Hailsham and Lewes trekkers take part in Cambodia Challenge 2017 for Chestnut Tree

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There’s a rumble in the jungle and we aren’t sure if it’s one of our fellow trekkers wrestling with a tree laden with red ants that has fallen in their path or a water buffalo coming out to see what 42 pale faced, hot and sweaty fundraisers are doing in their territory.

Welcome to Cambodia, where the temperature is 41 degrees and the humidity is a stifling 80 per cent.

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All of us are here to raise much needed funds for Chestnut Tree Children’s Hospice, which looks after children from across east and west Sussex with life limiting illnesses and their families.

Our charity challenge began after a 14 hour flight from the UK to Siem Reap, the ancient capital of the mighty Khmer Empire.

For those that don’t know, Cambodia is nestled in between Vietnam to the right, Thailand to the left and Laos above and is rebuilding itself after a troubled history which has seen war, military action and millions of Cambodians killed by the Khmer Rouge regime led by the ruthless Pol Pot.

Despite the country’s troubles and poverty spots, the Cambodians are happy and welcoming and as we make our way out of Siem Reap through small rural villages and are greeted with waves and happy smiling faces.

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These lovely people have nothing but are willing to share everything and their generosity is tested when on our first day of trekking, the heavens open and we are forced to take cover in a small house built on stilts to protect it from the recent rainy season and floods.

Undaunted we continue: wading through flooded rice fields all the while swapping stories on what has motivated us to come hundreds of miles away from home to raise money for the hospice.

Among the trekkers are Jason Foulkes, who is from Lewes and a massive supporter of Lewes Football Club, and works in Uckfield, Sue Savage, a doctors’ receptionist at St Andrew’s Surgery in Lewes who lives in Brighton, and Hailsham trekkers Claire Lambert and Jo Smith.

Claire works as a beautician and Jo has already signed up for the next Chestnut Challenge which is in Peru in 2018.

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And we mustn’t forget the lovely trio, Kerry O’Neill, Juliette Macpherson and Lucy Bone from Chestnut Tree, who join us as representatives from the charity.

By the time we arrive at our first camp for the night in a tent under the stars, we all toast ourselves with a small can of Angkor beer and after a three course meal of mango salad with seafood, chicken with Khmer spices and fresh fruit - at our camp at Wat Preash Bat Tum Tham, we fall asleep within the grounds of a temple.

Our second day of trekking was hot and sunny day but we managed 17kms under our belts.

The day ended at the Beng Mealea Temple, which has been bombed and left to nature. Absolutely stunning.

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Once again we were in one man tents within a temple. The facilities are basic and the now infamous ‘hole in the ground’ toilet is something I have, of sorts, become used to. That and the trough filled with cold water and a plastic saucepan, which is our daily shower.

Wednesday - our third day of trekking - was tough, very tough as we climbed Phnom Kulen and trekked more kilometres than I can remember over seven hours.

The climb up the 386 metre high Phnom Kulen, the most sacred mountain in Cambodia which translates to Mountain of Lychees, was hard. The terrain was difficult and varied and it proved a real challenge for many of us.

The views were rewarding though - as was the nightly message of thanks and good luck we received in a round up from the hospice each evening telling us what the children had been doing while we were trekking.

After a traditional Cambodian barbecue and dancing performed by the locals we had another night’s camping close to a beautiful river setting.

Day 4 of the challenge was the toughest yet and if Wednesday’s effort was a half marathon, Thursday was the full on Beachy Head Marathon with us descending down Phnom Kulen via 1,000 steps and rocky terrain through the jungle.

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Cambodia Challenge SUS-170112-190145001

The 80 per cent humidity and 40 plus degree temperatures have been our enemies every step of the way but we were rewarded with a visit to a temple with a reclining Buddha where we could lay lotus flowers bought at a local market in honour of the children receiving such wonderful love and care at Chestnut Tree. At another stop we saw a beautiful waterfall before continuing on through small villages where the children come out to say hello and ask us our names.

Every expedition needs a medic and looking after us every step of the way is Dr Katherine Kabala, originally from Bristol and now living in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Katherine holds a regular foot clinic every day and is on hand to deal with any ailments which have included poorly tummies, sun stroke and man-flu.

Also providing friendly encouragement along the way are our excellent tour guides from Global Adventure Challenges, Teri Bexon from Ferring and Craig Wilson from Chester.

Our reward at the end of our five day trek is a speeding tuk-tuk ride and tour of the 12th century Angkor Wat, which translates as city monastery, was originally a Hindu temple and is now a popular destination on the tourist trail in Cambodia.

Already many of us are lookming at our next challenge. Did somebody say the Inca Trail?

The team’s Justgiving page is still open and donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/chestnuttreehouse/cambodia Jason Foulkes

Sue Savage

Claire Lambert and Jo Smith

The team’s Justgiving page is still open and donations can be made at

https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/chestnuttreehouse/cambodia

Annemarie, Jo and Claire SUS-170112-192151001

Annemarie, Jo and Claire SUS-170112-192151001

Teri Bexon and Craig Wilson from Global Adventure Challenges SUS-171127-164623001

Teri Bexon and Craig Wilson from Global Adventure Challenges SUS-171127-164623001

Our medic Katherine Kabala SUS-170112-192813001

Our medic Katherine Kabala SUS-170112-192813001