Today is a full moon in Cambodia and it is auspicious to be blessed by a Buddhist monk at this time. Before we set off this morning, we were honoured to take part in a blessing to wish us well on our journey. A very special ceremony that moved everyone. Then the day began!

We were heading to the base of the Kulen mountains, following heavily rutted cow cart tracks, recently flooded after the rainy season. Although we started early, by 8.30 the temperature was nudging 30 degrees and humidity was high. We crossed some make-shift rickety bridges before heading out over bright green, swaying in the wind paddy fields. The fields are teeming with wildlife which we (fortunately) could hear but didn’t really see much of today – it was probably too hot! Our lunch miraculously arrived in our trusty tiffin tins – we were delighted to be served fish and chips Cambodian-style with delicious vegetables and (obviously) more rice.

Then it got hotter. It’s fair to say this afternoon was tough. Our terrain was very open, very little shelter and the temperature was still rising. A few of us struggled with the last hour today, we have a few injuries, an outbreak of “prickly heat” and bites galore. We were pleased to see the finishing line today and especially pleased to climb into our air conditioned bus! On the way to camp we visited Beng Mealea, a little known temple of fascinating ruins. It was sad to hear how in the 80’s the temple had been ransacked and precious artefacts stolen, many of which are in Museums in the UK and USA.

A sign at the beginning of our trip to the temple reminded us of Cambodia’s troubled history, at the entrance to the park a sign warned us about wandering far from the path because over 400 land mines had been cleared but no-one knew if there may be more.

We took a short detour to a very special place next, a place our fabulous guide Nak called the “posh toilets”!! Yes they flush and there is an actual toilet!!! It’s the small things that count when tired and emotional! Then we arrived at camp in Svay Leu Pagoda. Another amazing Buddhist temple where, when we arrived locals were being doused in water by the monks to mark the full moon. Our legs are tired, we have aches and pains but we are all so blessed to be here, sharing such wonderful hospitality with our remarkable Cambodian hosts.

The St John’s Hospice Cambodia Trekkers

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