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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Cardamom Mountains Trek

I Continue From Here 

Backpacking Cambodia: Day 10 (21-Feb-2019) 

Exploring The Tropical Rainforest

When I first spoke to Mr Lim from Battambang (Contact of Osoam Community Center - 089899895), It was Nick and I who were supposed to come here and do a two day one night trek in the jungle. But since it was just me now, after a little contemplation, I decided to do a day trek along with two other travellers who were staying in another village house. I had to be ready to leave by 8AM but as usual, I woke up early and took a walk by the lake behind Lim's house. The view was spectacular.




At common area, I met the other travellers. There were two boys from Belgium, one of whom played a ukulele. Then there was an old American man and a German couple. The girl was a food critique and her boyfriend was a musician and played guitar beautifully. They had been riding motorbikes across the country. They had also traveled in India as well, a few years ago. It was interesting to listen about their adventures and travels in India. They had had a great experience. I was served Noodle soup for breakfast. It was delicious. 



It was time for me to leave for the trek so, I bid them farewell as they were all leaving  that day (Except for the old American from Boston). My motorbike rider was a an old man. I learnt later how skilled he was in riding in terrible terrains. At the village, we stopped at a hotel where our food was being packed. I realised that I had to inform them of me being a vegetarian. I used my translated google map images to tell my guide. He just kept nodding his head and showing me a thumbs up but he did nothing. We came to the village and he stopped at a shop and asked if I wanted to buy water. When I shook my head it perhaps occurred to him that my request was something else. He asked the second guide to look at my translated images. That is when they realised what I had asked for. When we checked all the packed food, it had meat in them. So, one of the guides went back and got me my vegetarian option. 

Meanwhile, we were joined by two other travellers. A German man who has lived in Cambodia for over 10 years now and had once owned a farm. He lives in Kep and fluently speaks the Khmer language. His Austrian friend was visiting him for a month. Both of them told me that they love farms. I told them that, so do I. On three bikes, we rode to the jungles. Soon, the farmland gave way to dense forests. The roads were so bumpy that only an experienced rider could manoeuvre the bike here and my guide was the best of the lot. At times, we had to pass through sludges, cross a stream or ride a path full of roots growing over it. He was amazingly skilled. 




After having ridden a few kilometres, we parked our bikes and began the trek. The German was very keen on knowing all about the tress in the forest and its use. His guide patiently explained to him about all the trees and its applications. As I was interested as well, the German translated the same in English for me. It was a very informative walk in the jungle . As we went deeper, it got denser. At a river crossing we took a short break. 









After about an hours walk, we reached the first waterfall. We had our lunch here. While speaking to the German, I learnt that the way to own property or start a business here was to either marry a local or have a partnership with a local in which, the majority of share is held by the local. In case of Mad monkey hostels, it was an arrangement through wedding. In his case it was a partnership that had probably not worked. "You need to find someone trustworthy to make  a partnership work." He said. I joined the missing dots. 



He also told me that the Cambodians took weddings very seriously. The amount of beer spent on a wedding is a sign of how grand it was. The invitees wanted to look their best at any wedding and the preparation would begin months in advance. For example, a woman he knows has been hand stitching her dress for a family wedding to happen in few months. I also learnt from him that the plastic dumped at the front yard or by the side of houses is also an indication of status. This was a proof that they could afford packed or processed food.  

After lunch, we walked to the second waterfall. This one was incredible. Though not very high, it was wider and had several stages. We had a good shower.






After relaxing there for a bit, at around 2 PM, we began our journey back. I was bit by a leech and that always makes me uncomfortable. If you decide to the spend two days and a night in the jungles, you go deeper into the jungle and get to sleep in hammocks tied to trees. I think for me, a day trek seemed appropriate. But a larger group would enjoy a stay in the forest.  

On our way back, we spotted some Cardamom flowers. This forest is filled with Cardamom plants and hence the name. 




As I desired to eat some wild banana, our guide plucked pulled down a plant and plucked some bananas. The German, based on his experience, warned me that the seeds are big enough to break a tooth. The seeds indeed were big and the fruit had to be eaten like custard apple by sucking the pulp and spiting out the seeds. 




On our way back, we encountered a terrible thunderstorm and were completely drenched. The streams were soon flooded and the mud road began to turn into pools of sludge. My guide, as I had mentioned earlier, was expert. He kept manoeuvring the bike with his legs at times to prevent it from slipping. We stopped at a village house until the rain stopped. There were two women and three kids in the house that seemed struck by poverty. Outside, ginger was stored under the wooden platform over which the house was built. In front of the house, there were pictures hung. I presumed them to be of their mother or father in their wedding dress. Many even hang pictures of king and queen along with their wedding pictures outside their homes,  on the wall next to the door. There was an outdoor kitchen like in most houses. The kids did not hesitate to urinate next to the kitchen. We waited there for a while before continuing our journey. 



On our way back, we had an accident. A dog came chasing another dog and accidentally rammed into one of our bikes. Loosing control, the Austrian and his guide fell down. Thankfully, nobody was hurt. At the village, I bid them farewell and headed back to the Mr Lim’s house. My shoes where completely covered in mud. When I was cleaning it, Lim’s mother-in-law came and handed me some soap and a brush. 

Back in the hostel, I went back to the lake. A few village kids were taking a dip at the lake. 



In the common area, there were few visitors from Phnom Penh who came to have a look at Lim’s farm. While heading back, one of the visitors tipped Lim's daughter Shaira but she refused to take it. It was then handed to her father. I found that quality interesting and wished to know what she had told her father while refusing to take that money. However, I never got a chance to do so. 

I had a chat with the American over dinner. We spoke about snowfall in the east coast and the advantages of social security that makes his life easy. He receives money every month on his account. He also mentioned how he was addicted to technology and was finding hard to stay away from internet or connectivity. It was strange to hear that from an old man. Several years ago, he had bicycled across India and had had a great experience. 

A few new travellers had arrived that morning. Like me, the American had chosen to go vegetarian that evening, so we dined together. The food was tasty. For Dessert, we had some passion fresh fruit from Lim's garden. 




Lim and his wife had guests that evening - A couple from Kampot. The man asked me to join their table. When I refused to drink beer, he insisted me to have one along with them. I obliged. Their custom is a bit different. They cheer each other after every sip. So it's like this,  they cheer, take a sip, speak for a while and then cheer again. I think, I cheered five times with the same can of beer. They offered me some mango as snacks. Lim told me that he had met this couple about an year ago at Koh Kong bus stand. He invited them over to their house. Since then, this is their second visit. Lim and his family has never visited them  though. I asked him what topics were they discussing. He told me that they were just speaking general matters about work, farm and kid's education. I had a great time speaking to them. After a while, I headed back to my cabin as I had to take a call with one of my students who was having his oral examination the following day. The day had been very refreshing. Every single moment was an experience of a lifetime - Conversation with the German couple, ride to the jungle, the trek, the waterfalls, the thunderstorm, stop at a village house, discussion with the American, drink with the Lim family and their friends. What an incredible experience this had turned out to be.  

Trek Video - 


Continued Here 

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