Grasshoppers, coconuts and fried bananas for on-the-road snacks today. It was also a day of contrasts: we had rain, cloud and sunshine and the day included my least favourite riding segment of the trip and also my favourite. Quite a day.
When I woke this morning, it was pouring with rain which was quite a surprise. It isn’t supposed to rain at this time of year. It was still raining after breakfast when we left the hotel, but it stopped a short time later and we had some cloudy weather. On the positive side, the rain kept down a lot of the dust (for a while) but it also resulted in some wet and slippery clay/mud.
We turned off the main road and rode some narrow dirt tracks that were somewhat muddy. Then we turned onto a section of dirt road that ran alongside a reservoir and the riding conditions became worse. I was cursing the slippery mud at times! I almost came a cropper at one point, as I careened from one wet rut to another, but I somehow managed to stay upright. That was my least favourite segment of the trip to date. But it did get me to a location where I was able to take some photos of fishing boats, so it was worthwhile in the end.
Earlier in the day, we had stopped to buy fuel when I saw a woman selling something from a tray. It turned out to be grasshoppers, so I just had to try them. I was surprised at how nice they tasted.
And, in case any of you are in any doubt as to whether I ate them, check out the following video clip:
After riding across the Khmer Rouge dam, we stopped at a local restaurant situated on the bank of the reservoir. We were able to kick off the riding boots and kick back in the hammocks for a while, enjoying the peaceful scenery around us. And what a beautiful spot it was!
After lunch, we needed to put some miles under our belt, so we continued riding south. This time we were riding a combination of tarmac and red dirt roads.
When we got to the mighty Mekong River, there was a ferry at the dock, so we decided to take the ferry to the other side. This turned out to be a great decision, as the best riding of the day was on the other side.
Once we were off the ferry, we took a dirt road that generally followed the Mekong River, passing through village after village after village. It was my favourite riding segment of the trip to date. We got to see a piece of rural Cambodia as we passed through the villages, with kids calling out and waving to us as we passed. The sun was out by now, the roads had dried out, and dust was flying, but it was a memorable bit of riding.
Of course, with village life comes village hazards, not least of which were the cows, chickens and dogs that all had a tendency to want to cross the road immediately in front of us. But we came through unscathed with a great memory.
Further along the road, we crossed a bridge and saw a fleet of fishing boats beneath us. Quite a scene that we had to stop and photograph.
We continued riding and, by 4.30pm, we’d reach the outskirts of Kampong Cham, Cambodia’s third largest city. We headed directly to the bamboo bridge that provides access to the island of Ko Paen. It is an amazing structure, made entirely from bamboo. Of course, we had to ride across it. In the rainy season, the rising waters of the Mekong River wash out the bridge, so it has to be built from scratch every year.
By the time we’d explored the bamboo bridge, it was approaching 5.00pm. We were supposed to be in Phnom Penh for the night, but that was still another 100km away. We considered the distance remaining and the fact that we’d be hitting the rush hour traffic and decided that it wasn’t worth it. We would spend the night in Kampong Cham instead and ride the final 100km in the morning.
We took a ride along the river-front and found the VIP Monorom Hotel that looked promising. A quick inspection by Dave ruled it up to our standard and we checked in for the night.
Today has been excellent. Very enjoyable indeed (except for the slippery mud in the morning).
Tomorrow we ride to Phnom Penh.