‘That looks more like a turtle than a rabbit’ – Cupcake Woman, boat ride to Rabbit Island, Cambodia

We said our goodbyes to Jasmine Valley, and made the short trip off the coast of Kep to Rabbit Island. We’d been recommended the island as a place to stay by our friends Ben and Jo back home, informing us that this almost untouched land mass 20 minutes off the coast was a romantic and peaceful paradise. Electricity ran through generators for only 4 hours a day and you were never surrounded by more than 20 people during your stay.

As our boat stuttered to a halt about 10 meters from the shore, Stannie, Sara and Rick studied the surroundings to plan an escape route onto land for their handicapped passenger. Although I am always loathe for anyone to label me a hero, I bravely decided that I would make my own way onto the beach, jumping off the side of the boat, landing on one leg into the water, then hopping like crazy until I hit sand. Whilst I could see there was genuine concern on the faces of the Politz-Damergi’s and Stan to my plight, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was hope of a comedic coming together of Indian body mass and unforgiving seawater in a most undignified manner. They can confirm or deny this, I stand by my story.

We set about finding accommodation for our two-night stay. By accommodation, I mean wooden huts on stilts, a stone’s throw from the water, with a bed, insect net and en-suite water bucket. We picked two magnificent looking structures next to each other, with matching mini-verandas overlooking vast ocean.

After a spot of brunch, and once Stan had cleaned up my injury-laden foot in the medical centre (our mini-veranda), we decided a light swim would be in order. I looked on forlornly as Rick and Sara frolicked around in the warm, inviting water, followed by Stannie.

Sod this. I’m going in.

I probably didn’t say ‘sod’. I’d like to think I’m a bit more down with the kids than that but I know my mum reads this blog. So ‘sod’ will be the preferred vernacular in this instance. Love you Mum x

With the A Team music escaping from lips, Stan and I skilfully set about building an airtight, waterproof contraption for my left foot. One plastic bag and hairband later, I too was gracefully gliding through the beautiful water, diving to the sea bed, breaching the surface like an acrobatic marine demi-god, playfully chasing Stannie further out to sea, blissfully unaware that the moment my left foot entered the water the carrier bag soaked through. She must’ve not put the hairband on correctly…

After our aquatic excursions, Sara and Rick lay out in the sun on a deck in front of their hut, whilst Stan and I snuggled on the hammock on our veranda. A rainstorm halted proceedings momentarily but the sun burst through the clouds once again, moments later. A bandage change and dinner later, and with electricity out at 10pm, we said our goodnights and went to dreamland.

The next day was pretty much spent as the previous. Instead this time, Rick and I made the bold decision to hire two large inflatable tyres. It’s amazing how much fun you can have with a rubber ring, even as an adult. Apart from when the tide washes it up onto shore, with a struggling, beached invalid sprawled across it, desperately trying to keep his foot dry. With the injury and general lack of any sort of dexterity (I’d also been carrying a bit of ‘holiday weight’ at this time), Stannie manfully attempted to get me to my feet with a semblance of dignity, as Rick stood about 10 feet from us, snapping away on his camera. ‘I would help but I’ve GOT to get pictures of this…’

The girls went for a massage further along the beach. Rick and I drifted slowly in and out of snoozes on our respective hammocks, in-between some light reading and looking over and nodding at each other in approval of our surroundings.

‘Could be worse, couldn’t it?’

Each patch of huts had their own family of dogs, and much to our delight, our matriarch had given birth to a beautiful brood of little puppies, of which we casually ‘liberated’ a couple to play with in our respective huts.

As you can probably tell, there isn’t a whole lot to do on Rabbit Island. This is precisely what makes it so wonderful. If we didn’t have aspirations of changing the world in some way or another, I could envisage the four of us could’ve quite happily spent a lifetime here.

After dinner and a game of cards, we once again departed to our huts after lights out. Only on this particular night, there would be a stunning array of lights around the island. Sara’s Mum had called earlier in the day to warn us that there was a tsunami hitting the region a few hundred miles away, and to stay on our guard. Had we been on the mainland, this wouldn’t have caused too much bother, but currently residing on an island at sea-level with little chance of any contingency plan, it was slightly unsettling.

A storm hit at about midnight. I could feel the almost horizontal rain hitting our bodies in the hut through gaps in the roof and walls.. Stan has never been overly enamoured by thunder, so I tried my best to protect her from the elements using bits of clothing and our bed sheet. Every now and then, the pitch black atmosphere around us would suddenly break out into white light, casting arachnid-shaped shadows across the hut walls.

We decided to check out Mother Nature’s show from our veranda. Even with the pounding rain and hostile wind, we were treated to a most extraordinary natural show. We gazed at the sky for what felt like hours, but was probably only a few minutes, cuddled together and inviting a few of the shivering canines to share our body warmth.

The next morning we made the trip back to the mainland. Stannie and I would spend one more night at Jasmine, whilst the Politz-Damergi’s were making their way back to Sihanoukville to visit Rick’s Dad. Having eaten lunch and then entertained a couple of cheeky siblings with a newly invented card game called, ‘Whatever Card The Kid Has They Win’, we embraced our wonderful friends and waved them off to carry on their own globe-trotting journey.

After an unsuccessful attempt to seek out and catch giant centipedes back at Jasmine, we ate another hearty dinner and chatted to a Kiwi family who regularly visited Jasmine. We found out they were personally funding a trip back to Kep for a Cambodian couple they had met in New Zealand. I won’t go into too much detail about the reasons for this so as to protect privacy, but as I am writing this having spent a few months in Auckland, I can tell you this type of generosity is not uncommon amongst Kiwis.

Further along the coast, Kampot would be our next destination. But for tonight, we lay in our bed surrounded by the noisy gibbons in the jungle and treated ourselves to a few episodes of The American Office, which by now, Stannie had her own lyrics to add to the theme music.

‘I aaammm going to the oooofiiiicce. It iiiiis, going to be fuuuun……’


S+R xxx