There are times on this weird journey when I have thought maybe this is what loneliness is all about. It doesn’t get any lonelier than standing by your broken-down truck on an empty highway in the jungle. Or being the only one awake, unable to move your arms or legs, feeling like a pounding wall of rain will smash the ceiling down on your face. Or that strange disorienting walk to an outhouse in total darkness and trying to find the way back under trees in the night.
But then for me there is always some thread tied on my finger showing me where to go next. In the darkness there is Tika stomping out a fire ant, and Ernest calling out ahead. From a flashlight-beam by the outhouse we meet two teachers from the kids’ school—they recognize Tika. From the bus station we find—wearing the tell-tale T-shirt—another swimmer from the Mekong. And certainly pressed like cozy sardines in bed, and with Puck breathing his sweet cheesy breath on my cheek I can’t feel alone. Can I?The flip-side of losing power and going to bed at seven-thirty is that sunshine, birds and monkey-calls wake everyone up before six. Ernest was outside the door leaning over the platform, searching the trees for the source of the woop-wooping. We were eager to explore. Mondulkiri is known for its mountains, waterfalls, and elephants. With bellies full of pancakes and scrambled eggs (what else would you expect from a backpacker-treehouse?) we headed out to find adventure.