BeTreed with Purpose

 BeTreed is about the environment but there’s nothing to say that a 11th century UNESCO declared temple can’t be included in that. In fact the entire route from the Lodge to Preah Khan Kampong Svai falls under 42K Ha of protected area but a Bong Thom from Kampong Thom thought he’d claim 10 K Ha for himself to grow cashew nut.            

At least half the journey is inside the mesh of his fence or the depths of his ditch. At this time of year vegetation bursts with life. Villagers try to burn for casava but its prime grassland for Banteng and the sheer effusion of life around us hid the degradation outside from mind. 

Preah Khan Kampong Svai

Before COVID a wealthy Barang Family might visit by helicopter. Now I expect we were the only group this week.

Tamara at the entrance to the temple right and inside the city below

Lina and I were here to work out the route from BeTreed by mountain bike again so that I can remember even if we have a guide. 

And Tamara who was coming to paint or work out what she was going to paint when she’s decided if she would paint.

Preah Khan Kampong Svai wasn’t going to be outdone as to the beauty of its stone decorations but its main claim to fame was that of a munitions armory producing steel from iron ore. And the Kuay were the people who knew how to do it so when JVII was there devising ways to defeat the Cham he kept the Kuay’s on his side.

BeTreed is a lodge with stilted houses built by Ben from fallen timber, comfortable double beds, the Treehouse! And above all the forest growing in through the windows. 

Ben & Sharyn’s House

The stilted houses are one with the forest. Emerald Dove, Jungle Fowl, Green Peafowl, White-crested Laughing Thrush, Cambodia striped Squirrel, Pig and the Magpies. 

At a lodge level for the tour companies and hotels the space needs to welcome. Easy to fix but Ben is stopping poachers and Sharyn compiling carbon credits so we need pop-up comfort to show how the Lodge can work and pop-up adventures, like the one we did today, packaged ready and waiting.

With breakfast on the stilted house balcony; coffee, fruit, yoghurt, pancakes and honey. Bicycles lined up and ready for a gentle ride through the sparkling morning light to the riverside and main entrance to BeTreed. 

We’re close enough to the fence to keep the casava farmers away. We leave the road on a smooth muddy path through meter tall green grass. I catch the eye of a Chinese Francolin. Its easier this way, the path though difficult to see is smooth. The vegetation bursting with green and we don’t notice the hour it takes to get to the Eastern end of the perimeter fence. 

The Kampong Thom Bong Thom chamkar stretches 10km into the distance but soon its muddy trails lead to the temple city. We leave our bikes at the entrance and explore the ruins within ruins, brick statues even earlier than JI 11th century sandstone. Much more to see than we have the many times we’ve visited.

Cambodian Striped Squirrel eating our breakfast

A dusty market and dirty cross-roads at Ta Saem Village, we’d called ahead and lunch was waiting on the chunks of furniture from when there were so many trees, before the loop cycle back to Ta Bos Village and BeTreed.

That night lightening flashed across BeTreed in black and white, trees bent double in the storm and rain lashed around the stilted house. The wind thrashing on the roof sent us to sleep.

Day 2 A River Loop Walk

Pig had become part of the family since I’d been last. He had a coarse hairy tummy he loved being scratching and a snout he liked sticking in shit then rubbing against your ankles. George II and Maggie had also decided to be part of the family though that was their decision not mine as life on the balcony became a constant tug of war, ‘things’ they thought they could annoy you with by stealing, first and foremost teabags! It was only by clutching George’s tail that I managed to have any tea!

Pig, the not very wild pig

BeTreed is a mountain, Phnom Tnaut 200 meters high. Ben’s fence extends 5 kilometers from the base and in between the golden green dipteropcarp forest interspersed with patches of ever-green where its wetter and riparian corridors of riverine bamboo that run alongside the river.

George II or Maggie the not very wild the Red-billed Blue-tailed Magpie

Jo Jo isn’t my best friend either after he ate my finger this time and a muntjac last so although he looked vaguely put out that he wasn’t invited on our river loop walk, the muntjac we spotted looked a lot happier. 

Easy walking along the red earth road to where we turned off to meet the river. The elder guide had us tightrope teetering bamboo poles across flooded tributaries. 

I had visions of slipping off the bamboo and crashing in a limb breaking tangle in the mud, so Tamara and I bush bashed into the undergrowth and lived to make it to the river rapids where I slipped off the shelf into 3 or 4 meters of water.

The river was brown and cool and so was the beer. The bamboo forests were not cool swathed in still humid air. The tall grasses kept out the light which meant the undergrowth was clear but sharp spikes waited to penetrate the soles of your shoes. 

Leopard lacewing Butterfly

Visiting Wildlife Alliance guys were on a recce under strict instructions not to shoot, which seemed a waisted opportunity with the inbreds from Kor Krahom Village (lit. Red Necked) picking off silver langurs on the mountain for Bong Thom bush meat.

My head wobbled with the onset of dengue but we made it to where the guide had parked his motorbike and I hitched a lift back to BeTreed while  Tamara walked with Lina.

Day 3 Phnom Tnaut Cycle Loop

You wouldn’t think you could get lost. A firm earth road, plastic marathon tags tied to  branches, notches hacked into the tree trunk, a mountain and a ditch. And we didn’t but that didn’t mean we could see a path beneath the new green spurts of grass, or that trees didn’t fall down on the path even if we could see it.

It was grey, dull, almost spitting with rain and we saw little wildlife though felt more.

About a 30km loop through DDF, mixed evergreen and grassland. Past a flatland temple and smaller hills near BeTreed where I walked that afternoon to see the view of carpeted forest flowing over the landscape.

Near where we emerged from our mountain Tamara and Sharyn were looking for a small temple set back into the hillside. At first the odd block of laterite and then a wall emerging from the scrub. The bright light outside blinding you to the gloom in the rock, not much has happened here for a thousand years.

The next morning wasn’t easy as the onset of dengue fever came with a crippling cramp so I couldn’t see where Pig’s squeals were coming from as Ben wrestled with a python below the house that was trying to swallow pig.

I feel wondrously lucky to know this place and be welcome by Sharyn and Ben who keep it like it is

Nick right and Lina below

Silver Langur on route back to BeTreed.

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