Today we separated off into group with most of use heading out to plant trees, while the remaining few cut sugar cane and prepared the ‘blessed’ monk scarves, for the afternoon blessing of the trees. People in Cambodia are respectful of religion and holy or blessed artifacts. The blessed orange cloth of a Buddhist monk is sacred and if it is tied around a tree, offers it protection, as it would be sacrilege to cut down a blessed tree. Everyone was instructed to tie a piece of scarf around a tree, high up, so that it would not be destroyed by fire during the dry season. As we walked through the sanctuary during the week, we have noticed many ‘blessed’ trees. This will help to prevent illegal logging of the mature trees, and prevent damage to the young saplings that have recently been planted.
After lunch we caught up with Arun Rai and her ‘mahout’ in the forest. We followed them through the forest/jungle, tying the blessed scarves to trees as we went. Everyone felt a sense of achievement as we set out to save the forest, one tree at a time. After following Arun Rai for quite some time, she took us to the bathing dam, where once again we had the privilege of bathing/washing her. At times it seemed like the volunteers were receiving more buckets of water than the elephant! When Arun Rai was done and had exited the dam, it was our cue to head back to camp, where we prepared sugar cane and picked papayas to feed to the elephants. Carrying the large baskets of food to the elephants is quite the experience. When they see you, they quicken their pace, to get to you as quickly as possible. Someone described it as an excited oversized puppy! Elephants seem to like their treats in the following order: papaya, banana and, lastly, sugarcane… They love their sweets!
Once the elephants had eaten their food, we headed back to shower and relax before dinner. Sadly this is our last dinner here at the Cambodian Animal Sanctuary. The food here has to be experienced to be believed. We are trying to convince the cook and Chet the conservation supervisor of the sanctuary, to produce a recipe book that we can purchase, so that we can attempt to replicate the yummy meals ourselves, and at the same time, contribute/donate to the upkeep of the Sanctuary.
The evening we had a bonfire celebration. People toasted marshmallows, played games and told stories. Patrick had played choreographer throughout the week, teaching several volunteers a dance to the song “Timber” and tonight was the perfect time to show the entire group their dance routine. Holly also treated us to an acapella performance of “I see fire.” People in the group said that it gave them goosebumps. After a few more games it was time for bed. We have one last day at the animal Sanctuary and then we return to Siem Reap.