Nothing….and I mean NOTHING can prepare you for the experience of a jungle. As I trek through the jungle mountains of Cambodia, I can tell you that the experience is as difficult as it is fascinating. In the 108 degree stagnant heat we set out to climb 1500 meters (almost a mile) straight up a mountain. The journey required climbing over large boulders, dodging enormous vines with thorns the size of small knives and enduring sweat that saturated our clothing within 10 minutes.
The trek is not for the faint at heart. The heat alone is exhausting and the exertion necessary to climb is staggering. Like all things in life—there are rewards for hard work. At the top of the mountain was an incredible treasure of Cambodian history: sandstone etchings in murals that lay beneath the water. They are called 1000 Lingas.
A short break at a waterfall offers a reprieve from the tremendous heat before we trek again.
What I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around is the sheer size of the animals and insects that live in jungle regions. Wasps the size of a quarter, spiders hanging from trees the size of my hand, wild boards, exotic birds, bats and monkeys are everywhere. Mosquitos sound like aircraft landing and the song of the cicada sounds like the beep of a truck going in reverse. These supersized animals are like something out of a movie. While fascinating, they are to be respected. I am on THEIR turf.
Some of the animals make their way into the villages and tourist areas….like this monkey stealing Coca Cola from visitors at Angkor Wat. The monkeys are ornery. In fact, they even recognize the Cambodian police and run from them like juvenile delinquents who have just stolen something. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think the monkeys were as enjoyable as the ancient temples.
Beyond the beauty of the jungle and the jaw-dropping size of the animals that live there, I cannot get over the extreme heat. This is actually the cooler season. April through June in Cambodia can measure more than 120 degrees!! Wow!