Saturday, May 16, 2009

The ride from hell

Less than 10 minutes out of Thala Borivat and the previous night's rain began giving us problems
So how bad was the ride from hell? Well, for me it wasn't too bad as I've experienced worse during my Cambodia travels over the years, especially in the early days of no roads or tracks and we had to make it up, but for Tim, it was a nightmare. He's too tall to be a passenger on a moto anyway and he has a bad back too, but for 11 hours, on bumpy, uneven tracks through what is effectively wilderness except for a handful of villages, it was enough to try anyone's patience. He'd been well pissed-off when his motodop tried to accelerate through a wet patch, and there were many, and only succeeded in dropping the bike, himself and Tim onto the hard, and wet, floor. After we stopped for our 4th puncture repair in the gloom of the early evening, still some way off our eventual destination, he was ready to throw in the towel. He didn't, but it was close. We finally arrived at Tbeng Meanchey's Malop Dong restaurant at 7pm, exactly 11 hours after we'd left Stung Treng, and we rolled into town on a flat tyre. We stuffed our faces with food and cold drinks before retiring for a well-earned sleep at the Phnom Pic, aka Diamond, guesthouse. Paul and Dom were our motodops, two members of the Stung Treng moto-mafia, and to be fair, they were good drivers, mine in particular was older and had done the trip before so he was the safer of the two and he only sent me off the back of his Daelim once, which for such a long trip through poor road conditions, wasn't a bad effort. We never warmed to them because of the dealings we had with them, and their mafia buddies at the start, but they did the job we asked them to do and at least it gave Tim a taste of the adventures I've been enjoying for years in the Cambodian countryside.
A nice flat stretch of road and that's me in the distance
Its a downhill slalom of the muddy variety as we approach a dried-up riverbed
The view from my driver's perspective: Paul turned out to be a safety-first man
Not a rest-stop, its another puncture repair stop - fortunately they came prepared
Quite a bit of the track was underwater after some rain on the previous days
An adorable group of children at the village of Chhvang
The smoldering cut forest surrounding Veal Veng village, part of the extensive Prey Lang Forest region
This part of the forest disappeared a while ago, but much still remains untouched
The water-babies of Chhaeb village, enjoying a cooling dip in the afternoon heat
Tim again asking "why me?" as the going gets tough, and very wet and muddy

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