Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Kompong Thom

Day 1 cycling:
Phnom Penh to Skuon (or Skon or Skun ...)
Total 80.91 km
4 hrs 40 mins actual cycling time
(6 hrs on the road i.e 1 hr 20 mins of breaks)
Average Speed = 17.72 km/hr
MAX = 28.7

The traffic here seems very fast, & cycling can be a bit hair-raising at times. The road surface was good all the way to Skuon, but the actual bitumen is fairly narrow. Motorists are not very accommodating to lesser forms of transport, and I had to hit the shoulder a number of times to avoid being hit by oncoming maniacs (can't do much about those coming from behind, other than pray. So far, so good). And the shoulder is not always at the same level as the road surface. There are very few road signs or mile posts but Highway 6 is generally unambiguous. People have been extremely friendly - you're bombarded with "hello!!" every inch of the way. And happily, there have been no additions to this like: "one rupee!", or "one pen" as is so common elsewhere. The children, who seem especially thrilled to see me pedalling past, come across as being quite sweet & guileless.

It's not been overly hot - the humidity however has been quite taxing. Water starts to lose its thirst quenching capacity after a time; Fanta, Coke - "Coke-A" - & Sprite do a pretty good job though. Before leaving PP, one of the expats suggested it might be good to take some oral rehydration salts (eg oralyte) to counter the possibility of dehydration. Good idea, I thought at one stage as I was cycling along, and so I stopped in a small town to ask at the local pharmacies if they had any. I couldn't find any translation in my dictionary, but I figured it would be easy to mime what I wanted ... after the folk at the second one couldn't figure out what I wanted, I gave the idea away & continued with the soft drinks (... the Lychee flavoured Fanta was tasty). It was a bit dispiriting to not get across what I wanted, and I struggle to be very successful with the dictionary or with words that locals have have introduced me to. Disappointingly, I'm just not a natural linguist.

There are plenty of places to stop for drinks along the way, and it's always a delight to see the looks of incredulity, and subsequent smiles, when you do.

So, overall, it was a decent road, and I was pleased I managed the 80km with little suffering on the physical front.

Skuon - famed for the spiders that people there eat - had little going for it from my point of view. I checked in to one of the few obvious guest hosues in town - the Tang Sreng Ngoun Guest House, a rather grubby & dismal place, and lay on the bed for a few hours.... It was $5 USD for the night, and to its credit a towel, toilet paper & overhead fan were provided. I was very pleased that I brought along my new "Portable media Player"- a small 20Gb device that allows you to store thousands of MP3's, vidoes & photos on it (I bought this at the Aldi supermarket in Melbourne for $250 - a real bargain I reckon). I watched an episode of Seinfeld - slightly incongruous in this setting - and then tried unsuccessfully to get some sleep. No such luck - it was hot, I was really itchy, and the neon light in the hallway outside gave the impression that it was daylight. As I'd planned another early start - having found that hitting the road at 7.30 am was a good move, in sparing me from much heat & humidity - I remained half alert for much of the night.

That evening I had fried rice with chicken & vegetable in the attached restaurant, & chicken soup for breakfast, before hitting the road again.


Day 2 cycling:
Skuon to Kompong Thom
Total 92.86 km
5 hrs 37 mins actual cycling time
Average Speed = 16.81 km/hr
MAX = 29.3 km/hr

The heavens finally opened after I'd cycled about 20km. The sky looked ominous as I started off that morning, but the lack of heat & humidity were a blessing, and I was glad to move on from Skuon. When the rain hit, I was passing a small farmhouse or hut, and so dashed in to seek shelter, as did two passing motorcyclists. We sat with a family as the rain beat down, surrounded by dozens of chickens and puppies, watching the rain and the ducks in the pond outside rushing this way & that, not quite sure what to do with themselves. The main problem on recommencing cycling was that now the road surface was wet, and as well as feeling the back wheel splashing water upwards, extra vigilance was called for in not being a target for passing motorists, who do not seem anywhere as sweet as the Cambodians you meet everywhere else.

At 2pm, after about 6 hours on the road (including breaks) it became quite hot again. Today I drank about 4 litres of water & had at least 4 drink stops for various fizzy drinks. It's interesting to notice how one's energy levels vary over a day, somewhat independently of what you eat or drink. In the morning, I felt very low in energy; at other times I felt full of beans & could really feel myself flying along the bitumen. Psychological factors also come into it - at the 60km mark I began to feel really fed up ... "can't take much more of this .... I must be insane to be out here cycling ..." but later this passed, helped by various things experienced along the way - about 30 young blokes pushing a house along, on wheels, in a paddock (!). Much hilarity ensued as I took their photo, wandered down to where they were, and then momentarily forgot where I'd left my bike. Later, I cycled through a village where people were carving numerous and varied statues (eg Buddha).

So now I'm here in Kompong Thom, staying at the relatively flash Stung Sen Royal Garden Hotel. It's $20 USD a night, but worth every cent to have my first hot water & aircon in a week. Such luxury - I think I'll stay here for 2 nights to rest up & get ready for my next 2 days of cycling to get to Siem Reap.


Gary Morris said...

Hi David,

I am enjoying your exploits.Am finding it interesting. Good to hear that you are keeping an eye on the food. I guess you can only have so many toilet stops.
Safe travels. Looking forward to your future "posts".

david w said...

cheers Gary!