«

»

Logging Memories From Her First Geo-Tour

In ruins: Carvings from the Khmer temple of Bayon in Cambodia's Angkor. Photos: RICHARD MOORE

In ruins: Carvings from the Khmer temple of Bayon in Cambodia’s Angkor. Photos: RICHARD MOORE

Tours Direct is hosting its second geo-tour this July, returning to Singapore and Cambodia. Here, company director Mandy Page (GC handle: PageNZ) relates some of the Cambodia highlights for the nine Kiwi teams on last year’s trip.

FINDING OUR FEET

Rush-hour: A local family ducks in and out of traffic.

Rush-hour: A local family ducks in and out of traffic.

Grabbing bikes from the hotel, four of us set off to the ancient temple ruins of Angkor Wat to find our first Cambodian geocache.

To us, the traffic was on the other side but it didn’t seem to make any difference as the drivers went anywhere and any side they wanted. Seeing that we were of European descent, they drove around us. As long as we didn’t stop, they managed to avoid accidents – rather like dodging slow-moving bullets.

Arriving at Angkor Wat, a discussion began about log entries, disabled caches and moat barriers.

Rushing in the hot sun, moving against the stream of tourists, we veered our way to the left and away from the aggressive local vendors. Down jungle tracks and leaving the modern world, we arrived at a small, secluded ruined temple.

As the cache had been moved, the hint was irrelevant. We looked around, asking ‘Where would I put it?’ Voila – move a rock and find a cache. Extreme joy and celebration!

Tour party: Last year's travellers included Team Welsh, Butterfly Lady, Radionnut50, Zorgon, Sallies, Drawp, Wandercat, AJBen and tour guide PageNZ.

Tour party: Last year’s travellers included Team Welsh, Butterfly Lady, Radionnut50, Zorgon, Sallies, Drawp, Wandercat, AJBen and tour guide PageNZ.

TWO CACHES LATER

As a large geocaching group, we wander down a jungle trail; far away from the usual tourist haunts. A tumbled ruin called Ta Nei (or Temple of the Butterflies) waits at the end of the track, along with a hide of the same name (GC2T5NR). Strangling vines, displaced rocks and no-one around.

Finding our way to the centre of the complex, the cry soon goes up: ‘I’ve found it’. So it’s time for tea and more stories about memorable caches and interesting camos. I did get asked why I didn’t do a Lara Croft pose at GZ but I think it’s probably best to leave that for another reincarnation.

OUR FIFTH FIND

Rest & relaxation: At the 10th-century temple of Ta Prom.

Rest & relaxation: At the 10th-century temple of Ta Prom.

The local guide, Peng Kong, was intrigued with our treasure hunting and wanted to help our success rate.

He instructed the driver to take the ‘road’ along the man-made reservoir to the Pre-Angkor ruins.

I’m not sure about the driver but I was pretty nervous as he drove into potholes, along the bottom and then out the other side. I was even more anxious when I saw fish leaping in the pothole water.

Trees and branches scratched the mini-bus paint as the road descended into little more than a track; we couldn’t turn around and we couldn’t reverse. Apart from caching by elephant, this was the oddest means of getting to GZ. Finally after much bumping and manoeuvring, we arrived.

The high life: You haven't really cached until you've travelled to GZ by elephant.

The high life: You haven’t really cached until you’ve travelled to GZ by elephant.

Kong was first off the bus with my GPS, closely followed by our keen and enthusiastic team. Ruins bypassed with barely a glimpse, we trotted into the jungle searching for an 11-inch stone and a film canister. The stone was found but the cache was gone.

At GZ, we swotted mozzies and watched for fire ants, discussing the validity of a recorded ‘find’ here by some Australians the day before and the previous DNFs. It was concluded the cache was definitely gone and needed replacing; we signed the new log and put everything where the hint suggested before rushing back to the bus.

A mere 10 minutes down the road/track, we reach tar-seal again. Hopefully, future cachers will enjoy the cache with or without a bus.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST …

Blessed be: Our bedraggled bunch after the Buddhist water blessing.

Blessed be: Our bedraggled bunch after the Buddhist water blessing.

We met just as the monsoon rain was at its heaviest. I was not too fazed by this as we were on our way to a Buddhist water blessing at the 11th-century temple of Wat Atwea, and I knew we were all going to be very wet before too long.

Now I’ve travelled by tuk-tuk before but never when the tuk-tuk is wearing a raincoat. Driving out of the township of Siem Reap, we passed through the rain cloud out into sunshine. One minute it was raining and the next it’s dry.

Rice paddies, sleeping dogs and farm houses on stilts pass by us as we venture out beyond the usual tourist areas into the countryside; the intense heat cooled by the refreshing rain.

Russo, our charming local guide, had been lent to us by the Kiwi manager of my GC3QA1Q Miss Wong cache. He was very careful of our European ways and ensured me there was a changing room at the resort. What he didn’t get across in translation was that it was a Cambodian resort and the changing room was a grass hut with a spotless tile floor, a dodgy door and a wooden bench.

“Madams first,” he said and I began to wander if he had heard about my unfortunate history with houses of ill-repute in foreign climes. It’s not that I want to visit them, I just find myself ending up in odd places.

photo(18)

Devoted: A young monk in traditional Buddhist garb. Thankfully this one wasn’t throwing water on our group.

Once dressed – or rather undressed (Dean wanted us to go commando-style under our sarongs but middle-aged bodies in soaked cotton is not a great look) – we line up on the cement steps.

An ancient Buddhist monk started to mutter and SLAP, a pan of cold water hit the side of my head. At least it was soft and sweet smelling from the lotus blossoms which have been soaking in the stone barrel.

Water is then thrown on each of us repeatedly, getting warmer with each throw. Halfway through the ceremony, the last of our group appears; they have come straight from quad-biking and try to avoid the water-throwing by taking photographs but this is a group activity and they soon join in.

Locals gather around to see, the tuk-tuk drivers take photos on their cellphones and there is a lot of laughing.

I gather the mad monk was blessing us with long life; I think it may have been a long and happy life, at least I hope so. After the water part, we trot off to our resort hut to get changed and return so the monk can tie a red cord around each traveller’s right wrist. This remains on until it falls off.

Those who came late have just enough time to visit the co-ordinates of a new cache we hid amongst the nearby ruins. It’s called GC3QBXV Water Blessing (Siem Reap). If you’re ever in Cambodia, I hope you check it – and the mad monk – out.

*For more highlights from Mandy Page’s first geo-tour, check back tomorrow.
**If you’re interested in joining Tours Direct’s second geo-expedition, visit the Auckland-based company’s website. The nine-day trip – being led by Page’s sister, Tracey Welsh (GC handle: Team Welsh) – costs NZ$3980 per person and includes visits to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, a boat ride on Tonle Sap Lake, geocaching events in three countries (Auckland, New Zealand, Singapore and Cambodia) as well as the opportunity to cache in Malaysia.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Switch to mobile version