Jungle Fever

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Friday, January 28, 2011

Our last stop in Cambodia was another great one! We headed up to the north east of the country to an area visited by less travellers, Ratanakiri.  The main town in the area, Ban Lung, is quite small and easy to navigate.  We rented bikes again and spent the first day cycling around the area, including a remote volcanic crater lake called Boeng Yeak Lom where we spent a couple of hours swimming and chilling out.  Unfortunately this was the first day we forgot sun cream for the whole trip and Kevin ended up with a very attractive farmers tan!

Ratanakiri National Park (Virachey) is the only place in Cambodia with any real ecotourism and responsible trekking.  We decided to experience that and do a 2 day 1 night trek in the jungle.  Because of the limited time we didn't actually get to go into the main part of the park, but still got to trek in the Community Forest, which is a separate part of jungle that is easier to get to, but still protected from logging and hunting.  This turned out to be a really great experience.  Both our guide and ranger (you have to have an indigenous ranger to make sure that you don't get lost) were really great.  Vutha, our guide, had amazing English and was really interesting to speak to and learn about his background.  Kreang, the ranger, couldn't speak any English, although he is learning because he wants to become a guide.  He learnt the word 'woozy' from us, although I'm not sure that's the most useful word to start with! Being a short trek in the community forest i had cynically assumed that it would be a bit gimmicky, especially when all the companies on Ban Lung sold the same story about proper jungle, indigenous guides cutting their path through untouched areas and the like.  For the first half of day one we were walking down a path with the ranger randomly cutting leaves off plants on the sides of the path.  So we were quite surprised when after lunch there was no path and we were literally cutting a path through the jungle.  Obviously at this point i started stressing about all the massive webs on the floor and the potential of seeing the massive spiders living in the ground beneath them.  Never happy!! We spent the night sleeping in army hammocks by a small lake in the middle of the jungle.  It was really great sitting around the campfire in the evening eating both Cambodian and tribal food cooked by Vutha and Kreang.  The tribal food was particularly interesting as it was flavours that we had never really tasted and was cooked inside a bamboo shoot placed in the fire

When we arrived back on the second day we waited for the car back to Ban Lung in Kreang's house.  He lives in a tribal community which is run by a chief and somewhat separate to the rest of the population.  In his small house he lives with his wife, children and daughters' 4 children - 12 people in total.  Its quite hard to comprehend that so many people live in what was not more than a shed.  So different to where we are from. 

We had our first proper experience of 'lost in translation' on the trek as well.  Kreang made us cups out of bamboo which were really cool and we were informed would last and we could keep them.  When in the morning Kreang gestured towards them i smiled and nodded looking at the basket he was carrying and motioned that i didn't have room in my bag to carry them, hoping that he would.  He smiled back so i assumed the message was clear.  When we got to his house at the end of the trek i asked Vutha if we could get the cups from Kreang, who told Vutha that i had said i didn't want them so he had left them at the campsite - gutted! Apparently the question i emphatically nodded at was 'shall i leave these' and not 'do you want these'.  Although it was quite a shame to lose them, Kreang felt guilty so gave us his cups - the ones his family actually used.  They are amazing - real tribal crockery as it were, and they are also covered in patterns that have been carved into the wood.  The best souvenirs yet!
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