Published: December 22nd 2009December 17th 2009
I'm already a little concerned that my fitness, or lack of it, may prove a problem and so this trek may need to be 'tailored' a little. No shit Sherlock as it turned out! Anyway, got picked up by my guide on a motorbike. This wqas interesting as I have a large rucksack weighing a mere 25lbs and he has a rice sack with improvised carrying loops tied to it to make a rucksack that weighs even more and 2 up on a 125 with no crash helmet on some of the worst dirt road I've seen in Cambodia so far! the road is the characteristic red laterite clay which gets badly churned up by tyres and cattle in the rainy season and then the ruts and cattle feet imprints set rock hard in the dry season - it's bad enough trekking over this sort of terrain let alone trying to ride over it 2 up and a heavy rucksack on your back. How I didn't fall off the back or mess my pants I will never know. But before we even reached the viallage of Voen Sai (pron vwen sigh) I had decided I wasn't coming back on the back of a motorbike!
An hour and a half later we arrive at Voen Sia to catch the ferry across the river to the Park - took 5 minutes to cross over. Then a 5km walk to the nearest village across rock hard rice fields which had been churned up by water buffalo in the rainy season - very difficult to walk across especially with a 25lbs on your back, then through the first woodland where the soil turned sandy and tree roots were sticking up across the path - I tripped on these a few times especially in the shade and nearly landed on my buackside. We make the village in 2 hours (25 min break for lunch on the way) and stop at my guides uncles house. There is a big wedding going on in the village today and the requisite ear splitting PA and crap music can be heard several km away. After an hour we set off for another 5km into the jungle to make camp in an abandoned minority peoples settlement. I was near exhaustion at this point and was too tired to eat - it didn't look to good anyway. This was a big mistake. The temperature at night time was ok until 23:00 and then it dropped and dropped further again at 03:00 to below 10C. In my light weight hammock I was bloody cold. If the cold wasn't enough to contend with the PA from the wedding could be heard until 02:00 and the sound of the crickets, lizards and mosquitos went on all night.
The situation the next day was this - I am still exhausted, I have had no sleep at all, I'm cold, I've been bitten to death by ants and mosquitos, and my stomach is playing up again and I've nearly run out of loo roll!
I have some beef fried noodles for breakfast and use the last of my loo roll!
We set off at 08:30 intending to reach a waterfall 10km away then walk another 5km before setting up camp for a second night. It is obvious by my snails pace that I'm not going to be able to do this at all and I have to swallow my pride and admit defeat rather than stick it out until I drop and end up in a far worse situation in the middle of the jungle, with no medical facilities anywhere near, in a bad way. I request that we alter the route and head back now. My guide insists that we go back a different way - the long way! 10 km back to the village rather than 6km - he says it's easier going. It turns out he was bullshitting for Cambodia when he said that! After another 2km I come up with a plan - I sit where I am with my stuff and water and he legs it to the village and vets his mate to come and get me on a moto. This is what happened but even I was surprised at how bad the going was the rest of the way back - I lost count of the number of times I had to get off just so the motorbike could negotiate obstacles and deeply rutted sections of path. We had a river crossing where the bike had to be pushed across by 2 people on a 'bridge'which was a thick plank 10 inches wide and 4 inches thick. We get to the village and the moto rider goes back for my guide. We then make the ferry crossing (5km) again on moto in relay. I arrive in Voen Sai on the other side an hour before my guide catches up with me. Determined not to go back of the bike I ask around at the nearest shop about a lift to Banlung. There is a truck leaving for Banlung soon and apparently the driver will take me for $3.
It was a more comfortable ride than the bike but not without its risks as the truck was the unsafest looking vehicle I have ever seen - door sills rusted through, I could see the dirt road through the floor, there was no galss in the passenger side window, the windscreen had large cracks in 2 places - looked like stone damage. Worse was that I could smell alcohol on trhe driver and he was stopping to pick up empty fuel drums and containers for refilling at peoples homes - I could smell the petrol fumes and he had a cigarrette in his mouth! Like I said it was more comfortable but not safer!
All I wanted was a shower, clean clothes, loo roll, a decent meal and a soft bed - I slept from 20:00 until 12:00 the next day!
Several lessons learned here when trekking - know your physical limits, don't take too much gear 25lbs is far too much, take adequate loo roll, eat even if it doesn't look edible - you need the energy!, have warm gear for the nigh times, ear plugs would be an advantage too!
At least I tried and when it came to it made the right decisions at the right time and avoided a potentially dangerous situation. It hasn't put me off trekking or walking at all and I'll be a little fitter on the next one as a result of this attempt, and a lot wiser!
The next few days were spent doing some much needed thinking about what I was going to do when i get back to the UK - future plans and that sort of stuff. I returned to Phnom Penh on the 21st and managed an uneventful 10 hour bus journey all the way.
Christmas here with Dave and Stephanie and then off to Siem Riep and Angkor Wat and all the other temples in the area before flying to Thailand on the 31st December.
Merry Christmas everyone if I don't post again before.