Sunday, 27 April 2008

Day 340 - Stung Treng (Cambodia)

Heading out of Pakse were some of the busiest roads I have been on in Laos, but still nothing when compared with the UK, and it only lasted a few k, then it was nice and peaceful again. In fact heading south it became so peaceful that as I was running out of water I decided I ought to stop the next time I saw water as I might not see it again. Soon enough I found a basic place and stopped, might as well get something to eat as well. As I walked across the little bridge I was offered barbecued pork on a stick, hang on, is that really pork? Closer inspection revealed them to be bugs of some description (photo). Now given the fact that I would probably run away from them if they were alive, why on earth should I want to put them in my mouth just beacuse they are dead. On the other hand it would be nice to have some just for the pleasure of seeing 8 or 9 or the horrible little things with sticks up their bums and roasted on a fire. Perhaps you are supposed to put them in the loo to ward off other buggies from wandering in. Oh no, they don't have loos! I did take one stick for a closer look and they all mimicked me and laughed as I exclaimed 'Ooooooo, Ooh!' I only wanted a packet of buscuits! I have probably mentioned before all the outlines of accidents I have seen, well just a few k further on I saw what I assume was probably a very serious accident, but it was hard not to laugh (photo). I didn't fancy the persons chances given the ambulance I had seen further back. It had bikes and a stretcher strapped to the roof, then I thought, if there is not enough room inside the ambulance for a stretcher, what will they do when they return with a victim? Of course most people here are happy to travel on the roof, so may be they strap them on the top and tell them they are going to hospital by air ambulance. Further on I turned off the main road and headed for Khong Island, yes, even in land locked Laos you can chill out on a peaceful island, in the middle of the Mekong river, which is pretty big down here. The area is know as the 4000 Islands, funny that, as my map only shows about 12! Once I reached the boat landing I was told it was a whopping 20,000 to get across, I hung around a while haggling for 15,000, but with only one boat owner and only one person wanting to get across, there was only ever going to be one outcome. He could have charged double that and I still would have gone.

The following morning I had a lovely long sociable breakfast by the river with Birgit from Denmark who was the only other person staying in the lovely teak guest house that I was also staying at. Breakfast didn't finish until about 11:30, then rather stupidly at 13:00, the hottest part off the day, I set off to ride the 45km around the island, to make things worse the best views of the river were from along the front of Muang Khong where we were staying. On my return I met up with Trevor and Jane from the UK, on an around the world trip starting roughly the same time as I did, but going the other way. With Birgit we all had a very sociable evening, really nice beside the river that I have been following for so long and seen so little of.
We all had breakfast together this morning, then bought bottles of the localk wiskey for 60p each just to use up the little money we had left over. They then departed for Cambodia on a minibus and me on my bike, though we met up again at the ferry and also briefly at the border, where I got my visa issued in about 10 minutes flat, so what was I worring about? From there it was about 55km to Stung Treng with very little to look at other than thinned out forest vegetation and lots of new growth. There were no villages to speak of and I had to ration my water to get me there, I was very dehydrated on arrival, almost fainting as I waited in the hot reception of the guest house. I was desperate for a cold drink, but there is no sign of a fridge anywhere in this little town. As I approached the town there is a big new bridge closed off by barriers at both ends and watched by guards. At both ends I and other people moved the barriers out of the way and replaced them once through, the guards just laughed. I couldn't quite see the point of the barriers, though in the centre of town the small vehicle ferry was still doing a roaring trade. I recovered in front of the tele watching yesterday's Premiership matches and will continue to recover tonight watching the live matches, it's a tough life.

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