I showered under a waterfall of the ‘River of a Thousand Lingams’, renowned to bring fertility to those who bathe in its waters. I’m certainly not in need of any magical fertility remedy, but I needed the cold water to stave off heat stroke!
Kbal Spean is an intricately carved riverbed deep in the foothills of the Cambodian jungle. Lingams are phallic representations sacred to Brahmanism as symbols of fertility, and hundreds of them are carved into the rock here, as are several carvings of gods and animals above the small waterfall. The carvings date back to the 11th century.
To get to Kbal Spean, there is a walk of about 1,500 metres (one mile), mainly uphill over rocks and some steps. A hike like that wouldn’t normally bother me, but I was doing this one wearing motorcycle boots, shin/knee guards and full body armour. And the temperature was in the 90’s (F). All of that gear helped to raise my core body temperature over the course of the hike, so I was desperately in need to cooling down when I got there.
Once I got to the river, I pulled off all of the riding gear (except my compression shorts), and stood under the waterfall to cool down. In the rainy season, the falls would be larger and the water level would be at least waist height
I kept the body armour off for the walk back down the trail. Being downhill, it was an easier hike. By the time I got back down, I was ready for my lunch.
We had started the day about 8.30am. It was my first day riding with Kickstart, so I needed to get used to the bike and Dave needed to assess my riding ability. I had expected to be riding a Honda XR250 but Dave kindly upgraded me to a Suzuki DR400.
We rode out of town on tarmac but soon switched to graded red dirt roads. Then we had a go riding on deep soft sand. Thankfully, Dave had given me some pointers on riding in sand and told me to keep the throttle on, even when the bike seemed like it might be about to fall over. There were a couple of squirrelly moments when I was sure that I was going to come off, but by keeping the throttle steady, the bike pulled me through. Whilst I’m comfortable on the red dirt roads, I’m not yet comfortable riding the sand. But it is only m first day of off-road riding.
The first stop of the day was the Banteay Samre temple, that we accessed via a dirt road. There were only a couple of small tour groups at the site, in contrast to the larger temples visited yesterday.
After the temple visit, there was more riding to reach the aforementioned Kbal Spean.
As we got back onto tarmac road, we passed several areas where people were tending long areas of white chips. It turned out to be cassava that was being dried prior to processing. The cassava root is chopped up and laid out in the sun to dry. Once dry, it is ground up to make cassava flour and is shipped to Vietnam, where it is a staple of the diet.
After lunch at Kbal Spean, we headed to Banteay Srei, a 10th century temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. The red limestone buildings have intricate carvings.
After Banteay Srei, we began the rode back to Siem Reap. Along the way, we made a brief stop at a small museum that documents the landmine problems that still plague Cambodia.
When we got close to Siem Reap, we stopped off at the home of some of Dave’s in-laws and neighbours. The 59-year old patriarch quickly shimmied up a tree to cut down some coconuts and we were treated to coconut water to drink.
Then it was back to the Kickstart office to drop off the bikes. There was just enough time for a shower and a massage before we headed out to see the Phare Cambodian Circus, followed by dinner.
Video: The Phare Cambodian Circus
With a full day of riding behind us, we now prepare to leave Siem Reap and drive south.