I've been back in Thailand for a while now and I don't know where to even begin with everything - I've had the most incredible and peaceful two weeks at Gaarawe Village in Khao Sok National Park and some amazing days in Bangkok too. After a night in Bangkok, I took an overnight bus to Khao Sok in Southern Thailand and got the driver to stop in the middle of nowhere and let me off on the side of the road. It was maybe 10 in the morning and already hot, but after walking up and down the road for a little while and then asking a local woman, I found the little dirt road leading to Gaarawe Village - the small permaculture farm I would be working at for the next two weeks. And Gaarawe exceeded all my expectations. It had started off by being the only Workaway out of five that had replied to me and a cheap way to meet up with Axel (who I first met on the other farm in Northern Thailand), who was back in Thailand with his friend Tom. And it was really really good to see Axel again, who together with Will had become a second family the last time we were in Thailand together. And luckily Tom and I quickly became friends as well, from the get-go having loads of fun together (and loads of discussions too). On my first day, I met all the other volunteers that had arrived only a few days before me: Zuza (Zuzanna) and Monica from Poland, Ada (Adriana) from Poland, Mauro from Italy and Dimitri from Russia. A few days later Leila from Germany would join our team as well.
Picture (from left to right): Lele's ex-wife and friend, Axel, me, Tom, Zuza, Ada, Leila, Monica
There was also the local cook, who made our food, Ta - the cook's sweet 16-year-old daughter, whose food was even better -, Ta's sister, Sin - a happy and sweet local woman about my age, who came by to practice her English regularly -, and of course Lele, the kind and funny Italian dreamer, who had started the farm from nothing.
Lele was always involved in the work, showing us how to do everything, checking up on us and helping. He lived in the same kind of tiny bamboo hut as some of the more long-term volunteers got to sleep in (most of us slept on a big open bamboo deck), used the same shower as us (which was a big bucket of cold water we could pour over ourselves), the same toilet as us (we flushed by pouring water into the toilet from a bucket) and ate every meal with us. It was refreshing how he always felt more like just one of us volunteers and he was very fair in the amount of work he gave us.
Picture: the dogs slept with us, this is Shiela my favorite
The two weeks at Gaarawe flew by way too fast. A typical day looked something like this: We woke up somewhere around 6.30-7.30 am, when the dogs (Penguino, Shiela and an unnamed stray that had been there for three years now) started to move around, the birds started chirping and the sun became too bright. I fed the chickens in the morning and then went to help Axel water the nursery if it needed it.
At 8 am we sat down together for breakfast and then started work around 9 am. It was hard work at the farm. It was always way too hot and humid, soaking us through in a matter of minutes and mosquitoes, ants and other insects was a constant annoyance. I spent a lot of time weeding the different vegetable crops, usually working in a team with Ada and Leila. We planted lettuce and other crops as well, planted new seeds in the nursery, made compost, gathered leaves, harvested vegetables, covered the vegetable patches with hay and much more. It was good work and I learned a lot from it. Axel and Tom mostly worked on the watering system and Dimitri and Mauro painted the water tower.
Usually, we worked from 9 am to noon, ate lunch and then relaxed until around 4 pm (because of the heat). We then worked again from 4 pm to 6 pm, ate dinner and went to bed early. Most of the days it would start raining spontaneously though and we would have to run for cover and wait out the storm before starting work again.
We watched a lot of movies together in the evening, pushing our mattresses together on the deck and gathering around Zuza or Ada's computer - Aladdin, The Green Planet, Lilo and Stitch, the Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Way Back and more. One night we played cards, some nights we just talked and one night we had a party. On my third day at the farm the water pump stopped working (it pumped water from the river for our shower, toilets and plants) and so when a big afternoon downpour came we all ended up showering together in the rain, laughing and having fun. It was one of those moments I think I'll look back on a lot. On the 17th of October Lele decided to take all of us for a little trip and so we finished work at 10 am and got in the back of his pickup truck. We first drove to one temple and then to a beautiful cave and temple where we fed the fish in the river.
The whole area around Gaarawe is unbelievably beautiful. We were surrounded by the national park and mysterious fog was always covering the towering limestone formations jutting up behind the trees. Especially in the night, when the fog thickens, the place looks otherworldly. And the drive in the pickup truck was in itself as much a part of the experience as the sightseeing.
Tom, Axel, Leila, Zuza, Monica and I all took the day off on the 18th since Monica and Zuza would be leaving soon after. We rented three scooters from Lele and then drove a long long (and beautiful) way to Singkhon Cave temple, reaching it around 11 am.
It didn't seem like a place that got many tourists and so the friendly monk that was in charge of the place approached us and ended up taking us all around the place. He took us up 1400 steps through the beautiful cave and then outside and down the 1200 uneven steps through stunning overgrown nature, speaking in very broken English the whole way. He then proudly showed us around his garden and gave us bananas straight from the tree. We had to cut the walk short though, running back to the temple for cover as a big downpour hit.
We were stuck at the temple for hours, waiting out the storm, but Zuza, Monica and I had a great time, eating fruit and having a girls' talk, so I didn't mind too much.
When the rain had mostly stopped, we drove to a local hot spring close by and jumped in.
We then drove to the blue river for a look around, but after the rain, the blue river wasn't very blue and there was a depressing amount of trash lying around the area.
We drove towards home, on the way stopping for food in a small town with a food market and temple.
We reached Gaarawe in the afternoon, just sitting down for a quick coffee, saying hi to the new guy Kolby from Canada and getting our sweaters, before driving 30 minutes to Khao Sok Town for a cosy dinner.