While working on Koh Thmei, Michelle and I met a couple that works for Doctors Without Borders. Joachim (German) and Eugenia (Argentinian) had built the cabin that Michelle and I lived in for our first 2 weeks on the island. They were a really nice couple and Michelle and I became good friends with them. One day while talking, Joe mentioned that he wanted to trek across the island, through the jungle, to a nice beach on the other side and wanted to know if I was interested in joining him. Of course I was!
We started out around 10 am, walking along the beach for about a kilometer before arriving at a camp where a Chinese group had a development planned. We walked up through the scarred land they had cleared of trees and then veered off onto a small trail through the jungle. Joe had a GPS and I had an iPhone running several mapping apps so we figured we wouldn’t have too much trouble reaching our destination. Within 45 minutes we realized the day wouldn’t be so easy as the trail we were following disappeared into the debris of a large fallen tree.
Cambodia has an illegal logging problem. Search this topic and you will find many articles and references on the subject. Koh Thmei, part of Ream National Park was not immune to this issue. As we hiked across the island, the few trails we found were created by loggers who would fell trees, cut them into boards where they landed, and then somehow carry or cart them to the beach for pickup.
While we’re on the subject, Cambodia also has an illegal fishing problem. Fishing boats are ubiquitous around Ream National Park, apparently paying fines (bribes) to the police stationed nearby to monitor the Vietnamese border. The reefs show the effects of this activity. There are only a few small fish remaining while algae grows unchecked and overtakes coral colonies.
We tried going around the tree debris to pick up the trail on the other side, but all we found was a series of illegal snare traps set to catch small game.
We spent the next several hours backtracking, following various disappearing trails, and making our own trail through the thick jungle. Finally, after 5.5 hours of pushing through the jungle we arrived at the beach.
But not the beach we were aiming for. We had come out of the jungle just around a point from our intended destination, but it was late in the day and we had to be heading back. We walked along the beach and 1.5 hours later we reached the resort, tired and hungry. It had been a long day, but we had a great time trying!