Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cambodia - Day 1 - The Beginning

Day 1

When we left the UK we had decided that we would include Cambodia in our trip. We had been doing some research into renting bikes, insurance and trails and quickly came to the conclusion that it wasn't going to be as easy as Thailand.

We found a company called The Big Adventure Company that run tours across the country for two weeks so we decided to get in touch. They had two places left on their upcoming tour, starting on the 31st of Jan which was perfect for us so we signed up.

We found out there were already 6 people booked on the trip. Apprehensive about the levels of the riders we expressed our concerns (fears) and found that there would be all abilities on the tour ranging from someone who had never ridden off road before to a former British Superbike Champion.

On arrival we were collected from the airport at Phnom Penh and jumped into a mini van heading for the hotel. Pulling out from the airport carpark onto the main road I remembered they drive on the right in Cambodia compared to Thailand who drive on the left (the right side). The roads were busy, congested and there were a lot more cars that I remember from when I was last here.

I had warned Scouse of the level of poverty and lack of development in the country. With children selling nik-nacks and books, showing you their abilities to speak and count in numerous different languages. Some children had limbs missing, reported to have been caused by their own parents because this brings in more money when begging to make a living. It turns out this was all a lie. Since 2008 it appears the country or at least Phnom Penh had moved on dramatically. There was lots of cars and pickups which were previously unseen, businesses seemed to fill the streets and there seems to be a real sense opportunity. I don't know what has happened by this isn't the place I remembered.

We arrived at the hotel and met with the guys that would be spending the next two weeks with on the trip, English, Irish, Australian and a Colombian. A real good bunch of guys. We jumped into a Tuk Tuk and headed out to the FCC for dinner and a few beers.



The next day some people had a rest in the sunshine around the pool and others decided to head out to the Killing fields and S21 the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. These are still the main tourist attractions in Phnom Penh and left as a constant reminder of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge Killings in the 1970's where it is estimated up to 3 million people lost their lives.

Later that day when people returned we had a few more beers discussing the harrowing attractions and was briefed on the days ahead. The bikes were delivered and we were asked to check over them for any damage.



We were introduced to the support team. Leng who would be heading up the riding along with Tony the mechanic, Chea a support rider and Tim who would be driving the support truck with our luggage, spare parts, drinks and a spare bike.

the next morning we woke up and people started to get their gear together, it was 7:15 and the temperature was beginning to rise. 



With the bikes all lined up outside the hotel we had a quick reminder of the marking system we would be using. This is to allow the group to flow and so we wouldn't have to stop at every corner to make sure everyone was still with us. Simply a maker is told to wait on a corner and send everyone in the correct direction. Once the last man in through they head off, so you end up leap frogging everyone and allows a continuous ride.





With all the excitement I managed to forget to start my GoPro which is a shame as you couldn't appreciate the organised chaos of the Phnom Penh traffic without seeing it first hand.

We had about 250km to ride that day and our first stop was at a local temple to receive a blessing from a local monk to wish us good luck and safety on our trip. The blessing was chanted at us while being covered in water, we then each received a red cotton bracelet. It turns out that their aren't many religious people amongst us and some would say atheist but so far only one person has been brave enough to take it off.



We continued on our way, at first we was told that the day would mostly be covered on tarmac and road riding. After about 80km of dirt/dusty tracks clearly their ideas of roads were different to mine.

we stopped and got some drinking in a village and its become clear that everytime we stop we turn into an attraction for the locals and especially the kids. They love the bikes and having a laugh at us in all our gear.



As we passed through the local villages children came running out of their houses to wave and say hello. It's such a friendly welcoming place that isn't seen in the cities or anywhere I've travelled before (not to this extent anyway). I have lots of GoPro footage I'll add at a later date but simply haven't got the time to go through it yet.

We stopped when we hit the Mekong river to take in some views and riding on the sand along side the river. This was to be my first time of riding on real sand and lets just say it didn't go to well. It appears the trick is to go for it, being cautious I didn't. The result was me with the rear end of the bike dug into the sand and stuck. Luckily Tony was around to give me a hand dragging the thing out otherwise I could have been there a while.



Continuing through some trees and farm land we took a break. The heat, oh god I wasn't used to anything like this. Sweat was running in my eyes and dripping off the end of my nose. I think I consumed 4 or 5 litres of water that day along with rehydration salts to try and keep myself going. Nick kindly added a filter to this photo to save the embarrassment of our red faces (well mine and Scouses anyway). 



Carrying on, we came to a river that we need to cross. We were paddled across by a lady and a boy who could of only been about 7 or 8. It was the real sense of adventure that we had been hoping for. 




We had some lunch before continuing on. Stopping at a rubber tree plantation. There were thousands Chea explained that the trees all scared (cut) and parts of the bark removed so that the rubber runs down them and then this is collected in pots attached to each tree. It was getting late and all the workers were making their way home in and on the tops of trucks so we headed off.





We arrived in Snuol where we would be spending our first night. Around 11 hours on the road including stops we had covered 259km it felt like quite an achievement.




All of the photos I took from Day 1 can be found here.


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