the horizon we could see the rain falling heavily, and it was closing in on us fast.
Like the entirely normal person I am, I pulled out my waterproof camera.
The rain hit us like a carwash. The previously calm waters were now more like the sea on a winters day. Not really an issue for a large boat, but for the long-tails with their low waterline, we starting getting buffeted. The wind whipped at us, and looking forward all I could see were plastic ponchos billowing in the wind.
We pushed on through, and then suddenly came across another boat, smaller than ours and without power. I could see the owner bobbing in the water, clinging onto it.
We pulled alongside, and our pilot jumped over and pulled him out and immediately jumped back to the tiller of our boat. The man that seconds earlier was in the water, then pulled him and his boat along ours, tying onto us with what looked like scrap piece of string and we began to tow him along with us.
The wind and rain soon stopped, just as we were mooring. Alongside us was another long-tail, one that evidently didn’t have ponchos as the occupants were all shirtless, with the shirts themselves being wrung out over the sides as they were so full of water. We escaped pretty lightly. The ponchos did a decent job. Shorts and trousers were wet, but everyone came through with dry tops.
We drove back to Morning Mist in darkness, driving rain and lightening that was so frequent you’d be forgiven for thinking that a lightbulb was on the blink. But we arrived safely and piled into the bar for food and my most deserved drinks ever at the end of an exhausting day.