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.
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.
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.