A walk on the wild side

When we last wrote we were horizontal (literally in our hammocks, and metaphorically in attitude). Since then it has all changed – we have been rushing around and getting into the full swing of Cambodian life.

Our bus journey from Laos was the first piece of the puzzle and all I can say is thank goodness for the hammocks otherwise the journey may have destroyed us!

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The Kafka-esc trip consisted of a boat, a bus, a stop at the border for over 2 hours in which our passports disappeared, another bus, a tuk tuk and finally another bus (which had no seats left, so we were on paint tins and rice bags in the aisle). Sounds easy? But when you have Cambodians directing you one way, and then the back the other, people changing buses seemingly at random, with stops in the middle of nowhere, you think, ‘Welcome to Cambodia… Same, same but different (sorry, had to be said in at least one post)! All in all our journey, door to door, was 9 hours. We were on moving transport for less than 4… South East Asian efficiency!

Our first day in Banlung was spent on the back of motorbikes or in the water. We visited a couple of waterfalls and a 700,000 year old volcanic crater lake – Yeak Laom. This was incredibly useful as after each bike ride all of us looked like we had just had horrific spray tans and were as orange as Oompa-Loompas! We also had time to squeeze in a Herbal Essences ad reshoot. We think we nailed it… Although we’re not sure what happened to Joyce’s face.

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We then left the safety of our treetop bungalow and headed out into the jungle proper. Our intrepid crew, led by the infamous Yok ‘Monkey’, braved dusty roads…

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… And sweltering heat to trek into the Virachey National Park. Whilst it was not a hard trek physically, bar the heat, it was quite taxing mentally. Whilst Virachey is a National Park, it is not protected in the same way as a national park in Europe or America. The land continues to be sold off for logging and the sound of distant chainsaws could be heard through the canopy.

Also, as we are nearing the end of the dry season the minority tribes, some of whom live just inside the border of the national park, are preparing their paddies for the next crop. And this means burning. Lots of it. Whilst only the paddies themselves are meant to burn the fires often (most of the time) run wild and burn the ground litter and vegetation of the national park.

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It was hard to see such a beautiful place burnt, and in some places still burning as we passed.

After a few hours we made it to our jungle campsite, complete with waterfall. Actually it was more like water trickle, but the water was deep and refreshing, and after such a trek even a muddy puddle would have looked inviting.

And so we spent the night sleeping in hammocks and running scared from snakes (supposedly). The ‘men’ also went hunting – the spoils: a carton full of frogs and toads which we quickly barbecued and munched down on. They were good… Tasted like chicken.

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But our trek delicacies didn’t stop there as we also extended our culinary repertoire with red ants (their acid makes them quite sour), spiders (bitter, and won’t be on one of my menus anytime soon) and… wait for it… Rat! Caught, using slingshot, by our awesome guide Yok. It tasted okay… Just like meat from a typical English barbecue – burnt to a cinder, black and crunchy. Yum, i’ll have another one please!

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And now we are safely back, chilling out and planning Cambodia Stage 2… Siem Reap. Temple traipsing here we come. Temple fatigue awaits us. So a massage will probably be on the agenda soon too!

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