By Jayne Stinson
You know you’re not in Kansas anymore when you’re soaked with sweat, picking leeches off your ankles and have worked up a fetching complexion of beetroot in the middle of the Cambodian jungle – and you’re loving it!
Last weekend, while the rest of Cambodia was on public holiday – mostly enjoying the fine 35 degree weather at the seaside – I and my twenty closest new buddies went for a little stroll.
Over two days we spent about 14 hours trekking through the dense tropical jungles of Mondulkiri province in Cambodia’s far east.
Hours more were spent setting up our hammocked camp, cooking delicacies with ingredients from the jungle’s natural bounty, cooling off in pristine waterfalls and the best bit for me … riding elephants.
Now I must admit riding elephants has never been my thing. I much prefer appreciating their size and beauty from a lower vantage point, but it was an incredible experience.
To sit bareback atop an elephant’s neck is to really appreciate their strength, grace and individual personality.
And with my feet turning purpley and bruised, it was a welcome relief to be hauled from a deep muddy gully on board a sturdy beast.
Mondulkiri is a fair hike from the capital Phnom Penh – about an eight hour bus ride – and complete with Cambodian karaoke – it’s a ‘cultural experience’ in itself. The province is remote enough that it’s really only on the itinerary of the most adventurous South East Asian travellers, but that is slowly changing as Cambodia realises the potential of the tourism dollar.
In addition to the trek, which is led by very experienced local guides, we stayed in a tiny village on the edge of the jungle, boasting just eight thatch-rooved huts.
The people generously shared their accommodation with us and also introduced us to their dance, song, Buddhist prayer and potent home brewed rice wine!
So, if you really want to escape and don’t mind putting in a few hard yards, the Cambodian jungle comes highly recommended.