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Extract from 20 March 2008 diary entry
In Yaklom Hill Lodge, just outside of Ban Lung in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province. Hot jungle and red dust ("Cambodian snow"). One more minute of electricity before they shut it off tonight, and tomorrow I start three days of trekking to hill tribe villages with a guide and three Belgian girls.

Nice up here - quiet, more remote, the people haven't worn grooves into their ways of interacting with tourists yet. Swam in a volcanic lake today, cool, clear and perfectly circular. Also, there was an Australian family with a young Cambodian man - the family has a son living in Phnom Penh with the Cambodian family, and after a year they all consider each other family, "blood brothers" as one of the Australians said. There were eight other Cambodian locals on the dock with us, just watching, until one of them started talking to me. He mentioned his training - scuba diving, swimming with a rifle for 4km - before getting to the point. Did I have a girlfriend? Well he didn't, and he was looking for a European girlfriend, and (he looked over at the Belgian girls) could I maybe help him out ... ?

It's not so preposterous. I spent a day in Kompong Cham on the way to Ratanakiri hanging out with an Irishman I met, Gerry: an old hippie, an artist, a writer and a chef. We shared a tuk-tuk around town. When our driver found out Gerry was Irish, he smiled and said he was going to Ireland, and showed us a glossy tourist booklet. Apparently one of his customers offered to bring him over for a few months at her expense. Gerry's comment that she probably "wants to throw a leg over him" aside, I guess you can't have two people, even from wildly different backgrounds, meet without some blurring at the edges.

Nice to be in a guesthouse where you can meet and talking to people without a constant hormone-fuelled party cycle, as fun as that is. I'm old.

I might stay on when the trek's over, depending on my cash reserves (no ATMs in town.) There seem to be endless spots to explore up here, villages and waterfalls and a huge, basically unknown national park, subject of many opposed rumors (it's filled with tigers and jaguars; you'll never see interesting wildlife; etc.) Mostly, what excites me about it is it's the first blank spot on the map I've found, my first chance to experience something that doesn't have a written approximation somewhere. I'd have to trek for days to see anything, we'll see if I still have the appetite in five days, but it's just sort of looming there ... and there, the lights just went out.

last timestamped: 08:36:44 23-Mar-2008
in categories:Travel/Vagabond'08





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