Day 4 – Kampong Chhnang – Pursat

Posted by on Jan 18, 2013 in Blogger4 | 0 comments

Slightly later start today, 5.45am meet for breakfast and actually sitting down at a table. Guess what? Today did bring tea. Had to supply the tea bag, sugar and milk but they had hot water. Result!

Today we should be on our shortest day, around 45km, then a section where we load the bikes on to the bamboo train and travel 30km before getting back on the bikes for a 15km finish. We started off and navigated our way through what was basically a roundabout with a park in the centre that had traffic circulating in both directions at once. Interesting start to the days ride involving the aim, close eyes and hope school of cycling.

We reached the village where we were due to board the train by 10am.. We’d made decent time in spite of a wrong turn that added an extra 6km to the ride. Frederick is our outrider. Swedish, bald and standing at 6ft 2” could be an extra in a Mad Max film other than his friendly and gentle nature. He checked with the locals and was told the train would be an hour late. Near the station was a school so we made an impromptu visit and introduced ourselves and explained what we were doing. We spent the next hour entertaining the children while Frederick tried to confirm that the train would actually be there at 11am. He returned with bad news. The ‘officials’ had decided to send a maintenance train the length of the track to check it was safe. It was then to re-check on the way back. Only then could the bamboo train leave. All in all this seemed to suggest a few hours wait which wasn’t practical. We collectively made the decision to skip the train which was a major disappointment. The bamboo train tracks were laid in Franco times and is exactly as the name suggests. A flat, table like carriage without sides made of bamboo and two supports which rested on the axle, powered by small petrol motor. Passengers and freight sit atop the bamboo, riding on rails about two inches above the ground, defying all logic as to how the carriages remain on the tracks. The bamboo train is finally being taken out of service for good next year so to miss out on being able to ride it before part of Cambodia’s history disappears was a huge disappointment.

We were due to continue cycling after the bamboo train so we decided to cycle a separate route to make up for those kilometres we would now miss. This meant choosing a route that would take us closer to our original destination. This decided we cycled again through the dry dusty countryside which seemed to be getting dryer and dustier by the minute. So dry and dusty that around 1km from our destination we hit a wooden bridge about three feet wide which looked like it would barely support a dog let alone the bikes. The track which ran parallel which was once used by vehicles to avoid the bridge was now a sand pit which meant there was no way the support vehicle could make it through. So near and yet so far. Frederick rode ahead to see if was worth the bikes carrying on and the support vehicle turning round to find an alternative route and meeting up at the end. He returned to say the road ahead was so sandy he doubted the bikes would get through it. Time to retrace our steps again. We backtracked to a junction we’d stopped at hours before and took a fork in the road and eventually hit the main road. Due to detours the planned 45km finished with us having cycled 74km. On par with the previous couple of days.

At the time of writing we are safely in our nights stop over but so exhausted I can barely keep my eyes open to type so its difficult to recall individual incidents but one that keeps popping in my head was at a water stop where I noticed a spiders web strung between two trees. It’s owner sat in the middle of the web waiting for its prey and was impressive to say the least. An oblong body around an inch and a half long with a bright yellow stripe across its body and an angry red flash on its abdomen. Its legs spread like a wagon wheel with each slightly bent knee sporting a yellow dot. I asked D, our Cambodian support driver, if it was poisonous. His nonchalant reply reminded me of the sort of thing my mother used to say  – ‘only if you touch it’.


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