The Ecological Hot Spot
01.26.2012 - 01.26.2012 30 °C
This was a last minute decision, a suggestion posted on FB from a friend brought about Tonle Sap Lake into my consciousness. I consulted my best friend Google and found Osmose, an NGO focused on educating the locals on multiple fronts from conservation, sustainability, community support, accountability to name a few. I happily forked over a hefty sum to partake in the eco-tour offered. I generally slum it out but if it's a good cause every penny spent is worth it.
We started out in the wee hours of the morning, and caught another glorious sunrise with the backdrop of Cambodia's jungle landscape. The following 2 pictures are taken in motion from the car producing a lovely blurred effect that accentuated the swirls of colours in the morning sky. Makes me want to savour a Campino candy for once and not just crunch it all up in my mouth.
Our guide Mr. Savann made a quick stop for us to enjoy the moment freestanding.
A local home. No doubt its inhabitants have been busy well before the light of day.
Most locals have to bike at least 20km into town to their jobs or an equal distance to schools.
I met this adorable little boy by the pier, running around and looking at the others in my tour curiously. He shot me a happy smile moments after he peed in the sand. How is this not the picture of perfection?! In his hand is an empty package of cigarettes, perhaps not most parent's toy of choice, but he was content and shouldn't that matter the most?
From the boat ride we squeezed by farmers selling their goods to the middle man before it's brought officially to town. Majority of the goods was fish at 50 cents a kilo. Even though it was the dry season with low water levels, Mr. Savann informed me that the location of these markets change as frequently as the water levels.
We came across a mobile village which meant they were fishermen only during the dry season (October - March) and set up minimal plastic tarps as temporary homes and retreat back to dry land to their more permanent home during wet season.
On his way to work.
The sun rising above the watery forest.
Another type of floating village, these homes are made on bamboo rafts that required a change over once a year from the bamboo rotting. This was their local convenience store.
I liked how the motorbike is completely out of context in this village surrounded by water.
Boats are obviously a better mode of transport.
We stopped and tethered our boat here and enjoyed a lovely breakfast and an even lovelier view. I call this photo "Trees In Love". It makes me think of the Tim Burton film Big Fish, don't you agree?
Some of the canals we were passing through were exceptionally narrow. We were often whipped and beaten from the branches that would snap back as the boat continued to push forward.
Tonle Sap 101: During the wet season Tonle Sap lake would dramatically increase in volume by over 4 times it's size. The normal water level is about 1-2 meter deep and it would increase to over 9 meters. What also makes Tonle Sap unique is that it actually changes it's flow twice a year, during the wet season as the volume increase, the water flows in (NW) while during the dry season water empties out (SE).
Which means that these trees and everything in the entire view would become totally submerged. Whaaattt?! I'm a total nerd and fall big time for this kind of information. Our guide actually had pictures and graphs during his presentation about this one of a kind eco-system and what do you know? Mr. Chang sat in the front row.
Monks will go from home to home seeking charitable gifts. I've seen them on land patiently & silently waiting often under the shelter of an umbrella outside the boundaries of homes and when possible food or money would be given from the local family bowing on their knees.
This was my first time seeing the ritual being performed on water.
I like the image of these 3 ladies. I imagine them taking an afternoon tea, but I highly doubt it.
A colourful neighbourhood.
We stopped at a permanent building in the village built to accommodate the drastic change in water levels.
I liked the rickety bridge.
We climbed to the top of the viewpoint offered in the building and I watched this woman untangling her catch. It was tedious work.
An overview of the village.
An overview of the lake. I asked our guide for the umpteenth time "And all this would just become covered in water?!!"
We prepared to leave to the next portion of the tour, to a protected bird sanctuary a heavy breeding ground for some of the world's largest fresh waterbirds. Many of which are still endangered and some of which have climbed steadily in number since the establishment of the sanctuary. This was a chickling from an egret (I can't be certain so go ahead & call me a liar). It was too young to be released but will be accommodated back into the wild in due time.
On our way out of the village we saw these 3 kids playing around & rowing their boat. Some know how to row before they walk.
A girl taking a bath. My entire stay in Cambodia I was in & out of hostels & guesthouses that offered cold water showers which I initially dreaded until I realize by cold water, they simply mean 25-28 degree room temperature water. A giant relief.
Let me take a quick moment to introduce to you Harry from Shanghai. At first I found his constant photo taking and gadget handling a nuisance. What's this? snap-snap-snap. What's that? snap-snap-snap. Excuse me can you spell that? beep-beep-beep (into his translator). At one point I rummaged into my backpack for a piece of paper to spit my gum into, upon retrieving the paper, he asked me "what's that? How can I didn't get one? snap-snap-snap". I glared at him whilst spitting my gum into the paper. But my heart soften towards him, I found out that this was his first trip ever out of China and he was giddy like a little kid, not to mention he seriously only stood 4'9" (I might be a tad on the generous side). He was 38 and was tagging along with 2 of his well traveled colleagues. He was a very kind man.
Slowly we started to see large birds flying overhead. Then we started spotting large communal nesting trees such as these. Mostly grey & white herons.
Many boats gathered at the foot of the rickety viewing platforms, the middle (which could hold a max of 6 people) and the mega rickety top platform at the crown of the tree (which held a 2 person maximum). The view at the top was spectacular. 360 degrees full of nesting birds, flying in and out. We were shown with the knowledgeable eyes of our guide, who would scan with the telescope and spot out many varying types of birds: Greater Adjutant, Milky storks, spot-billed pelicans, he just kept them coming. Knowledge is sexy, and I'm not even a fan of birds!
Most of these tree tops held nests.
We went back to the community center and watched the women weave. They were shown how to utilize water hyacinth, which grew ubiquitously in these waters as a source of income rather than having their husbands hunt birds & eggs as additional sources of income.
Baskets, mats, plates, are just some of the products made.
The stalks of water hyacinth before the drying process.
A mini patch of water hyacinth.
A boy swimming near water hyacinth. He was using empty water bottles helping him stay afloat. Water-wings!
A dog napping in a boat with more water hyacinth close by. I think the villagers saw the immediate benefits of working with something so abundant.
The local school, most classes are mixed ages.
A church being tolled into town.
A community garden. There was a total of 90 set up, but only 13 kept up the project.
Pickings from the garden. I thought it was cherry tomato, but it ended up being a red chili pepper. Not my smartest move.
My guide, Mr. Savann on the left speaking to a local fisherman about his mini fish farm. This container was about 8'x12'x10' and had over 1000 fish. It took about 2 years before they are big enough to sell. He would feed the fish smaller fish he caught or Morning Glory, one of my favourite veggies.
We then went to an alligator farm. Sadly there aren't many wild alligators left in the waters, as an adult alligator on the market would sell for about $5000 US.
Look at this one giving me the death eyes. Female alligators are more aggressive. This one must have been a SHE.
The tour ended going back along the canals and towards the pier. I saw my little boy who peed splashing around in the waters with a glorious sunset behind me. I think if I was asked to choose, I might favour sunrises more.
LG! LG! LG!