By: gregmccann

Jan 19 2012

Category: Uncategorized

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Focal Length:72mm
Shutter:1/0 sec

singing the forest to life

A gibbon belting out a tune at the top of a mountain ridge at around 8am on the O-Pong River just outside the national park boundaries. There were two of them, but the other slipped away before I could get a clear shot. This pic was taken in January 2010; in January 2011 we camped in almost the same spot and woke up to gibbons singing again. Maybe they were the same ones? For me, gibbons are the highlight of a trek in the  jungle. The most beautifully exotic sound I have ever heard. An excerpt from my forthcoming book:


I first had the idea to go trekking in this place –which is known today as Virachey National Park- when flipping through a Lonely Planet guidebook in search jungles, wildlife and animists. The park’s location wedged up in the extreme northeast of Cambodia cast a spell on me. I dreamed of a forgotten chunk of the Annamite Range buffeted by wild mountains on both the Laos and Vietnam sides of the border, a world of tree fairies and mountain spirits hiding out in a region also known as the “Dragon’s Tail.” But it was, more than anything, the suggestion in the guidebook that the park was so vast, remote and still largely unexplored that Javan rhinoceros were rumored to be living in the lost canyons deep inside the forest. Could there really be a place so wild and forgotten that “extinct” or critically endangered species –remnant populations which once roamed the breadth of Indochina- still clung to existence there? However, it wasn’t that I was particularly interested in rhinos; I was captivated by the notion that there was a secret mountainous landscape far enough away from civilization where the rare fauna of Southeast Asia was holding on, a place where at the first light of dawn a chorus of gibbon calls rang out over the din of unknown rivers and hidden waterfalls, where honking flocks of Great hornbills echoed through the rosy morning air currents, and where elusive species such as the Indochinese tiger, clouded leopard…and Javan rhinoceros, cautiously bent down at unnamed streams for a morning drink, carefully scanning the brush for signs of danger. This would be a landscape not seen –outside of a handful of poachers and rangers- by human eyes in decades.


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