Day 5 – Pursat – Moung Ressey

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

I’d managed to get very little sleep even though exhausted. The surrounding area was very noisy, the room hot and sticky and even when I did manage to drop off, vivid dreams repeatedly found me sitting suddenly up in bed confused as to where I was. Another early start and I was still only half awake by the time we set off. However today was to turn out to be my favourite so far.

The plan was to follow a canal in Kandieng District, built in 1976 during Pol Pot’s rule, which cuts a straight and unswerving line for 50km. We joined it 5km along and hit the obligatory dirt track as a gorgeous orange and impressively large sun rose above the tree line. The canal also made an impressive but somewhat daunting sight.  Looking straight down the canal it seemed to stretch to the horizon. The sandy dirt tracks either side were to be our cycle tracks and proved for much of it to be hard going.

For the first few kilometres the sand filled potholes caused the wheels to slip and slide and made maintaining a decent speed impossible. For the entire length of the ride there was no shade and it turned out to be the hottest day so far.  Some stretches made easier going and some entertaining as we navigated deep ruts and dips carved in to the road by trucks  working on renewing a section of the canal. The trucks were a worry as they trundled along the narrow path leaving little room to pass and even less inclination to accommodate cyclists. At one point a large flatbed truck with a digger on the back was leaning so far over as the path sloped that as I went passed I felt I had to crouch low on the bike to make it and an upwards glance confirmed that part of the digger was indeed leaning over me. For a few seconds I peddled bit faster and my bum got a bit squeakier.

The reason this became my favourite day so far was the countryside. The canal is now used to irrigate the surrounding rice fields and the square areas of young, verdant shoots stood out dramatically against the browner scorched and sandy land in between. The fields stretched away on either side of us as far as the treelines on the horizon. Ahead and behind the canal disappeared in the distance giving the impression of 360 degrees of horizon.  Along the canal we occasionally saw families working the fields, fishing, washing and generally scratching a living where they could. At regular intervals there were little constructions consisting of a horizontal sticks supporting flattened plastic bags and containing a small amount of water. At night the bags look white and attract flying bugs which drop inside are unable to escape. These bugs are fried and act as a food supplement to for the local people. Any extra are sold by the roadsides as snacks to those passing through the area.  It crossed my mind that in such a remote location that some of these people had probably never been out of the area they were born in. I wonder how the next generation of children will be as the western world creeps in and the multinationals continue to build huge factory in Cambodia to take advantage of the cheap labour. On a couple of occasions signs saying a particular field had been certified clear of landmines were a poignant reminder of the architects of the canal as were the occasional and not so  infrequent sight of some of the older inhabitants with limbs missing from a time before the mines were cleared.

Crossing the canal at intervals were sluice gates to control the flow of water which doubles as bridges. The heavy steel shutter were raised and lowered by three manually operated corkscrewed pipes protruding about 12 feet above the gates. The hollow steel pipes had slits down one side and as the wind blew across the top of the pipes it created sounds in the same way as blowing across a bottle top. The sounds however were not like anything I’ve ever heard before. The changing wind speed and direction created an eerie collection of noises ranging from gentle humming to almost alien like warbling to a roaring cacophony. It switched in a heartbeat from a pleasing cantata to a demonic opera then just as quickly dropped to the gentle whisperings of a hundred hidden voices.   I was completely fascinated by the sounds and could easily have sat all days listening. I would imagine though that in the total darkness the night would bring here that the sounds would give rise to stories of ghosts and phantoms and the souls of those passed before.

Due to difficulties with the support bus making the rendezvous point we decided to continue along the canal to its finish point. This meant an extra 20km in all but for me it was worth the extra despite the heat.  The support bus duly met us at the dam where the canal ends and although I and three others boarded, four of the team decided to continue an extra 25km to Moung Ressey where we were to spend the night. I was initially tempted to join them but the heat and the bumpy ride had taken its toll and I decided to err on the side of caution as we were warned that the road to the town was in very poor repair and my wrists were feeling the strain of the ricks and bumps of the last few days and the fingers on my left hand were numb from compressing the nerves holding the handlebars. I also confess that my backside was also killing me in ways to painful to describe.

Moung Ressy is a small market town. On reaching our destination we found we couldn’t bring the bus to the front of the guest house as the foyer not so much opened in to the market as the market spilled in to it to the point where one half of the foyer houses a dental practice which is separated from the room by a waist high glass counter.  The patients are on view to the guest house residents and market alike as they lay helpless in the dentist chair.

It’s once again getting to the point where my eyes are so heavy I need to sleep. I think we have a lay in tomorrow and don’t have to meet until 6.30am.  Bonus J

Night all.

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