Hey all you cool cats and kittens. You’ve been greatly missed!
Last month held the day that I touched down on home soil and it’s good to be back!
I thought I’d share a little about my journeys with anyone who’d be interested to know. For someone who can talk a lot about a little, it will certainly be a challenge to write a short and snappy blog post, but here goes my best shot.
I will talk about my experiences (good and bad) and one of my best moments out in South East Asia, even though it’s so hard to choose one specifically! Oh, and another thing, I travelled with my partner in crime, Tamara.
So, lets kick this off with my one negative thing and how I had a borderline near death experience before I was 48 hours into my travels.
Let me ask, have you ever gone from 10 or less degrees UK weather in November and flown out to a country that is roughly 38 degrees and up? If you have, I bet you did it the right way and not how my journey began, which was treacherous.
To set the scene, imagine me and Tamara, who had been saving and talking about this moment for almost 2 years and now it had finally come true, it was here, the night before the flight. I had been off work for around 3 days, too excited to sleep as if I was 6 years old again and all of the Christmases were coming at once. Body exhausted but my mind WIDE awake. The morning of the flight had arrived and for the first ever time in my life, my alarm clock sounded like heaven itself because I knew what was next.. or did I.
7am and with little sleep again, I put on my plane clothes, grabbed my bag and left the house with confidence that everything was in order.
We arrived at Heathrow not even phased by how hectic that place always seems to be, maybe it was the body exhaustion or the fact that our minds were in overdrive that kept us from caring.
I even almost forgot about how much I hate flying.. and then the anxiety kicked in (I’m sure many people can relate to this). 18 hours?! 2 planes?! I’ve never flown at night?! Can I trust these airlines?!
But it was too late for all of that so I sucked it up and boarded like a brave person - Tamara dragged me on and ignored my irrational concerns and moaning. The flights were “fine” with their usual perks of movies and food of which unfortunately for me, I didn’t favour any that was served. Favourably for Tamara, she got double servings. We had a spare seat next to us, which is like winning the lottery these days but it didn’t help much with sleeping at all, perhaps 3 hours each and that’s at a push. Trying to sleep in every position my body allowed just became more stressful and gave me a dodgy neck. Don’t even get me started on the turbulence either with the lights off, at night, I am not reliving that. Can you tell I don’t enjoy flying?
OUR FINAL PLANE LANDED! HURRAH! I WAS ALIVE! IN ONE PIECE! If you count the day before or flight in the UK up to us landing in Cambodia at that moment in time, we had been awake for roughly 34 hours with around 6, 7, maybe 8 hours of sleep in there, none of it being sound. Kuh-knackered.
Underfed (through faults of my own), carrying 20kg on our backs, 38 degree dry heat and in a foreign country like we’ve never experienced. Just going towards the airport doors and it was like a dam had broken and we were being flooded, the dam being the airport exit and the water being offers of taxi rides.
At first, we tried haggling, as this is custom here, we tried bartering for a good deal but quickly gave in as we just wanted to get to our destination ASAP. A 50-minute car journey later involving two randomly placed stops where the driver got out and left us in the tin oven, we finally arrived at a pier.. oh yes, more traveling.
Trying to find an ATM machine in Sihanoukville turned out to be a task itself, we couldn’t go prepared with Riel (Cambodian currency) as you cannot get it exchanged in the UK. So, after walking across the uneven paves, with our bags on and limited energy we found an ATM and bought a ferry ticket.
As we boarded our bags were taken and chucked into a big pile of over 100 other bags, although I worried about being away from it as it contained my life for the foreseeable future, I now knew how the expression stuck, “a weight off the shoulders”.
I foolishly tried to sleep again on the hour ferry, which instead just made me feel very hot and hazy but alas, we had arrived. It was time to scavenge for our bags, we thankfully found ours almost immediately, but we did see one unfortunate person missing theirs completely, eek!
We walked down the aged slender pier which had a surprise at the end, it didn’t meet the dry sand but instead you had to go down its steps ankle-deep into the ocean. You could also attempt to jump this situation but there was the issue of 20kg bags and no energy left. We opted for wet ankles.
We made it to paradise, gentle waves, clear sea, no machines, tropical plants and the sound of wildlife in every direction! If you could take an Instagram photograph or a clip from a movie that displayed nothing but a fantasy beach location, this was it.
Tensions dropped and I had long forgotten about all of the planes, cars and boats that got us there. I threw my bag down, kicked off my trainers and looked up into the jungle before me to take it all in. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. Serenity.
As my body and mind gradually settled for the day, little did I know the worse was yet to come. This is where it really gets bad. As I struggle to come out of my mini slumber on the sand, I sit up and look around and realise that there is not much on this beach....at all....
I put back on my squelchy shoes which had almost already dried from the high-intensity sun and unwillingly picked up my bag, which now felt like 80kg and slung it up onto my back using my leg, letting out a brief sigh.
We found some locals who couldn’t speak much English so I simply asked “Saracen Bay?”, they gave each other a look and mischievously grinned whilst pointing towards the towering jungle and replied “forty minutes”.
My head could barely tilt backward enough to gaze at the peak of this jungle mountain, it was giant. But off we went and as the jungle trek began we saw some more locals giving each other that same look, I know what that look was now, the look of ‘I feel sorry for them’. Even I felt sorry for us!
So, to bring you up to scratch and to really make the picture vibrant for you, here we were, two young adults who are far from fit, 20kg bags, no sleep, hadn’t eaten much, traveling for 35 hours, one bottle of water left and it was the hottest part of the day at a whopping 38 degree heat.
Did I mention the screaming cicadas that were swarming the jungle? If you don’t know what they are or the noise they make.. continuously make.. go have a cheeky google search and you’ll understand. We just kept telling ourselves, its only 40 minutes until the light at the end of the tunnel, we can do this, WE CAN DO THIS, lets go.
We couldn’t do this. Who were we kidding?! I think it was around the 20-minute mark when the flat-ish path had transformed into dense forage combined with a treacherous rock ridden mountain climb. This was not going to take 40 minutes, little did we know it would actually take closer to a painstaking 2 hours.
With everyone in a hundred steps resulting in a twisted ankle of some sort due to the uneven ground beneath us and the disbalance due to our extra cargo. You would hope that with all this dense jungle you’d be companied by giant palms and exotic plantation which would grant you plentiful shading – enter sods law, that was of course not the case. Dodging the armies of ants, miscellaneous flying insects and who knows what else, we pressed on.
Not even halfway up and we were down to less than half a bottle of water to share and running on nothing. My brain started envisioning how great it would be to stumble across a 6ft tall bottle of water on ice, or just any water at all at that - I was convinced if I stuck to the thought too long I’d actually hallucinate soon.
Don’t forget poor Tamara too. At this point conversation had died because we couldn’t squeeze any words out, that would have been a waste of energy. So, with roughly six slim sips of rationed water each later and a few stops along the way, which only highlighted how furiously hot it was, we got to the top!
I celebrated by foolishly succumbing to my needs of being cool and poured a good chunk of remaining water over my head, euphoria. Only for seconds. Surely getting to the top of a trek is the hard part over right?
Wrong. We were really starting to feel concerned at this point in regards to making it there, and now making it back was equally impossible. Discussions were had like I would go without the bags and leave her.. maybe I could find help, water, food, people, anything. Or maybe we hide our bags and go together and try to return later.
We didn’t want to split up so the journey continued together. I have never fainted or passed out in my life, but I sure felt like this was the time for me, I was in full Sahara desert mode, you know, the kind you see on TV when people are stranded. The con of feeling that my t-shirt could fuse with my skin at any point outweighed the con of bugs biting me all over and sunburn – so off came my t-shirt, which was a task itself. Starting and stopping became a constant now. Enter the feeling of “near-death experience”.
THEN we saw life! Actual human beings! Or maybe we are just dead? Nope, that is actually other people! Seriously, we must have looked like two drowned rats to them, really smelly sewer types. I don’t think any of our muscles were holding anything up anymore so I couldn’t even bare a smile at them.
They said “not long now”. I took this with a bundle of salt because I saw in their eyes what the locals from earlier had in theirs and that certain tone used. The pessimist in me was once again beating the optimist. But at least they looked dry, relaxed, well-nourished which had to mean we were getting close. They moved on sharpish with not much conversation – I don’t think they spoke good English.
Tamara had given up. She said to keep going and she’d catch up, but at this point I thought that was dangerous. It kicked in then that we were in very bad form and I was actually worried about our health and the outcome from all of this.
I had to be her superman, I had to get us there, I had a plan. I took off my bag and began a tactic of shoving it down the 4ft high jagged rocks that we had to descend down, not a care for what was inside. I then got a certain distance, ditched my bag, ascended back up with jelly legs, letting out massive “arghhs” as I challenged each rock. I would find Tamara, do the same with her bag, give some moral support in the few words I could squeeze out to keep moving and then repeat this until near to the bottom.
FLAT LAND. You know what that means? The end right? Well in all honesty I was nearly there (not that I knew that). And I do say “I” because even though I made it to the bottom, Tamara was still around 100ft up, I hope by now you understand that's like being 1000ft in these particular circumstances.
I had been defeated, I couldn’t do my bag run for her anymore. I found some shade which was rarer than an eight leaf clover and gave my whole self to it, it called to me and I answered. Using a tree stump as my pillow I lay down on the luke-warm ground covered in dry pokey twigs but I couldn’t care about that - I didn’t even care about all the critters around me as I lay there semi-nude, fantasising about water.
They say don’t, but I’d honestly drink sea water, at this point it had come to that. I used anything I had left to alert Tamara that my body and mind couldn’t take anymore and shouted “throw your bag”, “come to me” a few times in hope she’d hear me. She did.
I’m not sure if Tamara or her bag came crashing down harder as she approached me. She stood back up in the shade reaching for air whilst I still lay there with a big leaf I had newly found and covered my face. We sipped our last inch of water, it was like sipping our last lifeline.
Another sign of life appeared in the from of an elderly British couple who started speaking lots to Tamara. I would have given her a standing ovation for even managing to string a conversation with them.. if I could stand.
They spoke for five minutes about this and that, as I just third partied as part of the jungle floor, blending in under my leaf, hoping to not be spotted or spoken to. I listened in and heard them saying it was just around the corner and then they left.
Just around the corner? That made me spring back up like a jack-in-a-box. I said “lets do this” and we finished the rest of our journey, it was less than three minutes and we saw a hut. I cried. Okay I didn’t cry, but if I had any water to spare left in my body I might just have!
We were greeted by four surfer dudes asking where we were staying, we let them know and they gave us direction. I would say that the walk across the sand for ten minutes was another dark experience but we couldn’t care because we could actually see our source of sleep, food and water in the close distance. We smiled at each other and spoke about water as if our world had been rid of it for most of our adult lives. And then, we arrived.
No words were needed, Cameron the guy who ran the place knew more or less what just happened. Our hair soaked, our lips chapped and panting like dogs after a big walk. He said “two waters but sorry no ice right now” I thankfully took the drink and basically breathed it in, it felt like icy water because I was sizzling hot. After a few more rounds of water we got shown our spectacular bungalow and rested on the bed without any hesitation. Now this, this was serenity.
To round this off with a happy ending, we had the best time of our lives here, we really did. This was the most picturesque location I'd ever laid eyes on. White sand, wooden bungalows, no roads or cars, tropical plants, exotic animals, amazing food, wonderful people and clear sea water with no waves which was filled with rainbows of sea life.
We kayaked, had BBQs on the beach, walked by the sea late at night (so many hermits), encountered so many fish, sunbathed, I overcame my fear of the deep sea and had many life lasting memories made here and I don’t regret a single step I made of that journey. It's stories like this that will forever stay with me. Thank you Cambodia