I’m lying in a hammock in the middle of the jungle in the Cardamom Hills.  I lie in comfort and listen to the sounds of the forest;  the roar in the river going through the rapids; the metronome of a frog, the persistant sibilant whispers of crickets, the two tone plaintive cry of the hunting Nightjar and  the cough of an owl.   It is quite idyllic; but there is that slight frisson of anxiety.  I know there are  poachers about.   The couple that camped here last night had returned  wide eyed with fear,  though all the men did was shine their torches on their hammocks, take some bread and crash off into the jungle.  Nevertheless it unnerved them.  So now there is no contact with the civilised world until the boat comes again tomorrow morning.  Nevertheless, I feel safe.  My hammock, a US Army issue, has a mosquito net built in.  I am enclosed in a psychic shield.  My logic says otherwise, but emotionally I have shelter.  It’s the big issue! 

But you need organisation to do this kind of thing.  It gets dark early and quick here; twilight at six, complete darkness at 6.30.  So prepare.   String up the tarp and then unpack and prepare the hammock, putting anything in it you are likely to need overnight.  In particular keep a torch handy.  Then light the fire.  This was easy.  There was a ventilated earthenware pot.  All I had to do was put a chunk of two of resinated wood at the bottom – an excellent firelighter -,   pack the pot with charcoal and soon there was a glowing brazier. 

I steam  the fish with herbs in its foil packet and roast  some vegetable kebabs on long sticks  and while they are doing prepare a salad.   The beer is a bonus, but not if Idrink it too quickly; I have to think clearly.  Everything can descend into chaos so quickly and then it gets dark and you’re slipping around amid a pile or rubbish.    

So prepare yourself first.  Put on long trousers and shirt to stop the mosquitoes biting,  apply plenty of insect repellent.  Keep any food you are not cooking in plastic containers. There are lots of ants about and they get everywhere.  Some even managed to get inside my camera.  I could see them walking across the inside of the lens housing and a flash was accompanied by a wisp of smoke and a whiff of scorched flesh. Make sure you have paper roll to clean your hands.  Find a flat rock to use as a table and another rock as a stool. Set everything out you will need; containers, utensils, beer, water, paper towels and torch.  Keep everything you need is to hand and the result is packed away.  Organise the fire than organise your food.  Think about the order of consumption and the amount, get everything ready first.  Go for a swim in the river, dry off, relax, have a beer.  There is still an hour before complete darkness.  Enjoy the moment. 

OK so that’s the ideal, but it needs so much foresight and attention to detail to achieve it.  It’s a clash of cultures, you see.  If I had longer, or could understand,  like Ray Mears, how to get all I need from the forest; if I really knew how to live feral, it might be very different.  But to support  one night’s adventure in the jungle, fuel, food, drink, bedding, utensils,  everything has to be imported, just to keep the unsettling wilderness at a safe emotional distance.  But doesn’t that defeat the object?     

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