• Sami Bakaitis

How I Trekked the Vietnamese Jungle at the Age of 16

Mosquitos, spiders and snakes.


Yuck, I know.


Now, it wasn't like my other blog where I had to bathe with a make-shift coca-cola bottle shower head.


(If you have no idea what I am on about, read my blog https://www.theproductivepilgrim.com/post/why-i-worked-on-a-farm-on-top-of-a-volcano)


It was somehow worse. The lack of a safe water supply meant that we could only shower after we completed our 7-day trek across the jungle.


The Productive Pilgrim trekking the Vietnamese jungle

That's me! Dressed as a fire extinguisher and ready to enter the jungle.

 

Let me start at the beginning.


The year was 2015 and we had an assembly at my secondary school. It was held by the company World Challenge. The presentation was both enticing and motivating.


It was all about how you can go immerse yourself in Vietnam and then travel to Cambodia to work at an orphanage. And to top it all off we could go scuba-diving!


So, I returned home and told my mum how badly I wanted to go on this trip.


After hours of arguing with her about whether I should go, I finally came to the realisation that this was my choice. And I decided to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


After multiple fundraisers, and some help from my parents, I finally reached the target amount to fund this trip. A few flights later, plus one intense week of acclimatising in Vietnam, my teammates and I embarked on a perilous journey through the jungle.


A short panorama of the Vietnamese jungle
 

Insects and creatures everywhere!


The Vietnamese jungle was what you would expect. Leafy, wet and crawling with small insects.


Multiple breaks meant that you had to be wary of where you placed your backpack. I mistakenly left mine on the floor where a colony of ants could make way into a small hole and start devouring all my food. I only realised this once I opened my backpack at night to find my sleeping bag.


It was as bad as it sounded, my little head torch revealed hundreds of ants swarming around my bag. I don't recall screaming in fear, but I bet I did.


I had to unpack everything and shake my bag vigorously to get rid of them.


Not-so fun fact! There were still some dead ants in my backpack when I returned back to London :(

a short line of people trekking through a path

Now, let me tell you about the snakes...


After a few days we managed to reach the small village, Yok Don, where there were thankfully sleeping arrangements for us. After a restful night we all woke up to the smell of morning dew and elephant dung. Yes, the place had elephants roaming around the village!


A World Challenger and I spotted a snake on the grass near the toilets. It stayed still but we knew that they could inflict a nasty bite if threatened. We were told to alert the villagers if we found any, and so we did.


After a few minutes, a man came with a long stick and with one swift swoop he hit the snake. It went up in the air and then plopped on the ground. It was pretty anti-climatic as 16-year old me was expecting more of a fight. But these dangerous creatures had to be dealt with, with extreme caution.


It was scary knowing that someone could have been bitten if they had taken one wrong step, and we wouldn't have been able to take them to hospital since we were so deep in the jungle.

 

Crossing a stream via Rock, Paper, Scissors?


Quick flashback to before my trip. My mum thought it would be a good idea to neglect a lot of the kit list in order to save money, which I didn't think much of at the time.


But, boy oh boy, I wish I packed an extra pair of sturdy water resistant boots, which was my first thought when I first gazed upon the river between us and our destination.


Now, it wasn't only me, another World Challenger had also failed to bring another pair of shoes for crossing rivers filled with jagged rocks and deep holes.


So, after a few minutes of deciding how difficult it would be to walk the next few miles in soggy walking boots, my teacher approached us and said he had a spare pair.


This left us with two people and one pair of shoes. The verdict: rock, paper, scissors. Best out of 3, of course.

After an intense game, I emerged victorious, feeling smug yet grateful, while I crossed the river.


The other challenger sadly had soggy walking boots for the whole afternoon, but took it like a champ.


 

The Final Hill


After many intense days in the jungle we reached the final hill where the bus would pick us up and take us to our hostel.


We had survived hornets and scaled hills so steep that we had to use our hands to climb, but this last hill seemed so difficult.


The hill was soul crushing as you can see from my face below.

But I made it, thanks to my teammates who inspired me to continue, and the villagers who were very accommodating. But most all, my stick which had helped me so much!


Fun fact! I apply that hill to any problem that I have now. The problem may seem impossible, but if I go about it step-by-step, I know I will see myself at the top soon enough.

 

Conclusion


Whenever you have the opportunity to do something wild, like go trekking in Vietnam, I highly recommend you take it. If I never went on that trip, I wouldn't be the same person that I am today.


I know that sounds cheesy and dramatic but I can't stress enough how to true it is!


I wish I could tell you more about the trip , but there was so much that happened that it would take forever! If you did however want to learn more, write down a comment or message me!

The Productive Pilgrim Logo- A mountain with a red flag
Thank you for reading and I wish you luck for your future adventures!

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