I recently completed my 5th trek in Virachey NP and Park Ranger Sou Soukern and I (info in the link provided below) have charted out a new path. In this new route (and this is for the 6-night/7-day Veal Thom Grasslands trek) you'll pass through Veal Thom when you arrive there but you'll camp out in the northern forests at a gorgeous waterfall/swimming hole (photos in the link) called D'dar Poom Chop. It should not add any time -or possibly just one day- to your trek, but it will take you to a truly spectacular remote jungle swimming hole. Only 3 western people (myself included) have ever seen it. I just finished writing up a blog about this trek and the larger conservation project that surrounds it: http://www.travelblog.org/Asia/Cambodia/North/Ratanakiri/blog-826997.html
Schedule in a few extra days in Northeast Cambodia!!!
Interesting read and I'm interested to do this 6-day trek with some friends of mine.
Can you elaborate on some of the practical stuff related to this trek? I can/will call the guide but it is probably also useful for readers here if you can write some of that info here
- What is the best time of the year to do this trek? Is end of March good?
- How much does it cost per person? We will be a group of 3
- What sort of gear is needed? Shoes, tent, backpack, water bottle, rain wear, jumper, GPS, compass?
- How easy is it and long will it take to get to the starting point from Phnom Penh and back?
- How difficult is the 6-day trek itself? We are in decent shape and have experience with nature walks/treks but getting older
The trek is best done between late November and late April, so you still have plenty of time this year if youwant to do it. It usually works out to about $50 per day per person, or a bit less. I know that's a bit expensive, but when you see the amount of work the guides and porters do you'll see that it's worth it. These are also very poor people and the money they earn in doing these treks helps them out a lot, and most of them have large families.
The Park will supply the hammock that you will sleep in, and they have GPS, compass, water bottles. You'll need a decent pair of walking shoes. I think sneakers are sufficient, as boots can take a long time to dry out when they get wet. The Park will also provide a rain tarp to throw over the hammocks if it does rain. You can bring a thin poncho just in case.
The bus ride from Phnom Penh to Ban Lung takes about 12 hours. It's a long ride and the scenery is not that great, but you can break up the ride with a stop in Kratie on the way back, a pleasant little Mekong River town with some old French villas and dolphins a a deep pool upriver if you're inclined to check them out.
I would say there are 2 difficult days on the trek with some steep hills to walk up, but the guides are extremely helpful and I imagine if there's a particular stretch that's giving you trouble they'd run on ahead, put their pack on the ridge, then come down and help you with yours.
In case you didn't see it on the front page, there's a full Travelfish feature on the Virachey trek and what ecotourists can do to help out:
It was wonderful, Madmac. And I think we've already got a couple of ecotourists interested, so hopefully those cameras will be checked soon. They'll have a blast! And I hope to get up to Mukdahan one of these days -beers!
I think if it's not hard core, it's not trekking anymore, it's hiking. Did look interesting, but I am with Leonard here, it wouldn't be for me. I've long since tired of sleeping outdoors and taking a crap in a hole somewhere. But for some people, they like that, which is fine. It sure looks like Greg enjoyed it.
One thing I don't enjoy is taking a crap near the villages, because when the pigs see you wander off into the brush they know what you're doing and they come for the goods -sometimes before you're finished. It's disgusting and I made sure that I did not have to take a crap in either of the villages this time around.
I'm wondering how many multi-day/week treks remain in Mainland Southeast Asia. Some big ones in Huai Kha Kaeng but apparently the Park chief is afraid that some parts of the interior are dangerous due to poachers and drug smugglers -same goes for the interior of Kaeng Krachan National Park, where there is a 15-day trek to a border peak called Khao Nga Nik Yuak Dong. I imagine there are a couple of epic treks to be had in Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains, and maybe something down in Taman Negara in Malaysia.
I'm probably going to be starting a new camera-trapping project this summer down in Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary (adjacent to Khao Sok NP) in Thailand this summer. Winters in Cambodia and summers in Thailand -until it drives my wife insane.
I just posted a copy of the Preliminary Trip Report (minus the GPS locations of the cameras) on our Web site: http://habitatid.org/?p=7205 We are really looking forward to doing more with ecotourism to promote conservation in the park. More to come!
I just published a blog post with Mongabay.com about the potential for ecotourists to help out with maintaining camera-traps and furthering the conservation cause in Virachey NP and beyond: http://blog.mongabay.com/2014/03/06/camera-trap-ecotourism-the-next-big-thing-in-conservation/
Here's hoping that ecotourists have a damn good time and that we find lots of wild animals on candid camera!