A day on the road – cycling the Mekong at last!

25 02 2011

Luckily for Cambodia first impressions are not lasting ones and day three brought a perfect opportunity for redemption. Having been denied our Mekong boating experience we were pleased that our next day’s progress took us on a 120km stretch of minor roads that run a tight line next to the river. The numerous cracking points on a problematic rear rim are rapidly gaining territory and it was thus with some trepidation, and not a little finger crossing, that we set off on the Mekong road between Kratie and Kompong Cham.

As the sun broke light over the earth (at 6am prompt) we peddled out of Kratie. Having never cycled off a main road in Cambodia we

One of three cracks on the rim....

were unsure what to expect; getting a grip on which roads on the map are generally cyclable is key to future planning, and a first foray can be a bit hit and miss. Luckily the road was mostly paved but with some significantly bumpy sections comprising only of grey grit and red mud. The combination of which resulted in a thick brown red covering of grime that clung incestuously to our sweaty arms, legs and faces and looked somewhat like a streaking bad fake tan; on the plus side it acted as a barrier to the suns spiking little rays. The thin road was mercifully tree lined and the wide palm canopy eased the heat of the midday sun. And it was beautiful indeed.

Tobacco drying building

The floppy green then brown tobacco leaf is the staple of this region; and the road was a positive hive of tobacco growing, stringing, drying and transporting. Small industrious gatherings of men, women and children sit under raised wooden houses busying with the leaves; a whole 90kms of cottage industry that collectively produce a mountain of flat brown sheets that are then sold to the British American Tobacco Co in Phenom Phen. During a water refuelling break we got chatting to a local woman. She was a cheery middle aged woman who was clad in a striking pair of pink “nighty night” pjs; a strange and jarring aberration to our western sentiments more commonly confined to the deranged, the unhinged and mothers in St Mellons Tescos in Cardiff, this is apparently the national dress in Cambodia. It is considered perfectly desirable to spend your day in any number of garish pj’s and the women certainly do.

The road bowed in and out to the Mekong itself offering tantalising glimpses of its wide cool flow. Though with the waters so low we were often shocked at the equal expanses of brown sand that ran along with it. Although it was a challenging distance that left us smattered with sweat, dust, sand and heat rash it was utterly compelling.

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2 responses

25 02 2011
Father Howett

mother has a similar sartorial taste, altho not to visit Tescos

25 02 2011
oneproject

They honestly wear full on real for bed jammies ALL THE TIME! .. Liz once got herself locked out the flat and cycled across clapham common in teddy bear pj’s…

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