There’s nothing like a rainy day to get a few things done. As the heavens opened, we realised cycling was going to be futile so instead we recorded our latest podcast. This time we share some of the highs and lows with you from our four months in Southeast Asia and a few tips for bike touring in the region. We also have two cycling stories from Adam, who we met in Bishkek. Adam, from Poland, was last spotted going up the Karakorum Highway with one gear so he’s quite the adventurer! We think you’ll enjoy hearing about his take on cycling in India and getting lost in Nepal.
You Are Viewing Cambodia
228km Kratie to Don Det
You’d think we’d be well trained by now after nearly two years on the road. We’ve been across our fair share of deserts and up high mountain peaks but the wilds of northern Cambodia still managed to give us a run for our money. Hot. Desolate. Almost no shade. One account we read online of this section even described it as a route without scenery. The assessment wasn’t far wrong.We started out in cool air at 7:30am from Kratie, with a packed lunch in our bags from the market. Soon the sun was rising and we were working against a headwind to cover the 150km to the next town. Slipping under a tree for a rest wasn’t easily done. Our first priority was to steer clear of landmines left over from the civil war and that meant sticking to marked paths but a bigger problem was finding a tree at all! Land had been intensively cleared for farming. When we eventually got to Stung Treng we’d see the heavy wood furniture made from these former forests – a profitable business for those with access to the land.
The day continued with little to distract us from the road. Normally we are surrounded by village life. Children yelling hello. Chickens being transported in their dozens, hanging off the handlebars and sides of a single motorbike. Men drinking iced coffee while staring transfixed at the latest boxing match in a local cafe. Women out working in the rice fields. (more…)
A few days ago we had the chance to take food to the kids living and working up at the Stung Meanchey garbage dump in Phnom Penh. They exist in appalling conditions, without access to enough food, money, medical care and so many other things most of us take for granted. The day we visited was a good day – the best the organisers had seen in quite some time – and we were still struck by the poverty, the flies, the smell and overall inhumane situation. This is a little bit of audio we recorded on that day to share with you.
236km Phnom Penh to Kratie
Wednesday was one of those days. We woke up late, struggled to get our bags packed and after we rode away we realised that Friedel’s glasses were still at the hotel. When we remembered that our health insurance was about to expire it was the final straw. Cycling without good medical cover isn’t an option so we aborted our departure and laughed as we returned to lug all our stuff back up the stairs and check in for another night.
We were in much better shape on Thursday and even a few early showers couldn’t put us off. We cycled along the waterfront, took the Japanese bridge over the Mekong and started the journey north to Laos. Just a few years ago this route would have been a tough ride on almost entirely dirt roads. Things have improved a lot recently where Cambodian roads are concerned and our spirits were lifted when we turned off the main road and found the asphalt continuing ahead. This didn’t last long, of course, but even when the dirt road appeared it was reasonably smooth and hard packed. We rode happily along the river, through strings of villages and waving to the hordes of children who appeared out of nowhere to shout “hello” at us. Add to that the crowing roosters, squealing pigs, men watching movies at top volume in crowded cafes, the general buzz in markets, Buddhist monks chanting and Muslim calls to prayer and you’ll understand why we could call these villages just about anything but tranquil! Fascinating they certainly were but not as peaceful as you might expect for rural Cambodia. At lunch we must have been the talk of the town. No sooner had we sat down at a roadside stall when four locals arrived to stare at the strange foreigners. We never knew we were so enthralling. Maybe they were just hoping for a bite of our rice and tofu. Well, it was some of the tastiest and cheapest Cambodian food we’ve found yet. We couldn’t blame them for being envious. (more…)
Here are the pictures we took out at the Stung Meanchey landfill when we went with a charity to give food to the children working in this sad and dangerous place. The images will give you some idea of what they are facing but can’t convey the smell, the flies and the smoke they inhale every day. Towards the end of the slideshow are some cheerier images of ‘lucky’ children at a nearby orphanage. They don’t have a lot either but at least they are fed, get some school lessons and they don’t have to rummage through trash every day just to make a few cents. Click on the photo to start the slideshow.