March 8th to Kratie, Cambodia
We watched Mr Hom and his kids get the boat ready for taking us to Nakasang, on mainland at 8am and then to take Valerie and Micheal out fishing for the day. By 7.45 Mr Hom had not returned in his boat and we weren’t certain he would show up , so we made a very quick 6k sprint cycle on a potholed bumpy dirt road, to the top of the island to the boats. But damn , there were about 40 backpackers ahead of us in the queue being very slowly herded in an unorganised manner onto the boats. !! Pete spotted a flat deck vehicle ferry just leaving and Nickie called out to it to stop, it hesitated for a moment but then cast off when one of our boat operators waved it away. It was difficult to keep calm, we had to be at the bus office by 8.30, to fill out passport stuff prior to getting on the bus. We met Brett a 28yr old, kiwi backpacker from Nelson, whom we talked cycle touring with. He has plans to cycle Europe later this year. We were very pleased to be on an air/con luxury bus, the trip took about 7hrs with a few stops and we had seats at the front. It took only 20 mins to the border and here we waited over an hour for passport processing. From the border the road conditions quickly deteriorated, lots of huge deep potholes and many road-works. Landscape was hot, dry , dusty and the road very crowded, in some places only single lane. Nickie was glad not be out there , as she has now got a full-on sinus infection and very productive cough, bought on by dust, burn-off smoke and vehicle exhaust. 4pm we were let out at a petrol station corner, 38C. Wham, the heat took our breath away and turned on the our sweat showers. The backpackers all dashed off to be first in at the guesthouses while we took 15 mins to rebuild the bikes and get loaded. Haha , once we were on wheels we got to the Balcony Guesthouse, closely beating 3 girl backpackers, where we got the last room, which luckily had ensuite with hot water. Quickly we showered, then back on the bikes to the night markets, Pete to get phones SIM card and Nickie some fabric. We talked with Elizabeth from California, who is about to nurse volunteer in Siam Reap for 2 weeks. She told us about the bike circuit, 50ks that we will do tomorrow. Nickie enjoyed a Khmer vege curry and Pete had Loc Lac, a beef stew.
Saturday 9th Kratie, Cambodia 62k ride in the country.
Balcony Guesthouse is to be recommended for comfort, food, coffee and Pheak, the manager who speaks English with a Kiwi twang ! His boss is from NZ, currently living in another part of Cambodia. Pheak organised the bus onto Phnom Penh for us. A quick visit to the markets for Pete to get someone to sort out the SIM card that wasn’t working, was unsuccessful. Nickie discovers the camera battery is flat which is annoying cos there are so many interesting food things happening, women selling clams from large barrows, one man has 2 dead chickens tied by the feet to his scooter handlebars. It is already after 10 when we get back to the guesthouse and not wanting to wait for the camera to charge, we start the bike circuit that may take us 4-5 hrs. See photos taken on the phone. Kratie Rapids village, built over the river on stilts looked very commercialised, so we rode right past. Pete did a repair job with a hammer, on a bent pedal shaft of a little girls bike, when we stopped for cold drinks. 2 girls, about 8yrs old were very happy with the result , lots of smiles,” thumbs up” gestures and then we heard a very shy quiet “thankyou”, they were able to tell us their names when we asked. Most of the kids are learning basic english . At 32ks we hadn’t seen the ferry to the other side of the river for the return loop which should have been at the 23 k mark. No-one we asked could understand us to help, so we decided it was safer to retrace our way rather than risk being stranded on the other side of the river if we did manage to cross. Pete used a high pressure hose at a motorbike cleaning station to blast away 4 weeks of Laos red dirt off the bikes and after a quick rub down of the chains with a rag they were ready to get on the bus tomorrow.