On the road to Mondulkiri / by Marek Charytonowicz

The road to Mondulkiri province is crazy, five of us volunteers packed in a small van with five Cambodians, our bags and bottles of car fuel that has spilled so all the car smells of petrol. Driver is speeding killing one dog on the way and spends twenty minutes after that looking at his back wheel, leaning out of the car while we drive in zig zag.

But finally we’re here, at a little restaurant with big “The Elephant Valley Project” sign above the entrance. The manager, Jack has a wild spark in his eye (think The Shinning) and asks us to wait before going further…

Finally we reach the Elephant Valley Project after another mad ride across the hills - this time on the back of a four-wheel drive, surrounded by backpacks and with a large black Great Dame dog on my lap. It’s great and so distant from hotel stay trips by the beach.

The valley is filled with dense jungle which comes to life when sun sets although it’s only 6 o’clock. Noises like I’ve never heard before suddenly surround us and the sky fills with thousands of stars. Over next two weeks I’ll try to take some photographs, as soon as I overcome my fear of spiders which cripple anything I’ve ever encountered in London. Tonight there are two in my bungalow, both with ‘eyes’ shining in the light of my torch. I just have to get used to it.

Tomorrow we finally meet the elephants. I can’t wait. For now it’s 28° Celsius at night and horribly humid and hasn’t even rained yet. It’s going to be a long night, shared with very large motionless spiders in my hut.