Saturday, June 29, 2013

The building has begun!

Ben was finishing up as much as he could before he leaves for Nepal and Base Camp on a little hike.  He managed to finish up the road project at the end of last week, so it should now be passable in the mud and they started the first building.  He is finally onto the fun part of the project.  He camped out in the forest this week with 4 workers from our village here in Rovieng – apparently a vast improvement from sleeping in the village on chicken mite infested mattresses with khmer movies (actually Khmer dubbed Thai soap operas) on till 10pm everynight and and all sorts of other diversions!  They managed to put up two posts and cement them into the ground as well as build a little shelter to sleep in.  They took out about 3 kilograms of fish to eat and the workers foraged in the forest and they ate wild mushrooms and bamboo shoots with their fish.


Here are some pictures of latest “Improvements!”

The corduroy road



The camp




Saturday, June 8, 2013

Barefeet and Thongs

For the last two weeks we have been trying to hastily fix the road before the wet season totally sets in.  While the bridge over the creek is finished, there is about 150 yards of swampland to cross on both sides of the creek which is turning out to be as impossible to negotiate as the river is in the wet season.  We had been negotiating with a construction company for months trying to get them to come help us make a proper gravel road and they had been putting us off, always telling us to wait “one more week.”  Finally the wet season set in and they told us they could do it for us next year!  Yay.  So we have been trying to make the road usable. With little road building equipment to work with, we have been forced to become very creative.  Since we can’t haul gravel, we are using old logs to lay crossways in the road across the swamp and then lay a row of boards to drive that match the width of the tires.  Telling my dad about this, he told me that they used to use that style in the US in swampy areas and it is called “corduroy road.”

At the moment, we are about three fourths finished with that project.  We lay about 30 yards a day, and there is about 250-300 yards total to cover.

Last week we had a big rainstorm all night long and by morning the river had overflowed its banks.  Since I couldn’t take the pickup to work, me and my four workers walked to the bridge site and found our corduroy road under about 50 cm of water.  The actual car bridge was under about 4 meters of water.  At any rate, we didn’t get much work done that day.  Luckily by the next day we could work again as it didn’t rain anymore and the water had gone back down so we could drive across again. 

We have stacks and stacks of lumbar at the building site which we hope to start putting into a “headquarters” very soon.  We took a truckload of old wood from our house in a big old Russian Army truck – call an “Elephant Truck” in Khmer.  The truck left Rovieng at 6 am and arrived to the village about 11 am.  As we approached the mountain, the truck kept getting bogged despite the fact that it had a winch and a 4 wheel drive.  So we kept offloading lumbar along the way in piles until the truck was finally light enough to make it to the mountain.  He only got back to Rovieng at 11 pm that night.  It was a well earned $225 for Mr. Mao.

Since it rains all the time, I have had to trade in my steel toed boots for thongs which I end up tossing straight away and going barefoot for the rest of the day. I think my feet are getting tougher because I walk around barefoot in the thorns and I don’t seem to notice.  The other day, I took a 20 km hike through the jungle in shorts and thongs.  Which I only thought Australians knew how to do. 

Last week we said good bye to Savuth.  I was very grateful for his 3 months of help and support.  I think I worked him half to death because he went back to Phnom Penh and spent the next three days in bed with the flu.  Thank you Savuth!!

If the nice dry weather holds I’ll be able to finish the road next week and start working on the headquarters.    We’ll see.

The road immersed

Future site for the Lodge

The Hunt for the White Winged Duck

A few weeks ago a birder friend of ours came to the “Game Reserve.”  The primary purpose was to look for endangered bird species.  We had heard reports from villagers that there are a number of White Winged Ducks living on the creek and wanted to verify this.  According to websites I’ve looked at, there is a worldwide total of only 700-800 in the world or which about one third are in Cambodia.  The first day we saw lots of different birds but no ducks.  On day two we decided to go further afield and our efforts were rewarded when we finally came across a pair of ducks roosting along the creek.  We had kind of given up looking and were returning on a section of the creek that we had detoured earlier when they flushed.  If we had been paying attention it would have had a nice photo.  Instead I have a McManus photo of where they were once sitting:

Elated to know that there are some endangered species on the Game Reserve.  Now I need to find the bird list of what we saw on that trip.

Here are some other shots from the hike:

New fields

Lisa and a log

Fig tree