An article I wrote for Khmer 440...
I was sitting in a restaurant in Mondulkiri, listening to backpackers haggling over elephant rides – “That one’s a very bullshit operation for the elephants…Yeah, but we got offered two bucks cheaper from the other guy” – when Brendan finally called. “Hey, So Pheakj forgot to wake me again. Do you fancy going to the waterfall?”
He hired two moto drivers and we headed off through the windswept valleys surrounding the one-horse town of Sen Monorom. Children waved at us as we crawled past trying to avoid craters in the red dust roads. We climbed higher, the engine screaming, and arrived in a jungle clearing with an elephant tethered by one ear to a shack. Just out of reach were 100 green bananas, and the beast was eyeing them morosely while batting away flies with his ears.
Brendan looked at the waterfall jump. It was usually about 10 metres high, but he said the water level was much lower than last month, not just from the dry season but the dam up river. The Elephant Man threw a stone into the water indicating where he claimed it was deep enough to jump. But as he was not jumping himself, I was taking no chances.
We climbed down through the jungle and bathed in the pool. Something was nibbling away at my feet. I swam to the other side and foam thundered down around me. The sound was deafening and for a moment I forgot all about what the locals call “anacondas”. A little boy scampered across the rocks, picking up beer cans. We climbed back up and the Elephant Man took a photo of us and printed it out on a contraption hooked up to a car battery.