this is where we crossed the Sre Pok River
I meant to blog about my week in Mondulkiri last year (February 2010), but I've been too busy to get around to it. I arrived from Ban Lung via the old oxcart "jungle trail" with the help of a hired motorbike driver named John. I head this road was treacherous, and while there were certainly enough sand pits to get stuck in (we dumped it once, and after that I just hopped off and jogged alongside the bike whenever we approached a stretch of sand), it wasn't as bad as it was hyped. I hear path has been paved into a road (it became a legitimate road after the town of Kaoh Nhek) and that it's actually drivable now. That's pretty amazing if it's true, but I'm not sure how they're getting large vehicles across the Sre Pok River (which was one of the highlights).
A quick run-down of the wildlife I spotted from the back of the bike: 2 Giant squirrels, a huge flock of green parrots, numerous eagles in the sky, a couple of low-flying owls, and a pair of endangered bengal floricans, which I didn't know lived in this area.
The forest was on fire for
this is a section of the road between Koh Nhek and Senmorom
almost the entire duration of the drive. I imagine it's much more beautiful (and difficult) in the wet season, although maybe it doesn't matter anymore with that new road.
I stayed at the Nature Lodge
in Senmonorom, which is probably the sweetest place in town. Great food, fellow travelers at the bar at night, and great rooms with open air bathrooms. They hooked me up with an outstanding Bunong guide who speaks first-rate English and cooked some tasty food in the jungle. His name is Nach Norb and he can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 0976789020
We spent one night in the jungle camped out by a river where we saw a couple of macaques in the morning, and then we spent the second night in his family's home in the village of Putang, which for me was the real highlight as we stayed up late into the night drinking rice wine and talking about the surrounding spirit places and folk tales.
If you're going to take a trip to Mondulkiri -and I recommend it- you've got to get into the local indigenous culture. Spend a night or two in a village, such as Putang,
the funky dig of Senmonorom
learn the local lore (most of Bunong are still animists) and do an overnight trek into the jungle with a local guide. Top the trip off by splashing out at the Nature Lodge and you've got a great trip. If you are interested in continuing on to Ban Lung, there are plenty of drivers in Senmonorom who can take you.
For further information about Bunong people of Mondulkiri, have a look at Tom Vater's excellent short book (available for free online), titled: The Bunong: Caretakers of Cambodia's Sacred Forests
And there is an fairly new protected area called Seima
which is difficult to access but is supposedly well-stocked with wildlife, including tigers, leopards, clouded leopards, 4 other cat species, elephants, gibbons, and more.
Finally, in March 2012 my book about trekking in Virachey National Park and in Mondulkiri Province, titled Called Away by a Mountain Spirit: Journey to the Green Corridor
is now available at CreateSpace , and I have created a "companion web site
" for the book so that people who might be interested in the book can browse additional photos and read some snippets. You can read a review of the book here
I also have a new Web site called Save Virachey
wich I am using to help raise funds for a January 2014 camera-trapping
sunrise in Senmonorom
shot this off my balcony at Nature Lodge
expedition deep inside Virachey National Park in Ratanakiri province.
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