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Monday, November 25: Day 217 – HELP!!!

Find Rob if you can in the featured picture above!

We packed a backpack for a three-day camp in the Cardamom Mountains and left the rest of our items at the hotel to which we will return. “I’ll be back.” My daypack is stuffed so full that it looks like a giant sausage!

After we checked out and secured our bags with the receptionist, we sat outside on the porch to wait for our ride. Soon a young man came up to us and grabbed our bags and walked around the corner with us on his heels. No words were exchanged. Rob tried to ask him if he was our ride, but he didn’t speak any English.

Here is what went through our minds: What if this is a scam and he is robbing us? What if it is a kidnapping of tourists with bulging backpacks? What if he thinks we are someone else with a different itinerary? Rob tried to say, “Cardamom”. I asked “How long? 5 minutes?” We got nothing. I start to think of my children hearing about our disappearance on the news. Could this be the end of our adventure?

After about two hours of suspenseful driving, our driver typed in his Google translate, “Do you eat?” “Yes”, I told our captor. He stopped to gas up and he let us buy some food. We didn’t dare make a run for it.

Rob noticed that the van accepts fuel up under the back of the van even though there is a gas tank on the side. He observed that it is dual fuel which can accept either gas or propane.

Another three hours and we are deposited at a makeshift deserted boat landing with three Cambodians using walkie talkies. Could this be our end? Rob and I can both swim. There were four other “prisoners” loaded onto the small boat. What will happen to us?

Welcome to the The Cardamom Tented Camp that can only be reached by small boat. Phew!! We waved goodbye to our driver and stepped into the boat.

It was about a 20-minute boat ride of beautiful scenery. Soon we arrived at the dock. We will be kayaking up the river the next morning.

When we arrive we hear a shrill siren? Could it be a grass fire which is common here? There is even a fire extinguisher in our tent.

However, this sound is made by cicadas. In fact, they had to change the fire alarm system to a bell because of these insects. Fortunately, they stop at dusk. Listen here:

Allan manages the camp and gave us a wonderful presentation about their work and life here.

Cardamom Tented Camp (CTC) is supported by three entities: Yaana Ventures, Wildlife Alliance, and Minor Hotel Group. Currently, they have funded the project with the intent of becoming self sustaining and provide funds for two ranger stations within 4-5 years.

The rangers are here to support the protection of 18,000 hectares of Botum Sakor National Park that was established in 1993. Unbelievably, 72% of the park has been sold to business interests and land use. Corruption exists at all levels.

This land was bought under the guise of tourism in order to prevent others from developing it. They didn’t have tourism for years but were told that they needed to prove that it was being used for that purpose or the government would reclaim it.

This camp is eco-friendly. They use metal water bottles that we refill with filtered water. Everything is solar powered.

Sewage is filtered through a septic tank system, and then the treated water is reclaimed in the river system. The entire camp was built so if they even had to remove it, there would be no trace.

Rangers were established in 2013. There are two ranger stations: Prek Tachan and Prek Koki. We will visit Prek Tachan tomorrow and learn more about their important work.

The hotel uses Ibis Rice. This is another good program that supports the responsible use of land and supports struggling rice farmers. If I can find it, I will buy it in the USA in order to help in some small way. In fact, perhaps all of our purchases should be thoroughly researched in order to make sure that our dollars are getting to those who are responsible stewards of the land and resources. The work through Ibis rice has been able to protect the threatened Giant Ibis, the national bird of Cambodia.

Ibis Rice

The time has come to go to our assigned tent. Let’s get our bags. Do you see the huge molting Tokay Gecko?

Here is our greeting along the raised wooden walkway. Look at that tail! It is a Crested Forest lizard.

Here is our home for the next few days. There are a lot of zippers to keep insects away. We were advised not to take any food into the tents as it attracts the wrong type of guests such as rats.

Behind the tent is another zippered flap that leads to the bathroom. I took a picture without realizing that I was in it.

Here is what the sleeping area looked like. It was very comfortable.

This is the dining area. The food is awesome. We order according to how much we eat so to minimize food waste.

Rob and I decided to take the “Short Trail” around the property. The guide showed us the way and told us to follow the trail on the left. That’s it. It’s YOYO (You’re On Your Own) from here.

We took our walkie talkie. We stopped by a tent where another guest Adrian loaned us his walking sticks. That was a Godsend as the trail had lots of vegetation. Ready, Set, Go!

Are you able to find Rob in this picture? Here is where he was standing when he took my picture at the trailhead. We’re going in!!

Here are a few things we saw.

Mushrooms that look like cups.

This plant was a real mystery. It looked like something was eating the ends. The end of each leaf had a different pattern. It turns out that it grows this way.

And there were a few things that we brought back with us. I had no idea until I saw my bloody sock when we got back to the tent. Leeches!!! Rob was untouched. We learned that the first hiker “awakens” them by smell so they are ready to attach to the second hiker. We had put our pants legs in our socks as a prevention. Note: Wear tight woven dark knee socks with your pants tucked into the socks. Spray a generous amount of insecticide around your ankles before a hike, especially when hiking in wet soil.

We took several videos, and you can hear me hyperventilating. However, here is the best one taken by a calm Rob while I am applying bandaids in the tent:

Here is part of the damage. I think that I am bleeding more because I take aspirin which serves to thin the blood.

Soon the ants found the engorged leech and one snip by those powerful jaws and the leech exploded.

I am a reluctant contributor to the circle of life!! One could say that it was the leech’s last supper!

I know that you wonder about this last photo but look closely. I was able to take photos of the night sky and could see many stars. Take another look.

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