It’s never a good idea to re-read Alex Garland´s The Beach before staying somewhere like Krabi in Thailand. Halfway along the jungle path skirting our hotel an enigmatic wooden sign pointed upwards and into the thicket of trees. It read: The Princess´s Lagoon. The starting point to the route lay opposite the sign, it was a single rope that disappeared upwards into the undergrowth.
I’d heard that the lagoon was an intriguing enclosed lake and the only way to reach it was by a thigh and bicep testing 45 minute assault course through the jungle. We’d passed the sign a few times and on each occasion I’d contemplated heading into the emerald unknown. But you have to work yourself up to these sort of adventures. Like I mentioned, I’d just re-read The Beach and there could have been armed Thai drug lords up there for all I knew.
Searching for the Princess’s Lagoon – 1st Attempt
This time a girl stood, looking slightly bored, beside the wooden sign. She was from Hong Kong and her boyfriend was somewhere in the jungle looking for the lagoon. Thinking that at least there was safety in numbers, I decided to follow him. Leaving Andy chatting to the girl I grabbed the rope and dragged myself up the slippery slope into the jungle, making a mental note to do a bit more work on the upper arms as my muscles whined in protest.
The trouble with jungle routes is that after the initial sign that points the way it can all get a bit confusing, especially if the subsequent signage is on the ambiguous side. Within five minutes I came to a fork with ropes leading in different directions. It was eeny, meeny, miny, mo time. I chose left and continued my scramble through the forest. A lot sooner than I expected I started to descend and within a few minutes emerged through a gap in the jungle to find the girl from Hong Kong’s boyfriend and a viewpoint – overlooking the bay where our hotel was located. Somehow both of us had managed to do a u-turn in the jungle. It was a damn good vista for sure and not for anyone with vertigo as it was way up in the limestone cliffs overlooking the bay but it was nowhere near the lagoon. My adventurer friend decided to continue his search whereas I decided to try again another day.
Rainy weather cut short our plans for either lazing by the resort’s infinity pool or on Railay Beach watching the long boats ferry in day-trippers, so I decided to go in search of the lagoon again. It was a pretty stupid plan as the rain had made the dry slopes into the jungle slippy and very, very muddy. By the end of the first section I was knackered and looked like I’d had a mud bath at the hotel’s spa. But I was determined and this time took the rope to the right. The damp conditions were an energy sapper and I was gasping and wheezing like a right old geezer by the time I reached a summit and started to descend with short-lived relief. Short-lived because the descent was treacherous and I skidded and skied my way downwards.
Finally I arrived at a lush primeval gulley filled with huge ferns and umbrella-sized, glistening tropical leaves. From there, the route was relatively easy going, although the alien surroundings left me a tad uneasy. If one of those nasty little snappy dinosaurs from Jurassic Park had made an appearance I wouldn’t have been surprised. I pushed aside a large frond and there it was, the Princess´s Lagoon…or at least a small section of it anyway. The rest was concealed by the walls of the narrow gulley I was in. At my feet were yet more ropes leading down vertically to the lagoon floor.
I’m ashamed to say that by this time I’d gone a ropey descent too far. The conditions had left me exhausted and I wasn’t sure I had enough energy to make the return journey let alone get back up from the lagoon. I sat on the ledge overlooking a corner of the green lagoon regaining my breath and absorbing the tranquillity of the silent jungle. When I could breathe easily again I reluctantly turned my back on the elusive Princess’s Lagoon and made my wet, filthy and only partly triumphant way back to the safety of the hotel.
Next time I’ll go all the way…but definitely not after it’s been raining.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+