The Story of DutchCo Trekking Cambodia

  • A Work of Non-Fiction by Anurak Wangpattana (a satisfied but curious guest)


It was in the summer of 2001 when Rik Hendriks came to Cambodia for the first time. Actually it was his first trip out of Europe. He thought he was a great and experienced explorer. Well, the true story is he used to live in the Netherlands close to the German and Belgium border. He often traveled from one country to another. He traveled to Germany to get his car’s gas tank filled, and to Belgium on nice warm and sunny weekends to enjoy a well chilled Leffe, Chouffe, Affligem or Chimay, some of the many delicious Belgian beers. Of course he didn't drive his car, instead he rode his bicycle (author’s note to reader: as a journalist, I have no proof of this claim, but that’s what Rik told me).


Jungle Expedition Ratanakiri CambodiaOne of the other things that made him think he was an adventurous explorer lays in his childhood. After school, instead of doing his homework, he went trekking in the forest – this may explain his excellent grade point average of 1.2 (out of 4.0). Rik was always equipped with his survival kit;  Swiss army knife, monocular, a compass, some sandwiches in case he got lost (frequently), and, of course, matches (for lighting fires and the occassional pilfered cigarette). Of course, matches were his most important piece of survival equipment, says Rik, 'You can prepare food and it keeps you warm'. When his parents told him the importance of doing his homework for school Rik would always answer, 'I am doing my homework when I go the forest. When I become a forester, I’ll know all about animals and big trees.' What he didn't know at that time was that nobody was waiting for a Rik Ranger to become a professional forester.


Eventually Rik managed to get all (or almost all) of his senses together and studied social pedagogy and became a social care worker. The whole idea behind his idea was to work with, and demand justice for, disadvantaged people. People who, often due to social circumstances, were clinging at the edge of society -- people rejected by modern society, homeless people, alcohol and drug addicts, forensic psychiatric patients, and others. Eventually, after many years, Rik came to the conclusion that he was fighting a never-ending and losing battle. Nobody was waiting for a Rik Robin Hood to help the disadvantaged. But that would change.


Years later, in 2007, Rik returned to Cambodia. He was completely surprised how nature was affected by human greed in the years since he had last been in the country. Where an old Korean bus used to plough its way through a tunnel of lush vegetation, in some places the forest was cleared as far as the eye could see to the horizon.


Even now, after years of “development”, the majority of small-scale farmers and ‘peasants’ still live in poverty; with their children – instead of going to school -- working in the fields harvesting cassava that will be sold to feed industrial pig farms in Europe and China. Health care is an unknown concept or an unaffordable luxury. Here in Cambodia if you don't own a little piece of land for some farming, or you’ve had no education, you are disadvantaged and will probably remain so for the rest of your life. It was at that, as Rik travelled along the dirt tracks that would someday be roads to and from Ban Lung, that DutchCo Trekking Cambodia was born.  Rik decided to keep working in Ratanakiri province. 



What about Rik?

Well, now Rik – older and maybe wiser, thinks he's an experienced explorer. He still likes to go out into the forest exploring new treks, and is still equipped with his 'survival kit' (plus a small bottle of whisky). Only nowadays he has more wisdom (author’s note: again, that's what Rik  claims, but there appears to be much evidence to support this claim). As a man of the forest (not to be mistaken as an Orangutan, which may be a different species) Rik tries to work with indigenous people’s communities to raise awareness phatabout the importance of conserving their forests. While indigenous communities understand the importance of their management and conservation of their forests and natural environment for their cultures and means of livelihood security (e.g., hunting of some wildlife species, collection of vegetation for food and medicine. watershed forests) and for their cultures (spirit forests, cemetery forests, and sacred places), many communities are not aware that saving their natural habitats can create many other benefits,  creating more possibilities for community-based eco-tourism, income generation for community development, and maintaining livelihood and cultural resources that are the foundations for their identity – and survival – as indigenous peoples. Living from nature is a great skill which most ‘modern’ people have forgotten.  Maintaining these indigenous cultures and systems of knowledge is of benefit not only to these communities but to the non-indigenous ‘outsiders’ who have the opportunity to witness and learn from these people; for their own understanding and on behalf of and for future generations. Rik is making an important shift from general manager to volunteer follow warrior of the Tanop Community Based Eco Tourism project. 'It requires a massive amount of time to get the communities involved to protect the Tanop forest besides meetings with other NGO's. I am glad that my wife Phat is very supportive and takes some important tasks out of my hands. Of course our team is also getting more self efficient.' says Rik  


Epilogue (by A. Wangpattana)

Rik explicitly told me not to write this, but I can’t resist. He's also a little proud that DutchCo Trekking Cambodia provides well-paid jobs that support a number of local and indigenous families.  The loyal core team of guides working with DutchCo Trekking Cambodia since the very beginning share Rik’s belief that  'What goes around, comes around!' –guests go trekking and become friends, they share their trekking experiences with other travellers, many of those travellers become guests, then they become friends, and they share their experiences of trekking with DutchCo Trekking with other travellers, who soon become friends, and so on...

Not a bad way of doing business.  And Rik probably has the nicest office you’ve ever seen.  Drop by to say hello and check out the place, even if you don’t want to go on a trek!

   

 

Giant Lagerstroemia tree

 

Soon Available

FP THUMB NAIL

 
 
 

Why Choose Us

DutchCo Trekking Cambodia is driven by respect for nature and people. Aiming at improving the livelihood of Khmer and indigenous people and creating awareness for conservation of natural resources. Honest trek information, customer friendly and not pushy. 

Who Are We

DutchCo Trekking Cambodia is a cooperation between Khmer, Indigenous and Western people. Devoted to nature and keen to take you into Ratanakiri's- and Kampong Speu's Cardamom mountain's -natural recourses in a respectful and responsible way.  

 

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