2 hours up river with the jungle growing thicker and thicker around us and the wildlife becoming more abundant as we went... we even saw a Macaque swinging in the branches on the river side.
Arrived in the most rural community we had seen so far and were whisked straight to the wildlife alliance centre to meet Yan who co-ordinates all the running of the community
. They have an amazing centre set up there that involves the local community, the secretary and chef were both local girls who had been given training and the accounts manager was a former poacher who had killed 3 tigers. After arranging our stay we were taken to the guesthouse, which was basically a room in a local family's house, the family were lovely and only the little girl Sreyoun spoke english. We had to be back at the centre for dinner at 6pm, so we set off to find the rapids upstream, for a quick dip, which were meant to be a gentle 2km walk. Every house we passed had 2 or 3 or 4 kids playing in the yard and as soon as they saw us they would start shouting "Hello! Hello!" and not stop until we were well passed, by which time we would of reached the next house where it would all start again... We've never felt so welcome! 30 mins later we found ourselves... back where we started! We'd taken a wrong turning and managed to do a full circle around the village, which everyone found highly amusing, suggesting we take a guide next time. Later at dinner Yan told us that he taught the local kids English for an hour in the evenings six days a week, and the class just happened to be held at our guesthouse. This is how we got roped in to taking the hour long class. After battling a bit of stage fright Justin threw himself into the task and had the kids in stitches. We're not sure that our English was that helpful but the kids seemed to enjoy it as a happy distraction.
The next morning we set off for the centre at 5am and after a worrying half hour of not really seeing anyone finally worked out that we'd misunderstood the start time, we thought it was 5.15, she had actually said 5.50... never mind. We had decided on the sunrise bird-watching tour, which was basically a river trip that aimed on seeing as much wildlife as possible. We set off with our guide who spoke no english, but was extremely sharp at spotting the wildlife. We travelled for 2 hours up a smaller channel off the main river and saw Hornbills, Monkeys, Butterflies as big as birds and a Water Snake swimming in front of us. We then pulled into a bank and walked up to a stilt hut where all 3 of us promptly fell asleep for an hour or so before making the return journey.
In the afternoon we decided to attempt to find the rapids again. This time armed with a crude hand-drawn map and a couple of push-bikes. After getting back wheels stuck in the mud, a near collission with a water-Buffallo and my crash into a prickly bush we finally found the rapids and lazed about the water for a few hours before heading back for dinner and another English class.
After another 4 hours of Karaoke hell we arrive in... the middle of f**king nowhere, where no one speaks english, not a westerner in sight... Brilliant! We finally worked out that we had to wait for an hour till the boat arrived that would take us to Chi Phat, so we sat with a couple of local women, armed with our Cambodian dictionary, which didn't help at all as our pronunciation is rubbish and they don't read! The boat turned up and in we got with the bags of rice, crates of water and anything else that the villagers had ordered as this was their daily supplies boat.