A short tuk tuk ride got us to the small tourist-boat port, 6 kms outside of Sinahoukville town. The bumpy pot-holed road at the end of the journey shook our nerves and rattled our brains despite the driver's best efforts to avoid the worst of them.
The port was a single, narrow jetty to which 7 or 8 boats were moored, our boat was a smallish stripped-down wooden fishing boat, green on the bottom and orange on top. After a bit of a struggle getting aboard (it had drifted some way away from the jetty), we were all set for our 3 and a half hour journey to Lonely Beach, Koh Rong. The island is one of 18 that lie off the Sinahoukville coast, all are alleged to be extraordinarily beautiful and are said to boast incredible beaches and sea life.
As we left the safety of the port, the swell on the sea was bigger than we'd anticipated. The horizon dipped in and out of view as the boat rolled forward and so it went for the next three hours. As we neared the bay, the rough water flattened, to calm clear blue sea, the boat chugged closer to the land and we could see the density of the surrounding jungle. There was cove after cove, all inaccessible from the land, providing seclusion and tranquility for anyone with a boat and sense of adventure.
And then our bay drew into sight, an inch at a time. 500 metres of deserted tropical paradise. The crystal clear water gently lapped at the white powdery sand. The sand was backed by dense jungle, in which 4 huts and a simple restaurant were situated.
After transferring to a small boat to make the final 30 metres through the shallows to the shore, we jumped out. Jan, in the excitement, decided to keep her trainers on and we're going to be smelling the consequences of that decision for the remaining life of the shoes. We were taken to our hut, a rattan sided, wooden structure that sat on stilts about 3 feet off the jungle floor.
There was no electricity, no running water, it was very basic. There was a mosquito net over the bed, which we patched up (as had someone else with plasters (unused)). The bed was also raised on high legs to offer further protection from nighttime creepy crawlies. On to the washroom, it had a western style toilet, but with no running water it was 'flushed' using a couple of scoops from the mandi, a shallow well from which we were also to wash. The algae at the bottom and the mosquitos floating on top was our sacrifice for the stunning idyllic isolation. The bathroom roof was open to the elements and over the next few days, the elements surely came in. In the early hours of the morning, we had a downpour, unusual, but so needed at this time of year. It seems that when it rains, any dry spot is an open house, we had a rat (very friendly, liked our Pringles), frogs (croaked like Pavarotti, beautiful at 3am) geckos the size of alligators and every bug you can imagine. Eventually, we stopped being bothered by them and we drifted back off to sleep.
By sunrise,the rain had shifted on and the clouds had been burnt away by the early morning sun, toucans flew overhead, it was another picture perfect morning.
Back at the beach, we waded into the warm water, the wealth of life was immediately apparent as bluefin swimmer crabs scrambled away from our footsteps and re-buried themselves in a split second, near-invisible white fish sifted through the disturbed sand in our wake. We sat basking in the afternoon sun until the sunset beckoned over the beach, which was deserted except for us lucky few, who had found our way to this nirvana. The sun set over the headland to the left of us, leaving fiery traces in the sky and bringing a perfect day to a close.
The night skies were clear, with zero light pollution, millions of eyes looked down at us, twinkling as they slowly made their track across the blackness. We headed back to the sea, the small bay had phosphorescent plankton, that when disturbed at night gave off sparkles of bluey-green. Each night we went in a little deeper, the more we moved in the sea the more active they became, the water didn't light up like in films, more of an ethereal glow around us that looked amazing.
That night, the heavens opened again, more ferocious than the previous night, so much so that Jan in a sleepy stupor jumped out of bed shouting "FISH!" as she opened the door to the cabin and checked that we weren't floating away out to sea. The rain was heavy.
The downpour continued as the sun rose, we took the opportunity to use the rain as a fresh water shower. Jan decided the best place to shower was on the front veranda, well, we were secluded from the other huts I suppose, I used the washroom with its open roof.
The rain slowly cleared and the temperature shot up, down at the beach, we snorkelled over the reef, the variety of life was once again exceptional, but top of my list has to be enormous, extravagantly coloured clams and clown fish that darted in and out of the pink anemone it had made its home.
The castaway experience was incredible, animal-free accommodation would have made it perfect, but we can't complain, a private beach, glowing creatures in the sea, warm, clear nights. We did ok.
Back to Sinahoukville and a few more days of beach life.