In the Mountains
A group of local ladies cook up the best feed. I am really enjoying the tucker, nice spicy sauces. Yes we have plenty of rice and other assorted stir fry dishes, but the flavour is fantastic. I was fairly on the tooth all trip and did not get any stomach problems.
Just stick to the bottled water and avoid eating tucker such as salads that have not been cooked.
DRZ and NS had a great story of hunting and eating rodents in Vietnam prior to this trip.
These two western NSW blokes would eat anything. Later whilst having a quiet beer, I noticed a scooter stop out the front on the dirt street. It was dark, but I noticed the very pregnant pillion get off the bike and seek out a drink for dad and one small child still sitting on the bike.
They drink and then ride on. This is typical of the Khmer people being happy and just going about their business. My kids would be complaining that the DVD player is not working. Earlier, the same day I saw another pregnant lady climb off the back of a bike carrying a 20 litre Jerry can full of fuel. Tough. I must comment on our digs. It was hot and I spent the night under the mozzie net with a fan.
I was kept entertained all night by Keg and Wheelie going ape shit over a barking dog.
I don’t think I saw that dog at breakfast…or maybe I did, oh well.
Righto let’s get into the biggest day of challenging single track, more shonky bridge crossings, combined with extremely steep rock climbs. Well, how good was it, fantastic. Talk about having a crack through the jungle, I cannot wait to look at the video footage.
Humidity was almost unbearable. Sweat. I could not drink enough to keep sweating.
Everybody had their moments, but I’ll stick to just sledging Matt and PM for the moment. Matt manages to drop his rear wheel off a bamboo bridge and if it wasn’t for Yours Truly, Jason and others, he would have dropped a metre or two into a creek.
PM helps by switching on his Replay helmet cam.
Then Karma gets PM though: his rear wheel drops off a bridge soon after.
He’s saved by the others. Then he copped a puncture and damn-near flogs out the clutch on his XR, thanks to the biggest hillclimb on the trip. I don’t think he will forget that day too soon, but neither will I just quietly.
Up early in the mountains and you’ll see things most tourists never find. Did I mention we were in the jungle?
Man O Man, my biggest moment was when I got caught up in the vine whilst trying to pass some water. Dangerous stuff! Sometime later we stopped at a hut in the middle of nowhere.
Did I explain the importance of spotting an Orange Esky/Cooler? When you spot one, you know that you are welcome to food and drink even though the place might not look like it has anything. But they do and they saved me, because I was just about out of the old cool drinking stuff. Huge feed of carbs, some plant which tastes like potato. Noodles, sign me up. Couple of Red Bulls, why not? Fill up my water bladder and drink another litre before I get on the bike and I was starting to feel a bit better.
How about Massage Matty? He had limited dirt riding experience and he had taken a bit of a caning, but then again so had Panda, our corner man. Anyway MM discovered Red Bull on this trip and so he now had three loves, bikes, massage and The Bull. Oh and of course his lovely wife. Another decent hit out after lunch before we stopped in a village for some arvo smoko. You should have seen all the children come out to meet us.
Wheelie had given us a heap of toothbrushes to give out to the children. That’s right, they have no toothbrushes. What a great initiative. Jason is very involved in Children’s charity work in Cambodia. The only way to top off this most awesome challenging day of riding is to jump from a ledge into a waterfall. No worries Tony all good, yes it’s deep enough. I followed Leng over but I reckon I have 20kg on him which sprung to mind as I just touched the bottom. I just sat under pumping waterfalls for about an hour just letting the shoulders take a pounding. It had been about 200km of solid riding.
A big day in anyone’s world. My notes say if you did not have a lot of experience, you would need a lot of motivation and ?tness. I am glad my condition was not too bad, which I know helped me plenty. We ride into a large town called Koh Kong. The boys settle around the ute for a couple of beers (0.50c per can) and discuss the day’s ride. I take off my boots and I notice heat rash around my ankles from all the sweat and a bit of swelling. Unfortunately this will haunt me later. Hey MM, where are you off to?
Oh sorry, I didn’t see the lady masseuse. A short time later MM is letting all the stacks fade away, at a cost of $6 per hour. I prefer the waterfalls myself.
After conquering the previous day, I was feeling pretty well on my game. But, then came Friday and we were told we were in for about 300km of dirt. Now 300km on an XR250 is not easy, no matter where you ride the thing. Let me tell you, this day was going to hurt all of us. Keg, WAM and Novice Scotty were all up today with the rest of us. There was no alternative route. The gravel ride over the Cardamon Mountains was not too bad a start to the day. Steep as hell though, which resulted in my XR running like an old bull, due to the altitude. Like many areas we had seen, Cambodia is developing.
And this means vast amounts of natural jungle is being mowed down. In this case we are talking about dams and hydro power.
We rode in through quarries where they were blasting out fill, rode over huge bridges under construction, passed several dams being worked on. It was truly very busy and when a few trucks came along, you literally due to the thick dust, could not see a thing.
Meanwhile just over to the side, you are looking at serious thick jungle. Wheelie commented that last time he came through, the area was indeed all jungle. We stopped for a pic on an uphill grade. DRZ came flying up, finishing with a big skid which unfortunately for him resulted in another fine…gees I like free beer. We continue on for several hours and then we are riding through some tight track surrounded by bananas.
Had a real good run through here following PM, which ended with a village on the horizon. Time for lunch. Well you should see us, dust, from head to toe. I was literally covered it in and chewing on the stuff. The afternoon session saw us enter another village, but as I approached there were several colourful tents up and there were literally hundreds of people dressed up in their Sunday best. What the hell is going on here? Middle of nowhere, Friday arvo, interesting I thought.
There is an entry point and we are all welcomed off our bikes and guided through.
They give us a gift lolly treat as we enter. Sit down, beer is put in my hand and food put on the table. The beer could be colder, but hey I have been gargling dust all day. I then get handed a glass with ice in it and my beer is poured in. People are coming up shaking my hand and toasting. Wow, this is great. How hospitable are these people?
Yes, you may have guessed, we had stumbled into a wedding. Food and beer on board, we decide to make a contribution to the happy couple’s slush fund. I had noticed a book running at the entrance. How would Australians treat a group of Cambodian motorcyclists if they wandered into a Sydney wedding?
We quickly came up with a wedding present – $100 and went on our way. It was truly a lovely experience.
Scenes from a Cambodian wedding
We move on from the wedding feeling fresh, however the afternoon shift was going to turn into Man v. Trail.
Basically we rode through an area which consisted of huge washouts and whoops, but this went on for several hours.
Throw in some sand and fading light and things suddenly became a little more challenging.
You could be just cruising along with reasonable vision when suddenly one of these washouts appeared.
But they were deep, so if you were caught it was going to bite.
This is where fatigue does not help matters. The whole area which wound its way around the base of a mountain range goes under during wet season.
It was during a small drink break, an old local comes putting down the track on his trusty 100cc scooter, weaving and manoeuvring around 2-3 feet deep washouts. I watched and thought, ‘I am on a trail bike, fully armoured up…harden up son and get going’.
The sheer length of the day was taking its toll on all of us.
On one particular occasion I saw Wam cut back onto the main track to just miss hitting Wheelie, who was accelerating from a standing start. I watched and thought, ‘Gees imagine if we had a bingle out here’. No chance of the trusty support vehicle helping out where we were. There will be a heap of video footage including this close call. I estimate I have consumed approximately 5-6 litres of ?uid for the day and then I hear we still have a bit over 100km to go. Gees….
We pushed on and pulled up at the ever reliable orange roadside drink stop. No cold beer. You see I was currently riding with Keg and Wam. So Leng performed a wonderful piece of magic. He obtains a big block of ice and then spends the next 10 minutes with a can of beer in each hand, continually rolling the cans over the ice. The result is a reasonably cold beer, which by this time of the day was very much deserved.
Thanks again Leng, Keg really needed that beer. We finally hit the black stuff as we approach the city of Battambang and what better way to finish off 300km in the dirt, than with a frantic bit of night riding.
Yes, Friday night in city with 10 XR’s powering in and out of traffic. Great stuff. PM had to take to the dirt shoulder when a two-up scooter simply pulled across in front of him: the rider didn’t see him. “I had to go around or I would have gone through,” PM said later. “I’m just glad no-one was walking along the edge of the road just there…”
We made it to our hotel but our support vehicle was still some way behind. So straight down to the pool, have a shower and I dive in. Fantastic. Might just swim over to the pool bar and partake in a quiet ale. What a day. It truly was a huge day and I must say well done to the all the boys. No major injuries.
Onto Siem Reap
Motorbikes here are the sole mode of transport and people just get everything done on their bike, no matter what the load.
How about a motorbike with a trailer attached, which contains 6 full size pigs already cooked. They were obviously heading for one of the many parties that evening for it was Chinese New year.
So we are powering along the black stuff before we pull into a servo for some fuel and a drink. I am keen for a choc hit, but the best I can find is a whole packet of cakes.
Now all I will say is, I thought I could simply purchase one of the cakes. When I reached the register I was told I would have to buy the whole tray of 24 cakes.
The cost was $2.50US, so all good. I cable tied them around the handlebars and for the rest of the ride I would cruise up alongside various bikes or vehicles and offered the cakes to the kids. You should have seen their faces. They put their hands together as in praying and bow, thanking me. Short day in the saddle as we arrive at Siem Reap. As I dismount my bike for the last time, I think about the ground covered over the last week. The people, sites and the sheer challenge of the ride itself can only be described as fantastic. All the fellas have formed a close bond and it will be weird not to get up and go riding tomorrow.
Angkor Wat & Surrounds
I am now off to the Angkor area. Known as the Angkor period where the Khmer people ruled by Kings, saw a dynasty from mid 9th Century to the mid 14th century. During this time not only were they in control of what we know as Cambodia, but the empire also stretched into Siam (Thailand) and Vietnam. And what do kings with power normally do?
Well they use slaves to construct magnificent temples.
The Angkor area has around 500 temples, but the World Heritage Listed #1 tourist attraction is the Angkor Wat temple. You have to see it to believe it. Briefly it was constructed over a period of 37 years between 1113AD and 1150AD. Wat meaning like church, Angkor the place, sometimes referred to as the City of Buddhists.
But initially the Temple was dedicated to Hinduism, before they changed their beliefs to Buddhism. And how do we know this? Well the magnificent carvings along hundreds of metres of stone which tell all the stories. These stones though are huge and they were floated in small canoes from far away places. Angkor Wat has a full water moat surrounding it which is approximately 5.6km and it would be an easy 50 metres plus across. All this dug out by hand. It truly is unbelievable.
You may have seen pictures of Angkor Wat at sunrise. The sun comes up from behind and the temple is reflected in the moat. I
t truly is something worth seeing. We also visited the Ta Prohm temple. This is a temple that has been eaten up by the jungle vines. In more recent times this location was used in the filming of Tomb Raider.
But what happened back in the 14th century? Well some say big storms broke the Angkor reign, however it was the invasion of the Siam (Thai) people who drove the Khmer people out. So there is a period of 300-400 years where the temples were basically left, many unattended and generally not maintained. It was not until the 1850’s when the French arrived, that the magnificent Angkor area was put back on the World Map. There are now many United Nations projects being undertaken where other countries sponsor restoring the temples. Angkor Wat was able to escape deteriorating like many of the other temples, due to it having the moat which stopped the marching jungle. Fantastic, could spend days there. I sit down in an English theme bar in Siem Reap called the Yellow Submarine….yes it is a Beatles bar.
I talk to Jason Thatcher at length about his Vietnam Motorbike tours and the Cambodian operation. Basically he can accommodate and plan whatever sort of motorbike tour you would like to do. Cycle Torque had a ball last year in Vietnam and this trip for me has reached greater heights. Jason mentions to me, that later this year he has an all female group riding motorbikes around Vietnam. We discuss his involvement with the Cambodia Children`s Fund over a period of 4-5 years.
More recently he has been involved with SISHA, South East Asia Investigations Into Social And Humanitarian Activities. In short, human trafficking. Yes there are many problems in this third world country. The people appear to have very little, but we were always greeted with a smile and a wave. I certainly return to Australia knowing that I am a lucky man, but I think I will appreciate everything much more.
It is a credit to Thatcher, an Australian businessman working in Cambodia, who devotes so much of his time and money to help the Khmer people.
Thanks for the great ride Jason and hope to see you soon. All riders received a sculptured glass trophy with a bike and number 1 upon it from www.cambodiamotorbiketours.com. Very nice.