This is the story of my mom’s and my spontaneous adventure on Thailand’s island Koh Lanta. What should have been a leisurely walk turned out to be a race against a storm, a storm which, we later found out, proved perilous in nearby India and Sri Lanka.
Koh Lanta’s coastline was a funny mixture, a beautiful, uncommon mixture that we had never found in the USA. From all sides, besides facing the sea, you could see small mountains of lustrously dark, green trees. These trees continued down the mountain slopes, only parting where man built a road with small resorts and restaurants along the edges.
Short, mainly dirt, paths made their way from the main road to the white, sandy beach and beachfront bungalows. The beachfront civilization did not interfere too much with the greenery. Shade poured down from leafy overhead branches while visitors lounged on the sand. The mostly uninterrupted foliage also handily blended the resorts, restaurants, and bungalows in with the natural beauty we all flock to islands especially for.
My mom and I walked silently with our bare feet in the warm, almost hot, Andaman Sea.
I grew up in the summers taking the two hour car ride often to the famed beaches on North Carolina’s coast. Wilmington beach, with the soft sand and good waves, was our most frequented spot. No matter how hot the summer, NC’s water was always chilly until you got used to it. Growing up in Massachusetts, my mom would remind me that, in her childhood experience, swimming in the ocean meant going numb.
Warm, bath-like water was a completely strange, but welcome, kind of sea to swim in.
We rounded the shore, tiptoeing in spots abundant with little sand crabs, to our destination of the break in the woods.
Upon reaching where the trees met the sand, we followed a path to see where it would lead.
It led to a strip of road wide enough for two car lanes bordered by water on both sides. Facing forward revealed a section of the sea with trees growing in it, almost like a marsh, but sparser. Looking back through the tree-bordered path we came through, the sea glimmered and sparkled and looked pretty over there too.
We continued on until the last resort passed us and the road ended. The tip of the island sat in sight before us.
It seemed to us that you could cut around the end of the island and hike down the coast back to where we had started.
Our epic adventure began with the decision to hike around the knob of the island’s rocky coast back to our beach, instead of going back down the road.
It turned out that the coastline on the tip of the island was mostly volcanic rock. But we were feeling adventurous and ready for some exercise. My mom had come without shoes, but like any prepared explorer, I had my Teva flip-flops on. Knowing that my mom would never navigate through prickly rock without shoes, I slipped mine off and offered them up.
We set out with little difficulty, spotting small crabs and pausing to admire the view every now and then.
Gradually the rocks became more jagged and challenging to climb.
We had been hiking for a good hour and a half already, without an end in sight. The walk from our beach to the end of the island via road had only taken a mere 10 or so minutes.
Obviously we had naively judged the shape of the coastline. Instead of a simple loop, the rocks jutted out into the sea, making our journey laughably longer.
Our hike couldn’t take too long though, because the sun had already began its decent. More worryingly, burly, inky clouds some miles in the distance portended a serious storm.
Our hike was no longer just a hike, but a race against nature.
When suddenly we came to an end of the rocks, we certainly weren’t laughing. The good news was that we finally had caught sight of some beach. The bad news was that the only way to get there was to swim.
Edging our way down into the waves, the large crabs around us plop plop plopped off the rocks to hide in the sea.
Despite being a bit freaked about about swimming with icky crabs, my mom plunged in first, the looming storm urging her on.
I had my trusty pink backpack with me. My little digital camera was among the bag’s contents.
With the backpack in one hand held above my head, I slid in as well.
The tide of the water proved to be fiercely strong. Although good swimmers, the waves took close to full control of our movements. There wasn’t much we could do to keep from hitting obscured rocks beneath the waves, but thankfully I was able to avoid slamming into the rocks behind us.
My mom hadn’t had so much luck.
We met on the sandy beach, dripping wet and the contents of my little backpack destroyed (good-bye camera).
I soon noticed that my mom was dripping with something more than water. The short swim had banged up her forehead, hand and arm. While the wounds weren’t serious, the trickling blood looked a bit scary.
Worried about the setting sun, and rushed along by dark clouds and thunder, we soon made it to the safety of our starting point’s soft, sandy beach.
At this point we relaxed and took stock. We compared bumps and bruises and heaved sighs of relief. We looked a little dirty and rugged, but lacking any substantial harm.
My mom didn’t want to risk washing her bloody spots off in the warm, salty water of the Andaman, so she had to walk down the beach, looking a bit like a character from a horror film, in search of a hose or some source of fresh water.
Fortunately the Klong Dao beach was a quiet, family spot with few people milling around to see and take alarm at my mom’s frightful state.
By then the sky was purple. Huge torrents of rain were striking down in the distance accompanied by a brilliant show of lightning.
Knowing that we had escaped the coming storm gave us the same warm feeling as watching rain fall from a bedroom window.
The wind picked up and the clouds turned a mangy blackish green. Someone somewhere was getting a terrible storm we thought.
Arriving back at our bungalow, we found Grace still in bed recovering from the infamous travelers bug.
We tucked ourselves away for the night as the rain arrived in droves, battering in lullaby against the roof as the wind whistled along.
Walks in foreign places never fail to throw spice and adventure into typical, unexceptional days. We’re happy to report, this walk we survived.
We found out later that, just north of us, India and Sri Lanka also received thunderstorms at the same time as ours. Tragically, the lightning was significantly stronger in those regions resulting in the death of 5 in India and 2 in Sri Lanka.
Do you have any crazy hiking stories? Let me know!