Trekking in the rainy season in Ratanakiri
Trip Start Mar 18, 2009
134Trip End Jan 12, 2010
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Today was one of our longest journeys so far, although the bus was only supposed to take 5 hours from Kratie to Ban Lung and it was due to leave at 12noon. The bus actually picked us up from the Balcony Guesthouse at 2.30pm - but it was no hardship to sit and eat lunch watching the Mekong flow past as we waited.
The bus to Stung Treng, the next big town up the Mekong only took about 2 hours, and we picked up some more travellers before heading onto the dirt road into Ratanakiri Province, we finally arrived in Ban lung, in an almighty thunder storm, after a flat tyre, at 10pm. The road was quite bumpy in places and went over some wooden bridges with 10T signs next to them, I'm not sure how much a coach full of people and their luggage weighs, I'm not 100% sure it's less than 10T !
Thankfully Sompong from the Yaklom Hill Lodge was patiently waiting for us, he explained that in the rainy season the bus sometimes doesn't arrive until 2am ! He drove us the 6km out of town to the hill lodge (very glad to be in a car - we had pictured making this journey on the back of motos, in the rain and pitch black).
We settled into our eco-bungalow in the dark, with the solar panel powered light helping us do a quick check for spiders and snakes as we put our bed bug sheet and mosquito up.
Tues 28th July
Today we decided on a quiet day, we hiked a little nature trail around the eco-lodge to the sunrise and sunset viewing platforms. We saw what we thought were leeches on the path, finally we were able to put on our leech socks - very fetching, we look a bit like colonial explorers - we later found out the black things were worms not leeches, but the socks helped with my (completely natural) fear of snakes :)
The eco-lodge is set in the forest, there is a generator that runs from 6pm-9pm, enough time to charge ipods etc, grab a hot shower and have dinner. Each bungalow has a solar panel which means we can have light in the morning and after 9pm.
Weds 29th July
The lodge has many and various trek itineraries and we decided to start off with a half day trek which took us through cashew nut plantations, along incredibly red dirt roads and through some dense vegetation. All of the treks have been planned with the help of the minority hill tribe elders, to ensure they are not intrusive and do as much good as possible. Our guide, and the staff at the hill lodge, come from the surrounding minority villages. The ground was very muddy and we slipped around a lot - 2 inches of mud stuck to our walking boots made for a good work-out! For some reason when we're following a guide my fear of snakes and spiders goes away, and we walked paths I never would usually. We also stopped off at a farmer's hut and met the family. Most families live in a village in wooden stilt houses and have a hut near the land they farm. Under all the houses are pigs and chickens and dogs, all for food.
After 2 hours we arrived at Yaklom lake where the guide left us to have our packed lunch of fried noodles and pork (it's $1 to get into the lake). Yaklom Lake was thought to have been created by a meteor strike as it is circular - we walked all around it and sat on the wooden pier gazing into the emerald waters.
Thurs 30th July
We embarked on a whole day trek which took us to a large village of 80 families. Paul only slipped over once today :) In the village we saw the NGO-buit well, that they only use for washing, they believe their source of water is cleaner. We saw a boys' house - when they are 14/15 years old the boys build themselves a hut to live in to get away from their parents ! We learnt that they choose their own spouse, they alternate between living with the wifes parents and the husbands parents until they have too many children and build their own place. As we saw in Sapa, Vietnam, the older kids look after the younger kids whilst the parents are working on the land.
We stopped in a house further down the trail of a family with 9 children, and we were pleased to see a chalkboard upstairs with the days of the week written in French, after a while one of the little girls got brave enough and brought us her reading books, in Khmer so we had no hope of reading them !
Everywhere we saw subsistance farming with a few cash crops thrown in, cashew nuts, peanuts, rubber trees and mountain rice. We bought a scarf from one of the women in our guides village as weaving, bamboo basket and fish trap making bring in some extra cash. We didn't see any tvs, one kid had a radio and a few people had motorbikes.
The last 10 minutes of the hike we were caught in a downpour and we very pleased to get back to our bungalow, changed into fresh dry clothes and have a cup of tea and a banana pancake.
Fri 31st July
Our last day in Cambodia and we are tying up lose ends, we got a lift with Sompong into Ban Lung town to get supplies and use the internet - right now there is an extremely heavy downpour crashing on the tin roof of the internet cafe and a river instead of a road outside! Hello Rainy Season! Tomorrow we go to Laos on a complicated trip involving 3 mini-vans and on one boat - fingers crossed for a smooth journey !
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