Helping the Community Eco-Tourism in the Cardamom Mountains
On day one, with much excitement (and nerves), my fellow challengers, the expedition leader, two teachers and I boarded a 9hr flight to Mumbai, India and then transferred to a 4hr flight to Bangkok, Thailand. During the transferal, we got on an airport bus to the next plane and as we were the only Western people surrounded by local Indian folk, they found us quite amusing. We were even asked to say the phrase “lovely jubbly” several times as they tried to imitate us and improve their English accents.
After touching down in Bangkok, we hopped on a shuttle bus to Khao San Road where our accommodation was located.
Once settled, we had dinner at a local eatery and were offered a crispy-fried scorpion. Our curious minds did not allow us to decline and we (hesitantly) broke off and ate different body parts, one by one. Fortunately, we were getting a sort of smoky bacon flavour from the scorpion, which none of us were expecting. Needless to say the after taste wasn’t as pleasant…
The next day we visited Wat Pho temples, which included the Lying Buddha. It was absolutely fascinating to learn about the culture and to meet some of the local monks. Following this, we headed to Wat Arun where were climbed many steep steps to get to the top. After a morning of tourism, we went for a 5hr walk around the city in preparation/training for the long trek to the jungle.
The following day, we took a 5hr bus from Bangkok to the Cambodian Border and got our visas. Once we were in Cambodia, we proceeded onto a 10hr bus from the border to Siem Reap.
During our stay in Siem Reap we travelled by Tuk Tuk and visited a floating village. Here, the locals build their homes on water and travel by their own small boats. Below is a picture of me feeding their fish. They also showed us where they breed crocodiles in order to use them for their skin…
Our short stay in Siem Reap also included a visit to the famous Angkor Wat temples. We went there to see the beautiful sunrise at 6am and then saw and climbed around seven different temples.
Our next stop was the city of Phnom Penh. This visit was more of a sombre one as we learnt about the Cambodian Genocide, carried out by the Communist Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot in the 1970s, in which two to three million people were killed. We visited the killing fields and the old torture prison, which has now been made into a museum.
We then went to Wat Phnom temple where we got to know some monks who seemed very interested in what we were going to be doing in the project phase. They were such happy people as can be seen below…
Our time in Phnom Penh came to an end and we took a boat to the village of Chi Phat. We were to stay there for one night before our trek to the jungle the following day. We were briefed on what to expect in the jungle and as soon as the word leeches was mentioned, all jaws dropped…
We were going to be working alongside local builders and guides to help establish trails, campsites and a shelter as part of an on-going community eco-tourism project. The region represented one of the last continuous areas of unbroken tropical rainforest in mainland SE Asia and the support of projects such as this helps to protect its precious bio-diversity from the twin threats of logging and illegal poaching.
We set off the next day anxious but eager and enthusiastic about the new experience that was awaiting us.
We did a 15km walk to the jungle in the Cardamom Mountains and waded through rivers as it was monsoon season and the rain flooded much of the area we were walking in. We made a few stops to rid ourselves of leeches and red ants.
When we arrived at the place we were going to be working, we got to know the builders and carpenters that we were going to be working with. They cooked us dinner as we lent a hand, helped us set up our hammocks under a shelter and we slept through our first night with snakes crawling on the ground underneath our hammocks …
The next day we started work bright and early and brought logs from the middle of the jungle to the work site, walking through shallow rivers again to do this. As we waded through the water, we picked up water leeches, which were even bigger and apparently hungrier for blood than land leeches.
We then started the foundation of the shelter we were going to build.
After a day of hard work, we had dinner cooked by the builders and then washed the dishes at a fast-flowing river. For the rest of the evening, we taught the builders how to play a couple of English card games, which fascinated them.
Over the next few days, we shaved bark off logs with machetes, which were to be used for the floor of the shelter. The reason for this was because with the bark left on, the floor would be worn away by mites. We also came across some poisonous spiders, snakes (which the carpenter killed), and sat on a log full of red ants without realising it until they pierced through our skin…
As the days went on, our project started to look more and more like a shelter…
On the last day, we also helped to clean the forest of any plastic bottles & recycled them so that they could use them for petrol.
We finished our project phase and after much work, leech bites, red ant bites and snake threats we were exhausted but extremely proud of what we were able to do. We got to know the locals very well and they told us they would keep us up to date with any future work they do.
Thank you to everyone who made this possible through their support and sponsorship:
Mr Iain Lister, Greenray Energy Solutions Limited
Mr Chris Cadden, Cadden Taverns
Mr Andrew Hindle, Serving Sport Limited
Mr Francisco Imedio
Mr Chris Ball
Mr Edward Beresh & Mrs Nancy Beresh
My Parents, Justin & Elsa
Charlotte De Vega
Head Girl 2014/2015