Although I was slightly more prepared for my second demining trip, it was still quite an adventure. I made sure I borrowed a fluffy pillow from my guest house to sit on which was well worth it. We did not go as far on this trip as the last one…only about a two hour drive (between Siem Reap and Anlong Veng). Got full use of my first aid kit en route as I bandaged and cleaned a cut to my hand as well as gave some medicine to a baby with a flu. We stopped to talk with a family that had contacted Aki Ra about discovering a mine. A young boy not more than 8 years old and his father hopped into Aki Ra’s truck and we drove to the site where the boy had discovered the mine. Turned out to be a field filled with anti-tank mines and Aki Ra went immediately to work. About 30 minutes later, two mines had been deactivated and two more were ready to be detonated from a safe distance. Because it was getting late in the day, we decided to come back the following morning and detonate the mines then. On the way back towards town, we made several stops meeting people and distributing donated clothes and school supplies. One of the areas we stopped at was very photogenic:
We stopped to visit with one of Aki Ra’s close friends, also a former KR soldier, who came with us to dinner and eventually hunting. I asked Aki Ra about the green uniforms that many of his friends were wearing. It turns out that between 1975 to 1985, the prominent KR attire was black with a red bandanna. However, after 1985 when the KR retreated into the Cambodian jungle, they changed their uniforms to match the Vietnamese for disguise (green camoflauge).
After being completely covered in sweat, dirt, and fly debris all day, we graciously accepted the use of their outdoor shower. This consisted of a giant pot with a floating pitcher to dump water over ourselves. Refreshed and re-energized, Aki Ra decided that he would rather take us to sleep in the jungle where it was quieter. He also invited us to go hunting with him. I told him that I forgot my AK-47 at home but I would gladly come along to watch. Little did I know this would involve sleeping outside in a hammock, waking up at 3am, walking through the jungle without a light, and sleeping on a hill while waiting for his friends to show up at 7am. This is the hunting gang before departure and the first hammock I ever slept in.
Although it was great to be off the jungle floor and free of wandering critters in the hammock, I slept much better uncovered on the jungle floor after the hunt. Somehow cell phones work great in the Cambodian jungle so Aki Ra phoned in our coordinates and we were picked up within the hour.
Aki Ra’s friends, without the addition of two stumbling foreigners, were able to catch a small deer which they ate for lunch that afternoon. DISCLAIMER: the following pictures contain blood and guts, please browse or skip at your own discression.
We went back to the mining field the following morning and scanned the field for more mines and exploded the ones that could not be disarmed. Here is a clip of Aki Ra scanning for mines:
We arrived back in Siem Reap Wednesday evening and I cleaned up and packed for a last minute trip to Bangkok via bus the following morning. I over-extended my visa and had to leave the country and re-enter with a business visa which I could extend. This involved a 12 hour bus ride, two nights in a very unfriendly and dirty Israeli hostel in Bangkok, and a return flight to Siem Reap where I was denied the ability to extend my visa. I still may need to travel to Phnom Penh to get the proper documentation to allow me to stay in the country longer. What a pain!
I returned just in time to see the first annual Siem Reap Mardi Gras Celebration! This involved about a dozen volunteers building a massive ice bar, decorating the streets with the recently made puppets, and blasting Cajun music to a bewildered group of spectators.