Saturday, 3 July 2010

A Fantastic First Day In Ban Lung

The five gap year students in the group made the decision to get up early today and go with Chris and Sitar in the 4X4 out to two villages that we are not visiting, but RGS Guildford are the week after us.

The trip out there was awesome, and well worth getting up for. We went 45mins down a Tarmac road, bombing along with the five of us in the back of the pick-up. Then we turned offroad, the first school was about 10mins down a dirt track and was great to see; all the schools are built by local people with financial aid from UWS for the building materials. The children were amazed to see so many white people; Chris said that they had probably only ever seen 5 White people before in total, nevermind 6 in one go!

After that village we went seriously offroad; clearing trees from the path so that the car could get through, ploughing through marshland and driving up rivers - awesome! As you've guessed this village is remote; and was devastated by both American bombing and the Khmer Rouge, due to it's positioning next to the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The people here were even more scared of us and we just had to walk through the village smiling, trying to get them used to the sight of westerners. The village chief offered us rice wine that was suprisingly good and we all felt very aware that we really were on the edge of development. It's amazing to think that this area has not received aid before, as it clearly needs support and help in order to educate the people.

Back on the pick-up we headed back to the main road and Ban Lung; Chris pointed out the huge expanse of 1000hectares that has been cleared and burned for rubber plantations in the area; all in the last 4 years - it is clear that the area has been touched by the west, but not necessarily in a good way.

We met the other 5 guys back at Treetops for lunch, the whole round trip had taken about 4hours - we were all rather sore from the bumping around! After lunch we discussed our ideas for our classes and then went to the market to buy equipment.

At about 4:30 8 of us headed off in the pickup again just 5km down the road to a huge volcanic crater that has become a giant, perfectly circular lake. It was incredibly beautiful. We had our own platform at the side, where we could jump off and enjoy the setting. We spent about an hour playing with a tennis ball and I swam out to the middle of the lake. It was amazing - so quite and stunning scenery.

We are back at TreeTops now, just about to head out for dinner. This is by far the most remote place I have ever been to, but equally it is also one of the most beautiful.

Not a bad start to our time in Ratanikiri Province - looking forward to the next 12days eagerly!

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