Monsoon Cycling

105km Kampot to Sihanoukville

Riding in a rain ponchoIt rained in the morning as we were packing our bags. It rained as we dashed to the supermarket to buy a fetching yellow rain poncho (really just a plastic garbage bag with head and arm holes). It rained as we crossed the bridge out of Kampot and past the first fishing villages along the Cambodian coastline. And then, just like the hotel manager predicted, the storm seemed to rain itself out by the middle of the morning. “It’s going to stop by 11am,” he’d said confidently, looking at the sky as we were loading up our bikes. “Can we get a guarantee on that?” we asked before he launched into a complex explanation of cloud formations and wind direction.

What he forgot to tell us was that the rain would soon start up again and keep going through the afternoon and into the night. We got a brief reprieve when we stopped for lunch and then the dark clouds rolled back in, bringing with them a headwind that turned our plastic-bag ponchos into rattling wind-catchers.

Men working on the boatsOddly enough, none of this really bothered us. We looked like drowned rats and normally we’d have a mood to match our appearance but this time we enjoyed being a bit wet in such a humid and sweltering country. Little booties covered our shoes so our feet were warm and dry and the rain brought out the most vibrant colours in the rice fields and tiny harbours jammed with boats. Maybe it wasn’t so pleasant for the Cambodians who travel from town to town on the roofs of shared buses. It’s astonishing to see how many people you can fit on the outside of a van. Did you know at least 10 can go on top? That’s unless you put 100 chickens up there in which case only two or three can fit, plus six people hanging out the back and four out the windows. And you can also strap a few bicycles on the sides of the van. Just imagine, London’s peak-time commuting problems could all be solved by following Cambodia’s lead…

After a full day of monsoon cycling and people watching, we rolled into the sleepy seaside town of Sihanoukville. It could never be called ‘sleepy’ in the high season but with the rains there’s been an exodus and the place looks a more like a ghost town than the bustling party spot it’s supposed to resemble. We kind of like it that way and we’ll spend the next couple days relaxing in our hotel and photographing stormy beaches when the rain eases off enough for us to go out and play. We’ve also heard of a brewery tour that involves little more than showing up to drink free beer. Andrew’s interest is piqued so we’ll have to investigate.