I’m about to have a bit of a whinge. I haven’t yet (haven’t needed to) but I hit a bit of a wall today. It’s almost unavoidable I know, holidays don’t always go the way they should. I’ve experienced a little already this trip but nothing I couldn’t forget about almost immediately. But today was rough!
112km in 9 hours 36 minutes begins in Siem Reap checking out of the ‘Pal’. I was going to be one of the majority (I’d guess) in buying a three day temple pass and only using two but instead make the decision the night before to include a trip to Banteay Srei, described in LP as the jewel in the crown of Angkorian artisanship with some of the finest stone carving seen anywhere on earth. I plan it properly uploading a new map to my Garmin GPS, changing the route planned to my next destination. In hindsight it probably wasn’t worth the extra fuss. The first stress was getting there. While the roads in Cambodia are in pretty good condition, some of the roads around the temples are downright awful. I don’t get it. The biggest drawcard to the country gets a solid working over by buses, minibuses, cars, motorcycles, tuk tuks and bicycles and yet has bumps, potholes, dirt & rubble. Perhaps that’s why, I suppose. Still, it’s a poor effort, in my view.
I did find a large scorpion trying to cross a good section though. I helped it back into the woods.
I’m in a bit of a foul mood about the roads mostly because I had my first fall. I hit a large pothole I didn’t spot until too late and hit the ground hard. Bike is ok, but handlebar needed some readjustments be realigned. I’m ok, but needed some patching up on one knee to stop it dripping blood down my leg to my sock, but my phone came loose from its holder and the screen shattered. Usable, but not easy on the eye staring at cracked glass. I’ll get it fixed when possible.
Temple was ok, but after the last couple of days I really wouldn’t have missed much had I decided to push through.
I got back on the bike and felt the rear wheel was a little flat. Tried my pump but it didn’t work. The top had unscrewed and would be roadside. Somewhere. I actually has seen something was missing a day or two earlier. I thought it was just a dust cap but evidently it was more. I nursed the bike to a garage not far away for some air. He put a neat adapter over the normal car end to fill my French valve tube. Impressive. I stayed and got 3 juices and played with the kids, giving them stickers.
Alright, so I’m off again only to find the ‘road’ the clever GPS wants me to take is more like a, we’ll have a look.
I was doing ok, staying to the clearly worm path until I came to the log crossing. Thought about it. Thought against it.
I find another road marked on the map and double back to try that. It’s dirt, but perfectly manageable. Until it turns into sand.
Now riding in sand is not easy. It wasn’t all sand but it did suddenly turn into sand at times, and that’s when I fell and cut up my other knee.
I see some black road up ahead and stop for lunch. Back on bitumen, knees cleaned with antiseptic wipes (thanks Sam), I continue.
It’s usually fun having chats to people as I pass them but I reached my limit today. It’s relentless! Normally I’ll speak a bit of Khmer, or a few more words in English but for the second half of today all I could manage was a “hi” or “hello”.
The road leading up to Svay Leu was torturous. The last 10km stretch from the tiny outpost of Boeng Mealea to tiny bit bigger Svay Leu is at a steady incline, and fatigued I can’t manage it at top pace. And just like the pot that doesn’t boil when you are watching it, the kilometers to go don’t seem to reduce if that’s what you are concentrating on. It’s 5:00pm and getting dark. I’m tired, hungry, thirsty and a little grumpy but I did it. I made it to my end point. Or so I thought. No obvious sign of a guesthouse so I ask around and pretend to fall asleep on my pressed together hands. All I ask point back down the road I’ve come. Hmmmm. Right. I get out my phrase book for the Khmer for where’s a guesthouse?
Phonetically, it’s, or close to:
new E nar, poo day awesome nark.
Yer! Now we’re talking.
The last guy I ask laughs and points the same direction and then when I show my confused face offers to show me. He drives he motorbike carrying a small trailer where some tools and a girlfriend sit and we ride. Then stop. He gets on his phone, sorts himself out and then we ride a bit more. Then stop and wait. It’s getting dark. Another young man with motorbike, trailer and girl arrive. The girl speaks ok English and says she has a hotel with her sister, but that it’s in the previous town. “No problem” I say. “Lead on”, happy to have help. Back down the steady incline (now decline) we go. Getting close to total darkness I feel safe enough chaperoned by the bikes. “Are you hungry?” The girl asks. “Too right I am”, “sorry?”, “yes, very” and by about 6.00 we are outside a restaurant. “I’d prefer to drop my bags off first” I say. Chatter amongst the four of them. No problem. Back the way we came, up the steady incline to another restaurant. Hmmm. “It’s ok” I say, “let’s eat”. I ask for the bathroom so I can at least wash a little. No running water but it’s ok. I take some from the trough basin and throw some over my face and rub my hands. Back at the table the menus have appeared. In English, a selection of dishes are offered for between $6.50 and $8.50 (Hang on, a lovely whole fried fish with mango dressing and rice cost me $1.75 in Siem Reap). Not going to happen guys. “Can I see my room first?”, “no room, you can sleep here in the restaurant”, “I thought you said you had a hotel with your sister”, “no sorry, misunderstanding”.
I show a bit of agitation explaining I thought I was being taken to a hotel/guesthouse and that I feel the prices in this shack of an eatery are “a little expensive”.
The waiter says he knows where the guesthouse is and leads the way (the other four leave at this stage) on his motorbike. It’s all very confusing but back down the steady incline (now decline) we go and I’m shown to a room with 6 king size beds. I pick one and the woman disappears to find sheets. I say goodbye to the guy from the restaurant and thanks but no thanks, I’ll find my own food. I take a wander and have a great meal of leafy veg with pork and rice, a can of sprite and two bottles of water, for 8000riel, $2.
The bathroom is the same as at the restaurant, no running water so I bathe from a bucket. The noise of the generator prevents sleep for a while at the beginning of the night and two roosters take it in turns, a call and response type song, to prevent sleep in the morning, but it was a bed, and I did feel rested to tackle the next stage of my journey.