A team of gardeners risked their lives, climbing up ladders to reach the top of a tower at the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, in order to cut away sapling trees – which could destroy the ancient temple.
Lune Lun, the head gardener, explained on tonight’s BBC‘s Sacred Wonders that if the roots of the sapling trees grow any more then they could force one of the towers to crash down.
Many, including Lune, believe that spirits live in the temple and if the towers are damaged then the spirits will leave forever.
The gardeners go on to climb the towers, barefoot and without ropes, in order to cut down away the leaves and weeds – but one fatal slip could have been life threatening.
Sacred Wonders visits religious sites all over the world and explores their different traditions and tonight they started with Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
At the beginning of the show they joined Lune and his team of gardeners as they start their ascent at 5am up the towers of the ancient temple in Cambodia.
500 years ago the ancient city was abandoned and became engulfed by jungle, and the gardeners now have a daily battle to get rid of weeds and plants which start to grow on the temple.
‘If we don’t face up to the dangers – we won’t be able to protect the towers,’ Lune admitted.
The tower is 65 feet high and the team use ladders to climb it and cut away any leaves which are growing on the tower. As the stones are thousands of years old they can’t attach ropes to it.
Lune stops at one point, as he feels he’s not fit enough to make the final ascent and his apprentices carry on without him.
The team have to be careful about loose rocks – and check each one to make sure they don’t come away from the temples structure.
To reach a section, where their ladders aren’t long enough, the men have to tie two together with rope.
When Lune’s apprentice gets up there he walks dangerously close to the side of the tower, barefoot, as he inspects it and cuts down some shrubs.
He also goes up even further – but as the part of the tower is too narrow for a ladder he uses a bamboo pole to climb further up, sweating as he goes from the heat – and pulls the ladder up after him.
As they find the final leaves from a sapling trees roots their gardening is finished for the year and they then have to make the dangerous climb back down.