I was awakened from a deep sleep in my peaceful bungalow at 4 am by chanting monks. This is something you just have to get used to in rural Cambodia. Temples are everywhere, and they all have loudspeakers.

My jungle trek started in a hill tribe village, where my guide showed me one of the traditional thatched houses. After looking around a bit we headed off down the red dirt road.

We stopped in a simple hut a family lives in. Kids played outside in the dirt, and the father was having a meal inside. A crazy stripped down motorbike with chains on the back wheel was parked outside. He drives into the forest to make and collect charcoal, hunt, and tend to small patches of rice. I would see motorbike tracks all day, even on really steep and slippery parts of the trail deep in the forest.

A traditional thatched house.
A traditional thatched house.

By visiting minority villages like this you can learn about their traditional practices. One of them is to cut down small patches of forest and plant rice. Then they let the forrest reclaim it and they move on to a new patch. It’s a sustainable practice which they’re been doing for hundreds of years.

But things are changing in Cambodia. The Nouveau riche don’t care about sustainability. They just want to make as much money as possible. They are doing this by cutting down Cambodia’s forest as fast as they can. Soon there won’t be any room for minority villagers to farm. It will all be rubber plantations.

Into The Jungle

Jungles are not pleasant places, and I tend to forget this while booking my latest romantic sounding jungle trek. They are hot and humid, there are mosquitoes and ants, and they are incredibly muddy. There is no way to stay clean in the jungle during the rainy season.

We visit with a villager before heading into the jungle.
We visit with a villager before heading into the jungle.

All of this would be fine as long as I could take lots of pictures. But jungles tend to be not particularly photogenic. Most of the time all you can see are trees. Still, walking in a jungle a good way to spend a day. Occasionally.

Our goal was a waterfall, so we walked for hours down steep muddy trails. We came to flat lands planted with rice. There were some shacks here people lived in. They live a life utterly foreign to us, with no electricity or running water. They live off the land.

It was an arduous and uncomfortable day. But I was glad I did it.

Those foreigners on their big enduro bikes are wusses. This is a real dirt bike.
Those foreigners on their big enduro bikes are wusses. This is a real dirt bike.
On the way to the jungle.
On the way to the jungle.
Jungles are incredibly muddy places.
Jungles are incredibly muddy places.
You see some weird stuff in the jungles of Cambodia.
You see some weird stuff in the jungles of Cambodia.
The river was high and fast after so much rain.
The river was high and fast after so much rain.
This waterfall was the destination of the trek.
This waterfall was the destination of the trek.
Coming out of the jungle.
Coming out of the jungle.
Terry
I'm Terry, former cubicle-dweller, and now traveler, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur. I quit my job in 2014 to travel to US national parks, then to South East Asia. I write about independent, flexible, long-term, budget travel. Sign up to my newsletter to get the latest news on what I'm up to. I hope you join me on my trek around the world.

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