Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Day 342 - Kampong Cham

Well, after a rough arrival to Stung Treng, the departure was better. I was awoken during the night to more rain and when I got up it was still drizzling, but it had stopped by the time I left. Soon enough I was heading straight for the centre of a thunder storm, but thankfully managed to miss it, or so I thought. As it began to brighten up, the few spots of rain soon turned to heavy rain, but I was warm a quite enjoying it, making a change from the relentless heat. It rained for a couple of hours and I was soaked. 35k before Kratie the signs pointed down a little road, but before long I was right beside the Mekong. I stopped to take a photo and was soon surrounded by kids, one of the girls speaking very good English. She aked me 'Do you have wine?'', a bit of an odd question I thought, but it was followed up by 'Do you have a girlfriend?'', so obviously I had misheard her. First impressions here are that far more people speak English than in Laos. The ride beside the Mekong was good, always through houses with kids constantly shouting out 'HELLO' at the tops of their voices. The houses were all on stilts and reached from the raised roads by bridges, some very long. Also unlike Laos there are bustling markets in the towns and most of the guest houses can be found somewhere around them. In one I found a bike, then found it's owner, James from Canada. He had cycled up north from Phnom Penh, so was able to give me some good imformation on the route, very rough and very dusty.

It had rained again over night, but it didn't look to bad so I still made for the dirt road that followed the Mekong. To start with it was fine, it even looked like a road (photo), but bits had roadworks and with the rain it was a quagmire. Soon enough there was a nice long stretch of tarmac. I stopped to eat and have a cane juice right beside the river, bliss, especially as James I told me by this point I was over the worst. Once the tarmac went the road got worse and worse. The rains had made the top slippery and all the two wheeled traffic aimed for the same narrow bit of road that had been flattened by use and was easy to ride. It became bumpier and much slower, then it became narrower and no longer looked like is should be on the map as a main road. Then I hit a section that was just pure mud, some you could get around by going through peoples gardens, other bits I just had to push the bike through, but when my feet were in the mud and water it was lovely and warm. At last I got through that bit which had been painfully slow and hard work heaving the bike out of deep mud, but I was now of decent fast gravel with only 25k to go, there was more traffic, so I was home and dry, ha! I celebrated by having more cane juice. The crowd of women around could not speak a word of English but I still understood the same old question, ''Are you married?" Once on the move again there were little juntions, choices to be made. I always stopped and asked and was confidently pointed the way. The track again got small, muddier until it reached a smaller river with a broken bridge, which was easy to get around, but now my directions were getting very odd. I was now on footpaths, then I was pointed through somebody's garden and across a field that was reached through a boggy patch that clogged the mudguards up so much it stopped the wheels turnings. Due to recent rains the field was really boggy too, I decided this direction was wrong, so went back, another clogged up wheel another cleanup job, only to be told by others I had to cross the field. Back I went, cleaned up the wheels yet again, only for it to repeat the process about 3 more times before getting across the field, I was getting a tad pissed off. I reached the river again which at least told me I was going the right way, but it was just a footpath. I was picking up more and more mud and stopped alarmingly quickly when I stopped pedaling, but despite the rubbing noises I ploughed on. At last I reached decent gravel again, but this time I expected it to get bad again, but soon I could see the bridge over the Mekong to Kampong Cham, the ordeal was almost over. I reached the town in exactly the distance that James had said, 125k, but each time I stopped at a guest house I left a pile of mud. For James the main problem was dust in his eyes, for me it was mud over the ankles. I think we did the ride in very different conditions, but now is the start of the wet season. After a shower I went out for dinner, but the heavens opened again, I am just glad I am not on the road tomorrow, it'll just get worse and worse.

Tomorrow I think I will stick to the main road to Phnom Penh, it's a little longer, but far more predictable and oh so much easier.


adwordsmcc said...

Hiya John, Its gone past incredible now m8, why arn't you tired! Are you sure your going to Australia and not around the globe several times ?? :) Alls well here, business is going well, have offices in Redditch now so I do a 13x2 miles a day cyle (yes I'm trying to keep up with the Jones wink wink :). Keep pedaling and blogging m8! Pete, ex Crapo Gemini

pip said...

Helllo John,
Enthralling reading! Severn across on Saturday. A year ago you wrer stamping the cards at the first control,

Regards phil

Caff said...

Re the bugs - if you don't want to eat them, keep them! I saw and excellent picture the other day made entirely of different shapes, sizes and colours of beetles. I thought it was made of beads! It is of course another thought of where your career could lead you when you return home?!! :-)

The Sloths said...

Hi John

we're still enjoying your blog and photos.....sounds very hot and muddy!!

We're stuck in Tashkent waiting for visas for Kyrgyzstan (try spelling that after a few vodkas!!). Also wondering what we'll do when we get to the Chinese border.....

Gayle and John