During the month we spent volunteering we had opportunities to visit the mainland at weekends – this was mainly a time for volunteers to stock up on supplies, enjoy some of the local cafes’ food (the spicy chicken sandwich became a ‘must eat’ before we headed back to the mainland), get some WIFI to connect to the big wide world and to do a bit of exploring.
During these trips we visited Kep crab market, which is primarily what Kep is famous for in the local area. The amount of crabs being caught was incredible, we have no idea how this can be sustainable! However it was interesting watching the locals at work, seeing the techniques used and the team work which is needed to keep ontop of the constant huge crates full of crabs which are being hauled onto the pier at a fast pace.
The market itself was full of people selling various seafood – from crabs to cuttlefish. Many stalls were also present selling large shells and coral – suspectedly illegally harvested.
One trip in particular was pretty memorable – mostly due to the boat ride over to Kep. The journey should take 45 minutes, however the conditions this particular morning were very poor and it took nearly 2 hours.
We awoke to a very windy day, the sea was extremely choppy and the current strong. However it was a Sunday and we were all really looking forward to our trip to the mainland – you just look forward to some different food and a change of scenery mostly, but we had all decided we wanted to take a trek through Kep National Park and so were all really looking forward to the day. We all wobbled our way onto the boat – it was a very hasty departure as the boat was rocking heavily from side to side, and at the start we all found it quite fun, think of the ride at Thorpe Park called Tidal Wave! However unlike a 5 minute theme park ride, this turned out to be just shy of 2 hours, and it quickly becomes anything but fun!
Usually on the boat ride it is a time to chill, listen to music or read a book. This time it was pull on your rain coat, hunker down and hope for the best! We all got absolutely drenched – waves were crashing into the boat soaking everyone, including one of the staff’s pet dogs. During this weather bombardment the boat staff were becoming increasingly concerned with the boat – they kept on cutting the engine and looking over the side of the boat. It turned out one of the bilge pumps (the pump which removes excess water from the boat) wasn’t working properly. We were all becoming a little concerned!
By the time we all reached the mainland we were soaked, and our mood a little low. First stop was head to our favourite cafe, dry off in the sun and order the spicy chicken sandwich! Unfortunately the poor kitchen staff were not ready for a mass order of 15 sandwiches so we ended up waiting 2 hours for all of our food to come out – welcome to Cambodia!! The National Park trek would have to be put on hold as we just didn’t have enough time.
We all gathered at the pick up point for the boat, and waited, and waited…..only to find out we would all end up spending the night in Kep as the weather was too poor to leave that day.
As it was over the weekend of Chinese New Year, we were to find that many hostels/guesthouses were fully booked. We had the option of staying at the Oceanarium which is owned by the conservation group, however there wouldn’t be enough sleeping space for 15 people. We all ended up booking the last rooms in two different hostels, and cramming as many people as possible into the beds! 3 people in double beds and 2 in single beds. It was like the sleepovers you had as a kid, everyone trying to sleep in the same bed. Paul and I shared our bed with Braydon, an Aussie guy from our project. I think we got the duff room though as our shower didn’t work properly, and during the night I heard rats scurrying around in the bedroom – doubtless to say I did not sleep well, but the lads were oblivious to our nighttime visitors!
That evening we all enjoyed a nice social meal, and a beer on the beach.
Some of the lads in our group had hired a Jeep for the day, and they gave us a lift to our hostel. We squeezed nine people into this Jeep it was hilarious. These guys were like the international version of The Inbetweeners – they were just so funny.
Thankfully one of our party had bought some toothpaste so we all got our ration and finger brushed, as that’s the best we could do! It’s no fun when you aren’t prepared for an over-night stay, but we just had to get on with it!
The next morning we all met up early and decided to tackle the National Park, which turned out to be great fun. We were all determined to make up for the previous wasted day.
We opted for the track which would take us to the second highest peak, and in turn incorporated the hardest trail.
It was a very steep incline, and at times we had assistance with a rope that had been connected to various trees to help haul yourself up.
It was challenging (especially as some people only had flip flops on their feet), but a great sense of achievement when we reached the top. The walk itself was good, you could hear alot of bird life, unfortunately no monkeys though.
Plenty of trees to climb – one of the volunteers, Jasmine, got stuck coming down one so Paul was to the rescue, letting her stand on his shoulders – we all had a laugh it was good fun, and helped the group knit together.
Thankfully our boat ride back was much less dramatic, and we all departed the boat warm and dry!