Areng Valley: modernization, the Cambodian way?
|The Areng Valley from above
|Getting to the valley
The Wild KK Project needs money in order to support the local communities in their struggle. To raise those funds, they offer four day jungle tours into the Areng Valley. Almost on the border with Thailand, the Areng Valley is remote even by Cambodian standards. Reaching the area is not particularly easy and until the mid 1990ies it was basically a no-go zone for anyone except residents as the valley was still controlled by some of the remaining Khmer Rouge forces.
|Camping next to the river
Thrilled about the prospect of supporting an environmental conservation project and explore a remote region of Cambodia I got in contact with the Wild KK Project and once they confirmed that they would offer a jungle tour during the time we were in the area, I wired them the 150 USD (120 EUR) participation fee. Lisa was a bit more skeptical about spending four days in the jungle, but after pondering for a couple of days she decided to join anyway.
|Cycling in the Areng Valley
After a quick lunch, we set off for the next part of the journey. A bumpy three hour jeep ride across the jungle and muddy pools of red water brought us to Thmor Bang, the last village that can be reached by car. We got rewarded with the best coffee in Cambodia ever! Strong and super sweet. We left most of our luggage with a local family and continued by motorbike. Our drivers did an awesome job navigating narrow jungle tracks, log bridges and muddy creeks at up to 60 kph. Lisa was closing her eyes more than once.
The next morning, we packed our things in the mist rising from the river. Soon, we set off by bicycle to the next village. They welcomed us with a delicious breakfast and we set up our camp for the next night. Lisa's back was in pain from the bumpy rides the day before and sleeping on a rock. So she needed to relax her back and couldn't join us for the afternoon hike up surrounding the Areng Valley. A pity, but better given the situation. The hike was sweaty, but that's what you'd expect from a jungle hike. A guy with a machete was walking in front of the guide as the path doesn't get used that often. After half of the way up, we stopped at a river to get rid of all the leeches we collected along the way. At the top, we got an awesome view of the whole Areng Valley. We ate a delicious lunch while watching majestic hornbills flying past.
|Plants in the jungle know how to protect themselves
The next day we cycled all the way to the end of the valley and back. We watched the locals produce rice wine, plant rice in flooded rice fields and grow vegetables. Except for some motorbikes and one or two TV sets per village, not much has changed here during the past centuries. In the late afternoon, we were back in the village, picked up our luggage and camping gear and went on to camp on the sandy banks of the Areng river.
|Rice wine production
The last morning arrived with a beautiful sunrise above the river. We managed the previous three days without seeing any snakes. But no jungle trip with Lisa would be perfect without spotting some snakes. (As some of you might know, she has a proper phobia). Three snakes within the last morning. But she managed to stay calm and patient until the snakes disappeared into the jungle.
|Coconut ice cream!
No, this jungle trip was not a leisurely Sunday afternoon in the park. But yes, we extremely enjoyed the intimate insight into the life of rural Khmer. And we hope that we could contribute to protect and conserve the natural beauty of the Areng Valley.
|Kayaking on the Areng river
After spending some time in this beautiful valley, we're extremely happy to see that both Mother Nature and the local communities fight together to keep the Areng Valley the way it is. Hopefully for many more years to come.
More pictures from the Areng Valley