18th FEBUARY 2012 – 18th MARCH 2012
DAY 323: HUC MON –BAVET (CAMBODIA)
START: 11:00 – FINISH: 15:00 – DISTANCE: 56 KM – RIDE TIME: 2H 55
For some reason I’m just not in a hurry to leave Vietnam. I procrastinated till 11 a.m. this morning before making a run for the border.
In the end it was only 3 hours. I stopped and spent all my dong. Then I had a surprisingly very easy crossing only taking 15 minutes. The only scare I had was when I was cycling away from the Cambodian customs and a bloody dog started barking at me. I cycled 2 km from the border and grabbed a hotel. I hope it is not going to be a common occurrence in Cambodia. There was a two-hour power cut in the evening. I couldn’t stay in the room because it was too dark and too hot so I had to sit under the emergency lighting in the corridor.
Day 324: BAVET – TAKOK PAGODA
START: 8:30 – FINISH: 15:30 – DISTANCE: 90 KM – RIDE TIME: 4H 55
Breakfast was included in the hotel this morning so I sat down to enjoy while reading the paper online. That was short lived because there was another power cut. Seems like power cuts could be a common thing in this part of the world.
The first thing I noticed about the roads here is that they are a bit of a step down from Vietnam. The sign-posts are all overgrown or they are well worn with the paint gone. There are more pot-holes to watch for and in some parts the hard shoulder has gone. There is definitely a very rural feel. The roads are quiet and the drivers are much more courteous and I appreciate the fact that they know how to use their horn. I have had a slight ear-ache in my left ear for over a week.
I think it has something to do with being blasted by Vietnamese drivers with loud car horns. Early afternoon I came across Takok Pagoda. I stopped and entered by a back gate. I had a wander round and thought this would be an awesome place to camp. I needed to eat first so I cycled half a km and stopped for some tasty rice and marinated pork and ice tea all for $1. I love eating in the country. After dinner, I went back up the road and entered the Pagoda again. I went to the back of the Pagoda and put my tent up between some small temples. Soon after the tent was up I had two monks come over and have a look.
They didn’t say much and left. Then some local kids arrived for a look as well. They spoke a little English and lived with the nuns so they could attend the local high school that was nearby. More monks arrived to check out the tent. They were very curious. They had never seen a tent before. It was a beautiful clear night under the stars.
DAY 325: TAKOK PAGODA – PHNOM PENH
START: 7:30 – FINISH: 14:00 – DISTANCE: 84 KM – RIDE TIME: 5H 00
It was a beautiful sunrise this morning and the small temples were a lovely back drop.
I cycled back to the restaurant I went to in the afternoon for a yummy breakfast. I even got a take-away for my lunch. The number one road was in a much better condition today with not as many pot-holes and the sign-posting has improved. Then it was a surprise when the number one highway came to an abrupt end and a ferry was required to cross the river.
The ferry was dirt cheap at 5 cents. Hanging around the ferry were a lot of dirty and young children begging for money which shows how much poorer Cambodia is compared to Vietnam. There were lots and lots of temples along the way which is a good sign as there will be lots of good camping spots to come. Since Cambodia is riddled with land mines I need to be a bit careful where I start banging tent pegs in the ground.
The police here must be pretty useless. I was cycling through a check-point when they went to stop a motor-bike. He just accelerated and weaved and swerved around 3 policemen who tried to stop him. They didn’t even bother chasing him. Arriving in Phnom Penh it was difficult to find a cheap guest-house. Most wanted $15………….in the end I settled for a room with no windows and not much more for $6. I will be looking for a new room tomorrow.
DAY 326, 327, 328: PHNOM PENH – REST DAYS
Day 326: It is very hot and humid here………..34 degrees you are just constantly sweating. You need to have 3 showers a day. Looked for a new guest-house this morning. But couldn’t find a cheap room. So I will have to spend another night in the sweat box. No window and a piddley fan. It is a shame Cambodia uses the USD………because they think they can charge European prices. Cambodia is a poorer country than Vietnam.
But it is more expensive. If you go to take money out of an ATM they want to charge you $5USD for the privilege. I’m taking advantage of couch surfing again. I met up with Miracle a Chinese girl who has been living in Phnom Penh for the past 4 months. We went for a local iced coffee before she took me to the only free ATM in Phnom Penh. We then had some very good cheap local food in the market……..it was great to be eating away from the backers street. We walked back to the guest-house along the promenade. It was busy with lots of locals and their familes having picnics and just relaxing. We also passed through the park where the young people were dancing to modern music.
Day 327: Finally got out of the sweat box and moved to the Lazy Gecko guest-house across the road. For an extra $1 I now have hot water, TV and a window. It hasn’t been too often that I run into someone again. Today I met Elodie from France again. I met her previously twice in China and once in Vietnam. I was in Cambodia 7 years ago……………..it has changed a lot since. I feel fortunate to have seen it then.
I did all the main sights last time I was here so I have no real need to visit much. I am quite happy just to walk around and take photos. Like Vietnam, Cambodia was also a French colony and there are still a few buildings left over from that error.I went with Elodie to the market for lunch and showed her the golden money machine. I am in a real relax mode. But I need to get organized and get myself a plan for the next 3 weeks. I could just cycle out of Cambodia in a week. But I would like to make the most of my visa and have a look around and hopefully see some places I hadn’t been to on my previous trip.
Day 328: Was another pretty chilled-out day. Started with the usual routine of going two doors down for a big breakfast and then around 12 p.m. walked up to the central market with Elodie and Fee. It was really hot and we were constantly looking for shade to get some relief from the burning sun. Our route to the market took us along the river promenade which is always busy. We stopped at the old market for a good street
lunch. Pork, rice and pineapple for a $1. The central market is big and very touristy. The girls all bought something. I left empty-handed. The Wat Phnom was close so paid it a visit before getting a motor-cycle taxi back to the guest-house…………..Just too hot to walk. Late afternoon, I met Miracle for an local iced coffee. We then had a short walk along the river up to Dream Land, Phnom Penh’s amusement park. It was quite interesting and funny having a wander around. It was definitely more for the locals than the tourists.
Day 329: Today I had one of the laziest days of my trip so far. It went like this. I was still up at 7 a.m. to say goodbye to Elodie and Fee. I then played on the computer for a few hours, catched up on Emails, updated the blog, uploaded photos and calculated distances on Google maps.
Went out for breakfast about 10 a.m…………………..came back and played on the computer again………………went out for lunch at 2 p.m……………..came back and slept till 5 p.m. It is so hot outside 35 degrees and humid. Played on the computer again till 8 p.m. Back out for dinner and then back for an early night. Tomorrow I plan to leave Phnom Penh and head south visiting Kampot Kep and maybe Sihanoukville. Plan to go out and stay a night on a small island near Kep. Will then head back to Phnom Penh.
DAY 330: PHNOM PEHN – SRE KHLONG
START: 9:00 – FINISH: 17:00 – DISTANCE: 117 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H
I had planned to beat the heat and hit the road early. But by the time I had my full English breakfast. It was 9 a.m. Saturday morning it was very busy with loads of traffic. Thought I had picked the right road to leave town. Soon discovered I was on Highway 4 which was the road I was going to come back on to Phnom Penh after my little 10 day loop.
Not a major problem. Just means I will be doing everything in reverse. The road got a little quieter the further I got away from Phnom Penh. It was very green and very flat. The houses were all made of wood and perched on stilts. In the distance you could see some mountain ranges. It was a hot day. You breathe in the air and it is hot……..I found myself drinking litres of water. After 50 km I got that hissing sound. Flat tyre number 27………I looked for some shade to change it straight away……not much fun stuck out in the hot sun. I had two near misses today. Nothing serious. The first was a red squirrel that ran out in front of me and the second was a large lizard. Both had lucky escapes. Come 5 p.m. I was ready to camp.
I spotted another temple which was perfect. And even more perfect and convenient was a row of little restaurants opposite. So I headed there first for a feed. Rice and marinated pork is the best meal in Cambodia. Good value for money at a $. During dinner there was a heavy rain shower and a sign of things to come……. After the rain had eased I headed over to the temple. I saw one monk and tried to talk to him but he didn’t speak any English. I don’t think he really knew what I was up to. The temple looked as though it was still in the construction stage although construction must have stopped many years ago. I headed round the back of the temple and put my tent up in front of a 20 meter tall Buddah.
Then a local turned up carrying my backpack which I had left in the restaurant. He asked surprisingly «You sleeping here ». Soon after the local left, the monk came round for a look……….with the prospect of more rain.he suggested I should camp under cover next to the Buddah statue. The same suggestion I had at the last temple I camped. I left the fly off the tent as long as I could. It is so much nicer with it off. Not as hot. But the rain did return and I quickly got it on. Just as well because it was a heavy downpour…….My poor tent leaked a little. I didn’t mind because it was quite refreshing since it was still so hot.
DAY 331: SRE KHLONG – SIHANOUKVILLE
START: 7:00 – FINISH: 17:00 – DISTANCE: 117 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 42
Being on the road you can’t be as clean as you want. It was rather unpleasant putting back on yesterday’s damp, dirty and sweaty clothes………….Last night it was so hot I slept with the tent door open…………just to get some fresh air. I probably shouldn’t if I don’t want any unwanted visitors in the night. This morning I got a nice little reminder when I saw rather a large dead snake on the road.
Yesterday I was exhausted and today with the heat it was tough going as well. After about 70 km……..every km seemed so much harder. I guess the head wind didn’t help. At 2 p.m. I stopped again for a break next to a small lake. I had only had lunch an hour earlier. I was starving so I ripped into a packet of cheese crackers, some bananas I picked up yesterday and some sweets. While I was there two sisters arrived and invited me to join them for lunch. They spoke some English which was good. They kindly shared their rice, pork, and gherkins and salad. One of the girls worked with kids with HIV. After lunch the road started to be a bit hilly and I had a few climbs. When I finally arrived in Sihanourville I was completely exhausted and overheated. I took a cold shower to cool down…………..no matter how long I stayed in the shower,
I came out feeling hot. Top of the hill I stopped at a guest-house $7 a night with no internet, so I kept going. Got to the Monkey $ : dorm and internet which is good………… But my first impressions of Sihanourville are not great. It is so touristy I thought of leaving first thing tomorrow………..but I need a day of rest.
DAY 332: SIHANOUKVILLE – REST DAY
Sihanoukville is massively touristic. The whole beach front is filled from one end to the other with bars and restaurants and the beach is filled with sun loungers from one end to the other.
I went down to the beach at 8 a.m. for breakfast……………..It was dead with no-one around. Most tourists spend the night buzzing………..which gives you the place to yourself for at least a few hours……………Believe me, come midday that sure changes. I lazed around for the morning. In the afternoon I walked along the beach and past the bars and up over the hill to the much quieter bay. I then came back for lunch and treated myself to a foot massage. Then thought maybe it wasn’t a wise idea since I am cycling tomorrow. Was actually a bit sore afterwards. Went for a swim late afternoon. The water was pretty warm with a few waves. The day was finished back on the beach for a very nice BBQ. Young kids walk up and down the beach selling fireworks to the tourists who buy them and then shoot them out to sea.
DAY 333: SIHANOUKVILLE – KEP
START: 7:30 – FINISH: 17:00 – DISTANCE: 121 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 30
I’m changing beaches today. Swapping the very touristic Sihanoukville for the not so touristic Kep. Just have to cycle 121 km to get there. 7:30 a.m. I started pushing my bike up the very steep hill to get out of Sihanoukville. Got to the top I was sweating profusely. Pulled into a local restaurant and had an awesome breakfast. For only 1$ I got marinated pork and rice with salad, a small soup and unlimited ice tea.
Cycling on I passed the very big Anchor brewery and there were about 50 lorries waiting outside to be loaded. Also past a few large shoe factories. Got to the turn-off where I left the 4 for the 3., not before a quick ice coffee and two pieces of corn on the cob for a $. After many years Cambodia is getting its railway back.
It has been completely ripped up and is getting rebuilt The road ran parallel most of the way to Kampot with the railway on one side and the ocean on the other. It was a lovely day cycling, very green……….running to the ocean and lots of little villages that were built over little inlets with fishing boats tied up.
I got to Kampot at 2 p.m. Will return here for a few days after two nights in Kep. Was overheating so stopped for another iced coffee and jug full of iced tea. I found a really nice guest-house right on the beach. The sunset was very nice
DAY 334: BOAT TRIP TO KOH TONSAY (RABBIT ISLAND)
I decided to leave the bicycle at the guest-house and get a boat out this morning to Rabbit Island which is about 25 mins away. I didn’t realize that till after I had checked in that the pier was a further 8 km away.
So at 7:30 a.m. I set off. It was an interesting walk up to the pier. Along the way were the remains of many ruined villas with large sections left over from the days of the French. It wasn’t a large boat to the island………….it carried just 6 passengers and was run by what looked like two weed wacks with propellers on the end.
There is not much on the island just 5 restaurants. Each restaurant has 5 or 6 bungalows to rent. There is only electric on the island for 4 hours a day (6 p.m. –10 p.m.). I got a $5 bungalow………..to shower I had to go outside and use a saucepan and a small basin. After breakfast I set off to walk the 7k m around the island. It was such a shame that there was just rubbish everywhere. The sandy beach in front of the bungalows disappeared into rocks and Mangroves.
On the other side of the island were some small huts and fishing boats. I found a quiet bit of sand and had a nice little sleep. Finishing my lap of the island I then went for a nice swim. The water is warm. Finished the day by watching a nice sunset during dinner.
DAY 335: RABBIT ISLAND
There was a thunder and lightning storm in the night…. …………in the morning it was a beautiful and clear day. I got up and went straight for a swim……I was expecting it to be cold.
It was just as warm as yesterday. The water was dead flat and you can walk out a few hundred meters along the flat sandy bottom. Breakfast was going well until I heard a noise. I stood up and covered my head and I was then hit on the back by a falling phong from a coconut tree………….It was a close one. The branch only grazed me. At first I thought it was a falling coconut……………I thought it wise to move. 10 minutes later there was a large thud when a coconut fell out of a nearby tree.
The day just fly so quick. You have a swim. Have some lunch…..have a sleep and then it was 4 p.m. and time to catch the boat back…………I waited 10 minutes and then I decided…………….ahhhhhhhhh……..I stay another night. So I checked back in and went straight for another swim. It is just so relaxed and quiet on the island. It is great. Got to see another nice sunset and then there was a lot of thunder and lightning in the distance………..but no rain.
DAY 336: RABBIT ISLAND – KEP
Was up at 7 a.m. and straight in the ocean for a morning swim. The water is so clear and still I found a star fish that was as big as my foot I didn’t dare pick it up.
Afterwards I had breakfast with Ann from Switzerland and we then climbed to the top of the island where we found an old bunker and trenches left over from when the Vietnamese invaded. The trail was very steep but it was covered by the jungle so it was nice to have the shade. There was a nice view from the top of the surrounding islands and also Kep.
After we returned it was straight back in the ocean, more eating and a pleasant wait for the returning boat to Kep. Walking back the remaining 3 km after Ann kindly gave me a lift to her guest-house in her Tuk Tuk. I had a French woman call me over after I showed some interest in what she was eating……………..She invited me to have some……………I said I don’t like snails. She said have a closer look…………ahhhhhhhhhhh I won’t be having any of that either. It was the little chick out of an egg. The soup wasn’t much better………it was fish eyes. Luckily I met Ann for dinner and we went to a nice restaurant on the water and there were no surprises.
DAY 337: KEP
This morning I rewrote my programme for the next two weeks……….I decided I will have a day exploring Kep before going to Kampot. I will now not also return to Phnom Penh. Instead I am going to take some smaller roads and go over the Cardamom mountains on the way to Battambang. I continued the trend by going for a 7 a.m. swim in the ocean……..followed by a quick dip in the pool.
Then midday I finally set out to explore Kep following the coast road I got to the crab market which was a hive of activity. The beach was busy as well because there were about 10 coach loads of school kids that had come to clean the beach. 5 years ago no-one lived in Kep – the town was a seaside resort that was completely destroyed in 1979 leaving 135 villas in ruins.
I went round and had a look at about 50 of them. I was climbing over one when I was about to step on to its old porch and got the shock of my life when a very thin but long 1.2 meter snake that was sunbathing in the hot sun took off. Thankfully in the opposite direction ! I jumped back…..and didn’t bother looking any more at the villa and got back on the road and headed for the market. Bought some fresh pineapple and mango. After walking 8 km to the market I got a Tuk Tuk back. Finished the day by having dinner with two French girls Christelle and Virginie who I met on Rabbit Island.
DAY 338: KEP – KAMPOT
START: 9:30 – FINISH: 11:10 – DISTANCE: 25 KM – RIDE TIME: 1H 37
I love being by the beach. Soon as I wake up I go straight for an early morning swim. The water is just never cold. Was very tempted to spend another day on the beach. But I have to move on……..even if it is only 25 km to Kapot. It’s at least in the right direction. Short cycle allowed for a late start.
9:30 a.m. I set off and did a slight detour down to the crab market for some deep fried banana. It was then an easy 90-minute cycle to Kampot. No beach. But at least a river. Checked into a $2.50 dorm room at the cozy elephant……….completely full of French. I met Christelle in the afternoon and we went for a walk around the town crossed over the river on the old bridge which was made up of lots of bits and pieces. We ended up at the market before heading back to the river for a much needed drink. Kampot is a pretty dirty town
and in the end not really very much to see. It does have some character. We were searching for some good street food when we saw a 200 mm centipede or millipede. I shone my torch on it as it went under the tables. When the owner saw it she jumped back. She then came back with a big stick and killed it. Then a few locals were all over to have a look at it. I think it may have been slightly poisonous.
DAY 339: KAMPOT – REST DAY
It takes a lot to get me back on my bike on a rest day………………..but today Christelle did just that.
In the end she quite easily got me to join her for a 30 km round-trip ride out to the secret lake. Secret probably because it is not well sign-posted and not even the locals knew where it was when asked.
Our first stop was a local restaurant just out of town…………..rice, pork, vegetables and iced tea for 75 cents. We then followed the main road in the direction of Kep before pulling off and following a colourful red dirt road which took us through the beautiful countryside, passing through small and interesting villages. It was very hot again
We saw another dead snake on the road. Now 7 in total for Cambodia. Only one live one.
When we got to the lake we tried to cycle around it……..but the trail was too bad. It was very sandy, muddy and very rugged. The lake was also very big and would have taken hours to cycle round. In the end we returned to the small restaurant for some cane juice and sat in the hammocks and relaxed before heading back to Kampot. We needed to be back by 12:30 so Christelle could catch her bus.
On the way back we took another detour to visit the salt farm and its many salt ponds.
After a fun morning with Christelle, sadly said goodbye as she caught her bus. The rest of the day I just ate and got ready for tomorrow and the 245 km ride to Koh Kong.
DAY 340: KAMPOT – ANDOUG TUEK
START: 7:50 – FINISH: 16:15 – DISTANCE: 140KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 35
This morning I left Kampot on road 3 in the direction of Koh Kong. I am planning to go to Koh Kong which is on the border with Thailand. Instead of crossing over I am actually planning to take some small dirt roads and head over the Cardamom mountains on the way to Battembang. I was going for it today. I reached the crossroads where the 3 joins the 4. Stopped here for an early lunch. Followed the 4 road to Phnom Penh for 40 km before turning off to the 48 road.
Straight away noticed how much more quieter this road is. In the middle of the day it is too hot to cycle and come the early afternoon I was exhausted. Around 2 p.m., it started to rain hard. I pulled into the first roadside shop. It was bucketing down…….I ended up having a sleep on a bench seat while I waited it out. After the rain I only cycled for another hour.
Thought I’d better have some food before I found somewhere to camp. I asked the restaurant if I could camp there. They suggested I sleep in one of the hammocks. So I decided I would. After a 140 km day, I was sleeping before the sun went down. Woke up an hour later and was told I could have a shower I did……….it was the saucepan and a barrel of water behind the restaurant. About 8 p.m. I was thankful I wasn’t in my tent because it started to bucket it down again. I don’t think my tent would have survived.
DAY 341: ANDOUG TUEK – KOH KONG
START: 7:30 – FINISH: 17:30 – DISTANCE: 102 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 45
Some days there is just nothing to write about. Today is not one of them. My sleep in the hammock wasn’t too bad. In fact after the rain it got quite cold. I stayed for breakfast at the restaurant.
Pork and rice again and then continued along road 48. It very soon entered the national park. Forests appeared on both sides of the road as we climbed into the southern cardamom mountains. It was beautiful there was the constant sound of chirping birds. Nice purple flowers lined the road as well as butterflies and dragonflies. Sunbathing lizards would scatter as I approached. By 8:30 a.m. it was stinking hot. I am struggling with the heat as I get further into the forest.
I could hear but not see squawking monkeys and signs of elephants appeared on the side of the road. The heat got even worse in the afternoon. There were lots of big hills to climb which didn’t help………..as soon as you start to put in a little extra effort. You just start to perspire profusely and you start to overheat. I had to get off and push my bike in an attempt to keep my body heat down. I was running out of water as well. I had to ration it to one mouthful every 500 meters. This wasn’t helping so in the end I had to stop and sit in the shade while waiting for my body heat to return to normal. At one point I was going to wave a car down and ask for water. I continued on and was just dreaming of cold water when I finally got to the top at 2 p.m. I was happy to finally find a roadside shop I got my cold water and 3 small bottles disappeared very quickly. Like clockwork at 2 p.m. the rain started again with a very heavy downpour accompanied by thunder and lightning. As soon as the rain eased off I was straight back out. It was a lot cooler and more pleasant for cycling except when I had to cycle through the hot steam coming off the road.
I got puncture number 29 and while I was fixing it the lightning started again. I ducked when one bit of lightning struck with a second bang of thunder behind it. Tyre fixed I cycled on and it was still up and down. I had two army trucks pass me. Then a guy carrying a machine gun pulled up beside me and said hello. In the end it was one long day, I was exhausted when I got to Koh Kong. Found a 5$ room. Was about to go out for dinner and the rain started again………..it was so heavy. It was like a monsoon.
DAY 342 : KOH KONG – REST DAY
This morning I went out for a quick walk around and soon discovered Koh Kong is just a dirty old border town. Thailand is just on the other side of the river. There is a toll bridge connecting the two countries.
I could cross into Thailand tomorrow. Instead I am heading into the Cambodian jungle for a 4-day cycle over the Cardamom Mountains on the way to Battambang. So this morning I repaired the puncture and went out and bought 10 litres of water, fresh fruit and other snacks. I am a little nervous. Not knowing what to expect along the old logging road, I asked one local about the road and he said it was really bad and that parts were very steep. In fact he tried to talk me out of it. I’m not even sure where I will sleep………..the thought of snakes and tigers also makes me nervous.
DAY 343: KOH KONG – 225 COMPAGNIE DE MINING CAMP.
START: 8:00 – FINISH: 17:00 – DISTANCE: 60 KM – RIDE TIME: 5H 50
Things didn’t get off to a good start. I repaired the puncture on the front tyre yesterday, so it was a surprise to see it deflated this morning. I soon discovered I actually had two punctures in the front tyre and had only fixed one of them.
I should have taken a closer look yesterday. Puncture repaired it was then a little difficult to find the logging road. When I did find the red dirt road, it was brutally steep from the beginning and carrying an extra 10 kilos it wasn’t easy. After 2 hours I had gone a mere 20 km and to add to the difficult terrain it was stinking hot. I got directed onto a new road through the jungle which had been built by the Chinese to give them access to 5 new hydro dams they are building for the Cambodian government. Away from the dam sites the jungle was beautiful. Lots of tall massive trees. Constant chirping of birds and many colourful birds as well. I saw some with red heads, some with yellow and some with blue. I was always on the lookout for elephants. I did see a small monkey that shot off when it saw me coming. Come 2 p.m., I had done a mere 40 km……….it felt like I was going nowhere. I constantly asked people for the road for Pursat for reassurance. So when I was passing a dam I asked again and after getting the map out was gutted to be told it wasn’t possible to continue and I needed to turn around. I felt completely demoralized. 3 km back down the road I asked again to be sure and was told « No No……..you can get through ». So I turned around again and headed back………the road got really steep again. I was starving so I stopped on the side of the road and had a take-away meal I had bought this morning at breakfast. A black cloud started to come over and I could hear the thunder. It was 3.30 p.m. and I was starting to think that I needed to find somewhere to sleep. I got moving and then the torrential rain came………….I just pushed on I was completely drenched……….at least I wasn’t cold. 30 minutes later the rain had stopped and the sun was out.
I pushed on trying to make up for lost time. Then at 5 p.m. it bucketed down again…………..300 meters away I could see a shelter and I cycled straight for it. It contained a table and two benches. I was exhausted again and had a snooze on a bench while I waited for the rain to stop. When the rain did stop I thought this will be an alright place to camp………I went looking for someone to ask and was told it wouldn’t be a problem. I also discovered it was the Cambodian army 225 compagnie de mining camp and that they were clearing mines in the area and had been for the last 6 months and gave me something to think about.
I was just going to sleep on the table. But they set me up a hammock with its own mosquito net for me to sleep in.. They also said I could have a shower…………which was much needed since I was covered from the road spray. Soon discovered the shower was a pipe down by the river. One of the guys took me down………it was dark. It was a primitive shower but at least I got clean.
DAY 344: 225 COMPAGNIE DE MINING CAMP – PRAMOY
START: 6:45 – FINISH: 17:30 – DISTANCE: 90 KM – RIDE TIME: 8H 10
I left without saying goodbye to my hosts because the Cambodian army were still sleeping when I left. It was a very damp misty morning. Didn’t get far before the thunder started again and the mist turned into heavy rain. Didn’t matter because everything I put back on this morning was wet anyway. The road was again very up and down. Quite a few families have set up shop beside the road.
These are quite handy as you can grab a much needed cold drink. I again passed two more dam sites which just appeared out of nowhere and were massive construction sites and a real blight on the landscape. An attractive sight was a large waterfall which will sadly go when the valley is flooded.
At 1:30 p.m. the road went down to a river. The problem was there was no bridge. With all the recent rain the crossing was wide. I didn’t fancy getting wet feet. While watching a few motorbikes and an old guy pushing a bicycle negotiate the crossing I waited 30 minutes until a tractor came along and I was able to get a lift.
I was well out of the jungle now and I arrived in a small town. There was even a guest-house. The land was now flat and large areas of jungle had been cleared for plantations. Leaving the town there was a small climb and then a steep descent which turned into a short downhill and nice 25 km run into Pramoy. Found a good clean cheap guest-house. The town was dirty and dusty with cows just lying in the road. I found a nice place to eat. I was starving after only really drinking lots of water all day long
DAY 345: PRAMOY – PURSAT
START: 8:00 – FINISH: 16:00 – DISTANCE: 114 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 47
It is supposed to be the dry season. But there has been heavy rain every day. At 6 a.m. this morning it was tipping it down again. With all the rain the roads are starting to break up and it is making them a little bit more difficult to cycle.
I was going to take some more back roads to Battambang, but was told that parts of the road would be very muddy and impossible to cycle the 100 odd kms. So I now am going to take a bigger dirt road 110 km to Pursat and then will have another 100 km to Battambang. All along the road to Pursat were signs for mines which is a stark warning.
There were also signs to show what work had been done in clearing the mines…………but this was over 10 years ago and nothing seems to have been done since………..since Princess Diana died. Cambodia has been forgotten. There were a lot of metal bridges along the road and two of these had collapsed and on the wooden ones you had to always be on the lookout for missing planks. Again it was another very hot day………..I should really be stopping in the middle of the day to shelter from the hot sun.
But I keep just pushing on……………The last 20 km into Pursat were difficult. I was completely exhausted and feeling a bit sick from the sun. I had to keep stopping and resting every few kms. I was so happy when I got to Pursat………I took the first guest-house I saw……..and was straight in for a cold shower. A lot of people here make rubbish food in Cambodia. It can sometimes be hit and miss. Recently I have been on a really good roll with the local street food and tonight was no exception with a very tasty beef and rice dish and unlimited ice tea. The western food in Cambodia is rubbish. The portions are always too small and well over-priced. More HEAVY morning rain. Road breaking up. Signs for mines all the way along road. Nice rolling road. Very hot exhausted again last 20 km was a real struggle. $5 room
DAY 346: PURSAT – BATTAMBANG
START: 7:30 – FINISH: 13:30 – DISTANCE: 112 KM – RIDE TIME: 5H 05
After 3 days of jungle and dirt roads I was back on the main highway, a sealed road and just over a 100 km run
to Battambang. I knocked it out in pretty good time. By 10:30 a.m. I had already done 60 km and that included another stop for a second breakfast.
The road was as flat as a pancake. Flanked by wide open plains and lots of old brick factories. With the main highway there was also a lot more traffic to contend with. I had a tip from two cyclists I met the other day about a good hotel. $5 it was good value….Hot water, fridge, tv, fan and WiFi and it wasn’t a problem to wheel my bike into the room either.
DAY 347 – 350: BATTAMBANG – REST DAYS.
I had 4 days of rest in Battambang and when I think back I don’t know where the time wentbecause I did hardly anything. For the first few days at a very leisurely pace, I updated the blog and uploaded photos which are actually quite time-consuming. With that done I cleaned all my panniers and more importantly the bike. Just as well because I discovered a missing bolt from one of my racks. Luckily, I carry some spare bolts and one of them fitted.
Battambang is not a huge town. Neither is it really very clean but it does have character. There is a muddy brown river that runs through it. There is plenty of run-down French style architectural buildings. I snuck inside an old cinema house. It was very dusty and the seats were all wooden……..I think it was a long time since there was a movie shown here. The old market building is very French looking and stands out. I always find a good place for food in the market and then return again and again to the same place. Fried banana are also good daily perks.
One: you then know you will get good food and two: you build up a good rapport with the owners. I haven’t been alone the whole time in Battambang. Nino from Switzerland who I cycled with from Iran to Uzbekistan and through the Turkmenistan desert, came down from Seim Reap for 2 days. It was great to catch up and share stories and experiences of the past 6 months. Since two years ago Cambodia stopped running its trains. Battambang has become famous for its Bamboo railway. The locals have built some very basic carriages that use the old railway tracks. Problem is that there is only one line and trains run in both directions the 7 km up to the next station.
This means when two trains meet one train has to be dismantled and removed from the tracks while the other train passes and then reassembled to continue the journey. After 85 years the tracks are all over the place. It’s a pretty bumpy and noisy ride. Reaching the other station you get half an hour to visit the brick factory…………after seeing so many brick factories in many countries on the road. I now know how its done.
The round trip is 14 km which is far enough to get a taste of it………all day on a bamboo train would be rough. Bamboo station is 7 km out of town and Nino and I walked back through some smaller villages along some dirt tracks. We came acrross a good size lizard running across a wooden bridge.
I only have one more day in Cambodia. Tomorrow I cycle to the border about 115 km and I will then cross early on Sunday morning
DAY 351 BATTAMBANG – BATTAMBANG
Today I went somewhere and ended up nowhere. It started easy enough with some pancakes at the Bamboo café and I set off just before 9:30 a.m. Straight away I felt the tyres were a bit full…….and I thought about letting some air out. I should have because I got 10 km before there was a loud bang from the back inner tube exploding. Straight away I knew I was in trouble………because I didn’t have a spare tube.
In Saigon I bought two spare inner tubes. Unexpectedly I used both of them in quick time and will not be able to replace them till Thailand. I stopped opposite a small roadside shop………..and mentioned the word tuk tuk. The guy went round the back and came back with a small cart which he attached to his motor bike. For $2 I got him to take me straight back to the hotel. I checked back in and then had to think of a plan. I took the good inner tube off the front wheel and put it on the back. I then took the 2.1 tyre and replaced it with my Chinese special which is 1.95. I then went round a number of so-called bike shops and had confirmed my worst fears. It is totally impossible to get a Presta valve inner tube in Cambodia. The next confirmations were that the largest inner tube in Battambang is 1.75. So it’s a bit of a worry when nothing adds up. So to get by and its gutted me to have to do it – for 0.75 cents I got the hole drilled out so I can use the Schroder valve. The tube is still too small. I am hoping it will get me to the border………….no pressure except my visa expires tomorrow and I have till 5 p.m. to be out.
DAY 352: BATTAMBANG, CAMBODIA – ARANYAPRATHET
START: 6:00 FINISH: 15:00 DISTANCE: 122 KM – RIDE TIME : 7H 10
The border with Thailand closes at 5 p.m. and since my visa expires today I wanted to make sure I made it. So at 6 a.m. on a quiet Sunday morning I got the legs moving and the wheels turning. It was so nice cycling out of town at that time of morning. I was able to watch the locals setting up their stores for the day. It was such a nice temperature. Knowing what’s to come later in the day, the 5 road to the border was a busy road but not in the way of traffic.
The road was lined with lots of houses and shops. So as soon as you left one village you would enter another. At 8:30 a.m. and after 40 km I stopped for an iced coffee and a quick break. Now it was starting to get hotter and hotter. I saw my first train in Cambodia…..it was working on the new line which runs next to the road all the way to the border. I was making such good time. I had told my friends I would cross the border around 3 p.m. At this rate it would be more like 1 p.m. 11:30 a.m. and after 92 km I stopped for lunch and another cold drink. I did get to Poipet at 1 p.m. It was a horrible horrible border town. I tried changing my Cambodian reals back into USD. But they wanted to charge me commission. So I told them to get stuffed. Passing the Cambodian customs was easy. Entering Thailand took a bit longer. There were lots of long queues.
It really wasn’t too bad. When I was in Iran I met two girls from Thailand Liu and Kim who had worked for the Emirates and were now back home. When I told them I was coming to Thailand they said they would come and welcome me at the border. They were true to their word. When I came out of customs they were waiting holding a «Welcome Adam to Thailand» sign. It was so very kind of them to come and meet me. They had had to travel 250 km at least from Bangkok. It was great to see them. We then stopped for lunch and a drink and a good catch up before walking 2 km away from the border to a very nice guest-house. It was very chic. Shower and change of clothes and a short rest and then it was time for dinner and to try some traditional Thai food. I had a chicken dish that was just full of flavour and so tasty……………..that I will be back again tomorrow.