169km Pak Chong to Chok Chai
It was past midnight and we were in our tent. We should have been asleep but we were listening to the rain come down and wishing it would go away. And between the drops of water pitter pattering on our home we also heard the birds having a late night chat in the trees and thunder rumbling off in the distance. Then we checked the time and realised we really should try to get some sleep so we rolled over to doze away. Andrew brushed his cheek just before we turned in our beds. “What’s that?” Friedel asked. “Oh, just an ant,” Andrew mumbled. Just an ant. We’ve camped plenty by now. One ant roaming free is no big deal, we thought, as our eyes closed.
What happened next was like a scene from a horror film where the pincers of a giant ant reach out around a beautiful woman and slowly squeeze the life out of the heroine. In our nightmare scenario we saw not ‘just an ant’ but a whole ant highway. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of ants, flowing in through a minuscule crack where the zippers come together to seal the door to our sleeping area.
Out went the lovely, warm, fuzzy feeling of just waking up and in came shock and disgust as we realised the full scale of the invasion. Ants were everywhere. On our sleeping mats. In our clothes. On the tent roof. On the floor. When we finally shook enough ants free to get dressed, we noticed everything else we owned was crawling too. Our shoes. Our panniers. Even our water bottles.
That was quite enough for us but the ants wanted more. As we moved and started shaking and brushing the ants started biting. So tiny, barely a few milimeters long, but their tiny jaws packed a sting and we screamed a few unprintable words. Out we jumped from the tent, looking at our belongings with eyes wide open. Ants were clustered so thickly on Friedel’s swimsuit that the fabric was barely visible. It was just a swarming brown mass. The buggers even chewed several holes through the groundsheet, leaving parts of it looking like a slice of Swiss cheese.
Three hours later, without a drop of coffee to fuel our frantic cleaning, we had used several litres of campsite water to clear most of our things of ants but not all. Through the day a trickle of ants continued to emerge from various cracks in our bags and we wondered what kind of pet we could adopt to eat them all. A lizard? A bat? We’d watched thousands of bats fly out of their cave near Khao Yai in search of a sunset meal. We could feed a large extended bat family with the ants that attacked us.
On the move now, we cycled past rice paddies and waved hello to the friendly Thais running food stalls and gas stations along our route. “Need any help?” one called. “Want to take some ants off our hands?” we thought. Several hours later we still felt phantom stings on our arms and legs and that tickly feeling you get when something is crawling over your body.
Totally cured of any desire to camp, we sought out a hotel in the afternoon and used a strong spray of water to wash the last few ants out of our bags. Now, like any crime victim, we just wanted to know why they chose our home in the first place. We didn’t cook near our tent. We had almost no food with us and what we did have was all unopened. When we removed the tent, we didn’t find an ant hill underneath. Was it just our bad luck? Were we particularly juicy targets? With a string of forest parks offering camping in our path, we’ll have to work up our enthusiasm if we’re going to try tenting in Thailand again.