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Ratanakiri

Written on: Sunday March 9th, 2008

A journal entry from: Southeast Asian Adventures!

Ratanakiri province, home to lush jungles and their wildlife, waterfalls, volcanic crater lakes, and the dustiest town in the world, Ban Lung. It was a 4.5 hr drive in a shared taxi (aka. a Toyota Camry packed with 7 people) over the unpaved, dusty roads. We arrived in the small town of Ban Lung, met with swirling red dust that looms over the town and manages to get into every pore on your body.

Our first day there we took motos out to some waterfalls and the volcanic crater lake. The first waterfall was by far my favourite, as we had it to ourselves and spent some time swimming around. We were in need of a swim after riding around on the dusty backroads of town. We visited another waterfall, which was a bit less exciting as it wasn't possible to swim there. The volcanic crater lake was quite beautiful, and we were able to swim around and watch the local teenage boys jump out of trees into the water, fully clothed. We also followed a trail around the lake for a scenic walk.

The next day our jungle adventure began. We booked a 3 day, 2 night jungle trekking adventure. Our guide didn't take us to the national park, as he said it was too far away, but we trekked through a protected area of the jungle. The first and third days consisted of moto rides, a boat ride and 3 hours of walking in the hot sun through deforested areas to get to/from the jungle. That wasn't my idea of fun or trekking in the jungle!

We arrived in a small Laotian village close to the jungle and picked up another guide, making it 3 guides and Alan and me. Finally we arrived at our camp in the afternoon. We made camp at a government station, where 2 families lived to take care of the station and a few forest rangers lived. We spent the evening washing in the small stream and drinking home made palm wine, courtesy of our Laotian guide. At night we retired to our hammocks and fell asleep to the sound of geckos and peacocks and the other sounds of the jungle.

The next morning we were up early, had breakfast, then set off in the jungle. At the time, I was a bit disappointed because we didn't see any wildlife, not even a monkey! We heard gibbons, but didn't see any. However, it was more of a learning experience and hiking than anything else. Our guide showed us areas that were 'protected,' but the land had been burned to attract the animals when the new grass begins to grow for hunting purposes. He also told us that we were hiking in an area that used to be national park, but the government keeps shrinking the park borders to make a profit off the land. Poaching is also practiced in the protected area, and monkeys are sold to Vietnam (I'm not sure why).

We did see some beautiful waterfalls, an old tiger cave, and had our Laotian guide, a true jungle-man, show us what types of plants we could eat.

After 3 days in the jungle I was exhausted and filthy, and ready to head back to Ban Lung. After the 3 hour walk back to the ferry, we took the motos out on what was definitely a life-fearing ride over the country roads to a minority village. The minority village was very poor, and doesn't get a lot of foreign visitors. It was definitely the highlight of the day when we arrived. We saw women weaving silk scarves, a man building a house out of bamboo, and everyday life in the small, simple village.

Ratanakiri was one of the most interesting places I'd been so far, as not many tourists venture all the way up to the north of Cambodia. Jungle trekking was an educational experience, and it was sad to see the jungle shrinking and the animals retreating further and further into the jungle to escape poaching and the burning land. One thing I've learned during my travels through Cambodia is that corruption runs deep in every industry in this country.

 

From Howard & Brenda on Mar 10th, 2008

Great photos and stories. You go girl