Mondulkiri - Cambodia
on So Now It's Cambodia (Cambodia), 02/May/2012 15:56, 34 days ago
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In March we made our first trip to the Cambodian Province of Mondulkiri ( It's in the north east and we haven't been before partly because it's a nine hour bus ride from Phnom Penh and before it took us about eight hours to get to Phnom Penh from Mongkul Borei. It's very hot here now - March and April are the hottest months here though last year was exceptionally cold for the first two weeks of March. Cambodia takes International Women's Day seriously so there is a national holiday. We took the opportunity to go to Mondulkiri as it is generally cooler than the most of Cambodia - it was, and it was a bit of a relief. No need for air con or fan at night and extra layers needed to sleep comfortably. It's also very hilly with thick forests of tall trees and bamboo as well as waterfalls. All of this met or exceeded my expectations and it was a pleasant change to see vast expanses of lush hills stretching into the distance.We begin the trek...The chief attraction though is the elephants! It's the only area in Cambodia where they roam in anything like a free or natural state. However, they are mostly if not entirely "managed" by sanctuaries. These are needed as the local folk are so poor they work the elephants to an unhealthy state. The sanctuaries negotiate with the people to get the elephants a better deal. They effectively roam free but are on very long chains at night so they can be kept track of.Some jungle views...They are used to humans and are no threat unless you do something silly - like stand behind one that's reversing!!!By coincidence, some VSO friends went as well, so we teamed up for our expedition which was extremely well lead by the wife of a volunteer in Sen Monorom - the main town in the province. She just happens to a veterinary nurse who is volunteering at the sanctuary. Although Dutch, she guided us through in perfect English which is so typical of the Dutch people we have encountered here!We were joined by some other people and off we trekked down narrow slippery slopes towards the river to find the elephants. We weren't disappointed! They duly arrived, "driven" by their mahouts.After a short time they made their way to their chosen bit of river for a good soaking. At this point we were encouraged to join them in the water and throw buckets of water over them. We were happy to stand back and take photos while others got wet! Having said that, we all had to wade through shallow rocky rivers to follow the elephants and that was often safer than trying to walk on slippery, wobbly rocks!It really is an amazing place with thick vegetation and some of the tallest trees I've seen at close quarters and there's the constant whirring of insects in the background. We had a relaxing time just watching the elephants eat shoots and leaves (!) though one which clambered up an embankment was pulling down whole bamboo trees and munching away.I've included quite a lot of photos as this is new scenery to this blog and for those who don't see my Facebook postings there's a chance to share what we enjoyed so much.Some people just always look cool!! (the lady in the blue T shirt was our guide) The elephants arrive!! Our guide (Kim) in the blue shirt. A mahout washes his elephant in the background. I particularly like this one cleaning her nails with a stick!! After a fair hike back uphill we arrived at the sanctuary accommodation area, where we were greeted with a very welcome buffet and a chance to relax in comfy chairs looking out over the jungle (not to mention a warm welcome from an enormous and unexpected Great Dane!). We were lucky though because the heavens opened so we just sat an watched the rain pouring over the rainforest.....