Saturday, September 25, 2010

AWA Kids Camp

Since my return to Coloma I've been spending a lot of time pretending like I know how to guide a raft despite falling out multiple times in flat water. Last week I took it to the next level and pretended like I was a good influence, a councillor if you will, for little kids. Interesting where life puts you. Anyway, it was good hanging out with people the same maturity level as myself.

The 11th and 12th graders listening to an intro speech by the boss man.

Luckily for me I was working with the best team ever who probably knew what they were doing, JoshO, Jordie, and Kelsey. I was just busy being stoked on life about the awesome program Chris had organised for the kids and how much I was learning about American Indian culture as well as Californian history and the Geology of the Sierra Nevada's.

Kimberly Shining Star, probably the best story teller I've ever seen in my life!

The program kicked off with an awesome breakfast for the kids followed by wet team building which luckily for Jordie and me, Josh and Kelsey weren't keen on joining in on. We left them to cook dinner for the masses while we got to play in the sun. Cheers guys. After dinner we kicked back and listened to Kimberley Shining Star, a descendant of one of the 7 American Indians left in Coloma valley after the gold rush. The American Indian population prior to European appearance was estimated to be around 310,000 but was decimated by starvation, disease and competition with European settlers. Modern Americans could learn a lot from the American Indian culture which seems to focus on community and teaches kids to think for themselves, and follow their talents rather than rote learning and chasing the American dream.

Tyto alba the Common barn owl can fly almost completely silently.

The next on the agenda was a fantastic presentation of a few common Californian animals such as the barn owl, turkey vulture, rattlesnake, beaver, golden eagle, and black bear. All of the animals are in captivity because of accidents which now prevent them from surviving in the field which is sad but maybe life in captivity as a resource for education which may lead to the protection of their species is better than certain death in the wild.

Big Gabe letting little Gabe get to know the barn owl.

The only time the kids shut up and paid attention all day

Gabe the presenters favourite bird, the turkey vulture

Rattlesnake on the loose! This rattlesnake was in an accident with a lawnmower, luckily the driver of said lawnmower felt terrible and rushed her to the vet. Unfortunately she can't be re-released into the wild as she has lost her ability to strike and hit a target and unable to hunt and catch prey she would starve to death.

Famous beaver, due to appear on American TV this year

California black bear, this one had been abandoned and was dying on the side of the road before being found and taken to the wildlife centre, she is now too tame to be released.

The national bird of the USA, the Bald Eagle. This one took a shotgun hit to the wing so is never going to be able to fly again but will probably live for around 80 years in captivity.

Hanging out with the kids (photo by Jordie)

Live music and s'mores round the campfire. I'm not really sold on s'mores but campfires and live music are awesome.

Gabe supervising Jordie's safety talk

The last two days of the program consisted of rafting the American river with Michael from the American river conservancy. He conducted floating classrooms where the kids (and the raft guides) learned about the social, natural, historical and geological aspects of the river.

My super extreme rafting team

Floating classrooms

The best kind of classroom.

So big ups to AWA and Nature's Classroom for an educational week. Cheers to Kelsey for endless blond moments, such as interrupting a conversation about how someones Grandad died after being crushed to death by a truck with ..."WOW LOOK!!! They have MANGO lemonade!!! That sounds delicious!" Cheers to Josh for being a fount of random knowledge. Also special thanks to Jordie partner in crime, cause its never any fun getting in trouble alone.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nam Tok Haew Suwat

Here are the photos from Haew Suwat!!!

Tyler - Photo Josh Neilson

Lou - Photo Josh Neilson

Me - Photo Tyler Foxy Foxy Man Fox

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Haew Suwat - It is easier to get forgiveness than permission...

The first waterfall in the first National Park we visited in Thailand was the Haew Suwat. Josh's research had uncovered this amazing gem located in Khao Yai National Park. Unfortunately almost as soon as we had our kayaks off the roof we were shut down by park rangers and pinballed from authority to authority until the big boss of the park told us that no-one had ever paddled it and nor were they going too. Of course that made us more determined.

Josh's 100fter to land directly on rocks to 100fter...

We left the park to paddle other rivers and to formulate a highly ingenious plan.

King monkey who was giving Tyler high fives

On our way back from Chiang Mai to Bangkok we decided to give it one more shot before dropping Tyler off at the airport.

Mum and baby monkey cute!!!

This time we were armed with experience and had an arsenal of ideas to make it past the park rangers and achieve waterfalling.
Plan A: Wait till the rangers close the gates at 5pm, sneak in for a park'n'huck sesh
Problem: There were three gates and all had padlocks, there were also rangers houses in between the gates and the waterfall, 24hour surveillance!
Plan B: Put in upstream of the waterfall, paddle sneakily past the rangers, and hit the drop
Problem: Upstream of the waterfall is the breeding ground of rare Siamese crocodiles which grow up to 3m in length!!! Also there was a lot of dense Tiger infested jungle between us and an alternate put in.
So we had to go with Plan C

Monkey child

Plan C involved pulling into a side road, fully gearing up, then driving almost all the way to the waterfall at which point we would pull our boats off the roof super fast, stealth through a minimal piece of jungle whilst Josh who couldn't paddle due to injury distracted the rangers. It was reminiscent of Royal Gorge.

Luckily I had prepared for jungle stealth missions by having a green kayak. Tyler was also semi prepared with a green helmet. Lou on the other hand...Pink helmet blue boat... As we broke from undercover and started running full tilt for the river I could hear a ranger chasing us yelling "no, no, stop, no swimming" and Lou trying to explain that swimming was the last thing we were planning.

As Josh fended off park rangers while filming with two cameras and taking photos with a third like a star Tyler, Lou and I rolled off the lip and melted into a super soft landing. I broke my paddle in half on impact but theres only so many big waterfalls you can expect a $30 kilwell shaft to stand before it throws in the towel.

Monkey in the jungle

None of our plans detailed any ideas of how to escape so when the park rangers trapped us by locking the gates we were a little worried. We waited for the police to show up while debating how big the fine would be and would we have to spend a night in a Thai jail. Josh just kept repeating that he hadn't paddled the waterfall therefore he wouldn't have to go to jail. Finally we were escorted to park headquarters, told that we should have asked for permission first, then asked if we would please have our photo taken with all the park rangers and our kayaks. So we're kind of a big deal in Khao Yai and if anybody goes there in the future look out for the shrine with our picture on it!

I'll put up some waterfall photos later, hope you guys enjoyed the monkeys!