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Hiking Khao Luang, Nakhon Si Thammarat

24 Sep 2018 11:47 #5098 by BKKBen
Hi again,

At the beginning of next year, I have a 10 days off from February 1st, and am giving serious consideration to doing the summit trek of Khao Luang in Khao Luang NP, Nakhon Si Thammarat. It is something that I've wanted to do for quite a while, and this seems like as good a time as any. Aside from the endemic Turquoise-throated Barbet, there are several other species of birds that are difficult to see elsewhere, especially in the south, and undoubtedly other animals to see while hiking and camping on the mountain.

I got in contact with Dave Sargeant from North Thailand Birding, as I read his excellent write-up about his trip from a couple of years back, and he gave me a few numbers to check out, but admitted that he himself hadn't done this part of the organizing. Anyway, my wife managed to get a hold of someone (after calling people and getting more phone numbers), and this guy has supposedly taken several groups of foreign birders up the mountain - for two nights on the mountain, his quoted price was 4,500B/person for 1-2 people, and 3,600B/person for 5+ people (I'm not sure what happens with 3-4 people haha). This price is (supposedly) inclusive of his guiding, porters and equipment, but excludes food etc. as seems usual. 

So, my question here is, would anyone like to join me on this adventure? While my interest is birds, I do like all wildlife and appreciate simply being out in nature. I do possibly have one friend (another birder) who may join, but really, I'm the only 'certain' at this moment.

Cheers,
Ben.
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28 Sep 2018 06:14 #5100 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic Hiking Khao Luang, Nakhon Si Thammarat
I have always wanted to do that hike to see the flora - its been at the top of my wants list for a while. Unfortunately I will be out the country Feb and March. 
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02 Oct 2018 09:54 #5102 by BKKBen
Replied by BKKBen on topic Hiking Khao Luang, Nakhon Si Thammarat

Paul T wrote: I have always wanted to do that hike to see the flora - its been at the top of my wants list for a while. Unfortunately I will be out the country Feb and March. 


I also have time off in April, but as that's one of the few times my wife gets holidays, I doubt I'll convince her that we should do this then   haha

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17 Oct 2018 16:20 #5115 by janpeterkelder
Replied by janpeterkelder on topic Hiking Khao Luang, Nakhon Si Thammarat
Would love to join, but April would be better for me. Just before Songkran. Shout me an email if you can do that month: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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29 Oct 2018 09:52 #5117 by BKKBen
Replied by BKKBen on topic Hiking Khao Luang, Nakhon Si Thammarat

janpeterkelder wrote: Would love to join, but April would be better for me. Just before Songkran. Shout me an email if you can do that month: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Hi there, I shot you through an email, although February is still more likely than April.

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11 Feb 2019 14:55 #5173 by BKKBen
Replied by BKKBen on topic Hiking Khao Luang, Nakhon Si Thammarat
Hi once again,

So over the Chinese New Year break I had from work, I travelled down to Khao Luang National Park in Nakhon Si Thammarat to summit its namesake mountain and do some birdwatching.  I had pre-arranged everything before heading down aside from accommodation  the night before the hike, and after flying down on the Friday, I hired a car from the airport and set off to Khiriwong village about 40 minutes away. Once there I contacted Kang (คัง) and he met me and took me to his house which was only a few hundred metres from the main bridge (the one Thai tourists take selfies at).

After chatting about the logistics for the following day, I went next door to a guesthouse. Kang has his own very small huts to rent, but as I wanted to unpack my luggage and repack my backpack for the trip, and charge electronics etc., I opted not to stay at his - the extra space afforded at the adjacent guesthouse was greatly appreciated.

We decided to leave the following morning at around 9 am, and earlier that morning there was some light rain, and Khao Luang itself was completely enveloped by clouds - which in itself is fairly common. After a short motorbike ride from the village, we entered the orchards that line the small concrete trails that lead to the actual forest trail up the mountain. I had asked to walk the last couple of kilometres as I wanted to look for birds along this path (there were several quite productive areas where the orchards were adjacent natural forest), but it is also be possible to take motorbikes right to the actual trailhead, that begins just after a small hut, which is where we met Anon, our porter.

After packing bags, we were finally headed up the forest trail, and it is a very rudimentary trail, and not a trail you'd want to attempt without someone who knows the way. This was the first time that Kang himself had been up this trail since June/July (the previous hiking season), and I was supposedly the first person to attempt the hike since Tropical Storm Pabuk had passed through - there were frequently trees down across and beside the trail that Kang attributed to Pabuk.

Along with being very narrow, the trail became quite steep quickly, but only for a few hundred metres before we reached a small ridge. It should also be noted that leeches were absolutely rampant! There was no point in worrying about them, as they were everywhere, and with the narrowness of the trail, they easily got onto your arms and upper body as well. 

However, only about an hour after leaving Anon's hut, and after a couple of stream crossings, we reached the first campsite, which is supposedly at an elevation  of around 800 m asl. I asked about going a little higher, but both Kang and Anon were worried about rain, and sure enough, after having been at the campsite for about 30 minutes, rain, albeit light started to fall and stuck around for the following hour. The campsite itself is at the junction of two small streams, with a third being only 20-30 metres away. And it was at this third stream that a stumbled upon a pair of Slaty-backed Forktails, a species that is supposedly not recorded very frequently in the south.

Also in the afternoon, I explored further up the trail a little way, and at one stage had a calling Turquoise-throated Barbet in a large tree right above me, but frustratingly the bird never showed itself, and this would unfortunately be the closest I would get to my target bird. Additionally, the conditions for the rest of the afternoon wavered between sunny (but with the thickness of the forest, this didn't help a lot), and very dark and overcast, so not too many birds made themselves apparent. There did, however, seem to be quiet an abundance of insect/arthropod life, with many butterflies, several species of millipede, a tarantula hawk wasp, and a fly-by visit of our campsite by an Asian Giant Hornet - this beast was a little intimidating, and both Thai men seems to want to get well out of its way as well.

That evening, we discussed the following day's plan, and Kang mentioned to me that usually the second day entailed hiking up to another campsite at around 1300 m asl, and then summiting the following morning; however, I asked if it was possible to hike to the campsite in the morning, leave our bags and continue to the summit (~1800 m) after a quick lunch, which he agreed was very doable. This would allow me to summit in the afternoon, but also spend the last morning at around 1300 m to look for birds. So, with the plan set, I got ready to sleep while the other two drank rice 'whisky', but by about 10 pm, they were both snoring away.

Early in the morning, rain began to fall, sometimes heavily, and by the time the sun had risen, it had been raining for several hours, and our 7 am departure time came and went. After much deliberation over safety etc., it was decided that it would be more sensible to turn around and not attempt to summit. I did, however, ask Kang if the rain subsided, if he could accompany me further up the trail (without bags, and gear etc.), so I could try an find some birds, and when the rain finally abated at around 9 am, we quickly headed up to a little over 1000 m (going by Kang's knowledge). After reaching this elevation, the bird life definitely became more evident vocally, but the gloomy, overcast and misty conditions made it very hard to really see anything, and while numerous more Turquoise-throated Barbets were heard, none were particularly close, and we finally called it quits at around 11 am. Aside from the attempted birdwatching, it was also interesting to see more of the trail, which at times became quite steep and potentially very slippery. Also at around 1000 m, there was another campsite, but as it's a little further from water (not by much though), it's not used as frequently as the 800 m and 1300 m campsites.

On the way back down to have lunch, I did stumble upon a pair of Chestnut-naped Forktails in a parallel stream all of 40 metres from where I'd seen the Slaty-backs the previous day. Once lunch was eaten, while it was again raining, we packed the last of the gear and headed back down the mountain in the first break in the rain, which wasn't long, as we'd been walking for about 15 minutes when another heavy shower passed over - the trail back down from the campsite was noticeably much wetter than the day before, and as such, more slippery - I think we all took at least one small slide down a part of the trail, but in all we were back at Anon's hut in about an hour, and I then walked back through the orchard to make the most of my time in the area.

In all, a very frustrating trip, but I have no doubt we made the right decision to not attempt to go any higher. I will, however, go back, but that will probably have to wait until April 2020 (if anyone wants to join then?!?). Next time I go, I also told Kang that I would like to camp at the small campsite at around 1000 m, and he said that wouldn't be a problem.

If anyone wants to plan their own trip for the mountain, Kang charges 1,500B per day, and that includes food (I gave him 1000B the day I arrived and he went to the market, but that came out of his total fee), and tents, sleeping bags etc., and the porters are 1,000B per day. Kang's number is 084-440-1370, and speaks very little English.

Despite this leg of the trip being a bit disappointing, I then travelled to the Krung Ching Waterfall substation of Khao Luang National Park (about an hour or so north) and spent 4 nights in one of the bungalows. I didn't have a single drop of rain the whole time, and saw over 100 species of birds over my stay as well as many other animals, large and small, including a giant red flying squirrel and a chevrotain among others - Krung Ching, for those who've never been, is a beautiful place to explore, and according to the rangers, has a 'healthy' tapir population as well.

-Ben.

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11 Feb 2019 18:13 #5175 by Paul T
Replied by Paul T on topic Hiking Khao Luang, Nakhon Si Thammarat
Great write up Ben - I may join you next year.
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12 Feb 2019 09:14 - 12 Feb 2019 09:15 #5178 by BKKBen
Replied by BKKBen on topic Hiking Khao Luang, Nakhon Si Thammarat
Some pictures of my hike:


Khiriwong village, where all Khao Luang treks begin


Where I began the hike, at about 250m asl - also a look at the concrete trails that lead through the orchards


The trail through the orcahrds


View over mixed orchard and native forest


Anon's hut - the last staging point before the proper trail began


The trail along the first ridge after the firstclimb


One of the small streams we had to cross


Another stream and surrounding forest


Our camp - small tents were erected under the blue tarpaulin. Anon slept in a hammock


The trail up the hill at a little over 1000m asl. As can be seen, it's very thick and overgrown. You can't tell the steepness, however

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12 Feb 2019 09:19 #5179 by BKKBen
Replied by BKKBen on topic Hiking Khao Luang, Nakhon Si Thammarat

Slaty-backed Forktail - a rare southern resident. Seen near our campsite


Chestnut-naped Forktail - a much more common species. Also seen near our campsite, but at a different stream


Two species of millipede seen around the camp


Male and female Lesser Green Leafbirds in a durian orchard on the way down

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12 Feb 2019 09:21 #5180 by BKKBen
Replied by BKKBen on topic Hiking Khao Luang, Nakhon Si Thammarat

Khao Luang in the sunshine as I was leaving the airport
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"Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius." > Edward O. Wilson

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