We made the right decision to head here to Kratie from Phnom Penh but oh what a journey it was!! The bus took a very circuitous route taking 9 hours not 7 and 20-year old wrestling programs and bad movies played on the screen all the way. Hulk Hogan and The Hitman - with some very nice mullet hair styles!! OMG It was a nightmare.
Outside, rubber plantations, rice paddies and orchards of pomelos, pineapples, dragon fruit and mangos to say nothing of the cashew trees were a much better bet but the volume and the images on the screen keep drawing me back to it even when I had no interest. I willed them to at least turn the volume down but to no avail!! Eventually we made it and the silence of the sunset on the Mekong on arrival was that much more appealing after that journey.
Yesterday we had the best day yet. We took a boat out into the Mekong from Kampi just 16 kms up the dusty track from Kratie and saw the endangered fresh water Irrawaddy dolphins. I am not sure why the Irrawaddy dolphins actually live in the Mekong but they have for hundreds of years so let’s just ignore the name eh.
Lots and lots of them were playing in a deep water pool and regularly surfacing to breath. Though they only briefly skim the surface we could see them. Sometimes we glimpsed just the top of their rounded heads and blowholes and tails and their shadows moving through the water. It was magical to be close enough to be able to hear them breathing.
We were suspicious of the tours that stated that you would definitely see them knowing that there are only between 60 an 70 left in the world and a very endangered species, but so very glad to have our suspicions proved wrong. We knew to ask the boatman to turn off the engine so that we would disturb them a little as possible but he didn’t have to be told he knew too. He also took genuine delight in seeing our reactions and pointing out where they were surfacing despite the fact that he does this everyday. He too loved the experience and wanted us to enjoy it as much as possible.
I never got any great shots but I was so happy to see them I just stopped trying. Sometimes your eyes are the best camera you could ask for and I just didn't want to think that I had missed seeing any of them because I was staring through a lens. I will long remember that one-hour up close with such gentle and shy creatures. They are not at all like the seawater versions that will swim and play with people.
So tomorrow it is back on the buses and onward ho for us. Thanks Kratie but you can keep the wrestling give me the dolphins any day!