This is the front cover to my book, Called Away by a Mountain Spirit: Journey to the Green Corridor
Here is a link to the Amazon.com page for my 2012 book Called Away by a Mountain Spirit: Journey to the Green Corridor. The book was originally titled Called Away by a Mountain Spirit: Journeys to the Green Corridor, but due to an unfortunate circumstance, I was forced to cancel the title and re-release it, and sadly, I had to drop the “s” in Journeys in order to make a totally new title. This is a shame because this book is about 3 journeys into a remote area of Cambodia’s Virachey National Park, not just one journey. I also did an interview with Mongabay.com about my book and Virachey NP, which you can find here. You can also have a look at a review of the book published by the Taipei Times here, and one by the Phnom Penh Post here.
Update: Later this year, my book will be republished by Dr. Cicero Books, using the original title Called Away by a Mountain Spirit: Journeys to the Green Corridor. The text, while receiving some much-needed copy editing, will be the same. In the meantime, here are some color photos (they are black and white in the book) and here is also a snippet from the Introduction:
Few people have ever heard of, let alone seen, the sacred Haling-Halang mountains on the Cambodian side of the border with Laos in Ratanakiri province. American pilots might have gazed at them as they dropped cluster bombs from the air over various arteries of the Ho Chi Minh Trail on their way back to Thailand, though according to the local Brao people, they would have missed these two mountains. Fire cannot burn them, and airplanes cannot fly over them, a “magic man” from a village near the Sesan River once told me. But those war pilots must have had one hell of a view. To this day, a carpet of jungle ripples out from a chain of mountains that separate Laos and Cambodia, a vast tropical wilderness that is home to some of the most amazing –and endangered- wildlife on Earth. In the center of the jungle on the Cambodian side is a large golden clearing, a rolling plateau of savanna hills known as the Veal Thom Grasslands, an area so expansive that it takes two days to walk its perimeter. As those pilots dropped their payloads on hidden Viet Cong trails, sub-canopy routes that the Americans could have only been guessing at, I imagine they must have marveled at what lay below them: an endless tapestry of tree crowns bisected by brown rivers, rugged mountains, and the inexplicable grasslands appearing like an amber Serengeti in the dark, elephantine forest.
up in terra-incognita, about 1km north of camp. new terrain. the guides had never been here either
the Veal Thom Grasslands is a different world hidden way up in the jungles of Virachey
“Magic Man” Mr. Noi (left), Kam-La (standing center with Doraemon tee shirt), Mr. Su (purple shirt right)
a section of the upper Gan-Yu River that had never been visited by tourists before. my guides had never been here either.
more terra incongita
my Brao guide Kam-La
Jawbone from a recently sacrificed pig set out to placate the “arah” or spirits who haunt the Brao villages along the Sesan River. Animism still reins supreme out in these parts
the Sesan River, with the high mountains in the background that form the border with Vietnam
Sesan River in Voen Sai District, Ratanakiri
clouded leopard poop
The mountain massif of my dreams: Haling-Halang, a remote, jungle-covered crag that also serves as part of the international border between Laos and Cambodia
after 3 days of trekking, we arrived at Phnom Veal Thom Grasslands, Virachey NP
hanging out with a Brao family in their simple farm home. the young boy behind me is named B’run, and as suffering from a sinus infection. the following year my friend Richard and I sponsored him for a trip to the hospital in Ban Lung, where he was cured
We came upon this beverage tray, constructed for drinking rice wine to appease spirits, had been drained empty by jovial villagers and spirits -and hopefully it cured the sick (cursed) person as well
the creepy doorway to the spirit world
“Magic Man” Kam Van, a Kreung Villager and porter/cook for this trip. He is pictured above in the Veal Thom Grasslands on February 1st, 2012
Kam-La collecting river weed on the O-Pong River, Virachey NP. Local knowledge!
looking towards the barrier mountains
the southern edge of the Veal Thom Grasslands in Virachey NP. A kind of biological frontier
Johnny Walker in bamboo shot glass!
many Brao villagers of Ratanakiri revere Krang Mountain as the abode of spirits, home to a God who can deliver rain in times of drought
only a handful of poachers had ever seen this little beauty before. first time it was ever photographed
lots of pretty butterflies around the swimming hole and camp on the Gan-Yu River
…going out with her grandma (outside frame) to check the nets on the Sesan
heading out for the evening catch
Looking back towards the Sesan River. shot taken from the southern edge of the grasslands
this path looks like it heads straight for Haling-Halang, the big blue mountain in the distance. The spirit mountain is much, much farther than it appears
This guy -and 10 companions- came floating down the O-Pong River in January 2010 with a bamboo raft full of luxury rosewood
no doubt, they put in some hard work to get this wood (Prach estimated that it took them 14 days to go deep into the jungle to find it), but their actions do a lot of harm to the ecology of the jungle
this was the oldest guy of the convoy and he brought up the rear. I am pretty sure that he was the kingpin of the operation
American B-52s dropped bombs near Kompong Commune back in the 1960s and 70s. One piece of unexploded ordnance was found by villagers, taken apart, and made into bowls, like this one, which I ate dinner out of
an animist Tampuan cemetery along the Sesan River in Ratanakiri
Tampuan children play on illegally felled luxury rosewood in a forest outside in O-Chum district