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Unusual Experience Department

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5-05-10 - A sprained ankle in Thailand

Back in August of 1988, my 14 year old son Kelly and I spent a few days with friends we'd just made in Chang Mai at the Texas Bar where we'd gone to watch a movie. The owner, a Texan like me invited us to his ranch further north. He said we could explore the jungle there, swim in a mountain stream, and that we'd visit with some tribal people. He brought his Thai wife with him.

There was also an Englishman who'd won a famous motorcycle race twice, the second time on a borrowed bike as I recall. He brought his young Thai sweetheart. There was another guy named David from Australia. There was a young Western couple, very young and the guy spoke some Thai. We went in the bar owner's pickup, most of us in back. I remember we'd been up a lot of the night and were drinking beer and at the last stop at a little town in the sticks we got some food from a stand and more beer. Noting that everyone was sort of woozy I went into a pharmacy bringing the guy who spoke some Thai and told him to get us something of low dosage that will keep us awake. I think it was some sort of amphetamine. I doled out one pill of five milligrams to each person, a dose that would keep us all awake through the day without getting jittery.

The ranch house was a platform with a thatch roof and no walls, just poles every eight feet or so running around the perimeter. There was a local caretaker who brought us some fruit. We sat on the platform on straw mats and blankets nibbling the food, drinking beer, smoking pot, and recovering from truck lag. Then we took a walk. I find it interesting that before I went there I was worried about poisonous snakes but once there I wasn't worried at all and just kept an eye out as we walked through tall grass and into the shade under trees and vines. Our destination was the mountain stream where it pooled before cascading down a smooth winding granite slide. We lay in the pool and slid the slide to the next pool then walked back up for more. After a few times of this I jumped feet first into the stream beyond the point where we'd been stopping, and as my rate of descent accelerated was distressed to see that the rock sides met before me like the inside of a rowboat and that I was going to crash into this dead end in a second or so, and that's exactly what happened, quite painfully. I survived though I limped on the walk back to our Asian palapa.

The caretaker brought us some local food to augment our dinner including cooked snake. We sat up and talked and sang, there was a guitar, and, this being a safe area for doing so, partook of more psychoatives including some mild opium that the caretaker generously provided. I remember that easing the throbbing in my ankle as well as my concern that it might be difficult for me to ascend the mountain the next day for what promised to be a most unusual experience. The caretaker was taking us to a mountain tribal village that tourists didn't go to. I was most eager to go there and faded unconcerned into dreams of colorful imaginings of what awaited.

I awoke at first light with an urgent need to empty my bladder. Unfortunately my ankle was wracked with pain and I had to crawl down the steps and to a nearby tree that propped me up in order to take care of this matter. Oh goodness. Crawling back I was most distressed. How would I walk up that mountain in this condition? One by one the others awoke and soon everyone had inspected my swollen ankle. The consensus was that I'd have to stay behind. I said no way. I am going. I am definitely going. This will not stop me. Etc. I was unusually determined.

As I sat there unable to walk yet declaring my resolve to do so, a figure appeared at the edge of the clearing. It was an old man who came from the jungle. The caretaker called to him and they talked. Then the old man came over to me, looked straight at me, and then at my ankle which he held in two hands moving it gently in a circle. Then he put it down and walked back into the jungle. A while later he returned with a some plants in a piece of cloth. He proceeded to slowly rub various leaves and roots into my ankle which he ultimately wrapped in some of this crushed flora, nodded to me, said a few words to the caretaker, and went off. The caretaker told me to just sit there for a while which I did.

Before long we'd eaten and had some tea and coffee and people were getting a few day packs together. "Let's go," said our host. People started walking out. Kelly looked at me. I stood up, took a step, took another, and glory be. I could walk. I could keep up.

We went all the way up the mountain on a steep trail in dark jungle to the more open area up top where there were thatch roofed huts with pigs outside and inside, naked children, bare breasted women like in  National Geographic. We walked around and people stared at us and smiled. We joined some men in a hut and talked with them through the caretaker. I remember someone asked if they got many tourists up there and the answer was yes we do. Why there were a couple of white people here just two years ago. Then we smoked opium. It was strong. After a while Kelly and I looked at each other and agreed we were ready to go. We walked around the tiny village bowing goodbye and then we ran down the mountain exhilarated. We slid some, fell some, laughed, and we ran more. I ran.  Amazing. What did that old man do? Amazing.

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