Eastern Approaches 4: Sen Monorom to Village Number 9March 14, 2005
The next morning we awoke early and arose our motor-driven steeds before departure. Much to our delight they all purred with purpose and anticipation of adventure. After a quick breakfast our energetic landlady, clad in what appeared to be a purple negligee, presented us with a plastic bag. ”Char crean,” she remarked.
It looked like ‘shit in a bag’ to us.
”It is a delicacy of these parts! It will make you strong.”
We nodded, spectacularly unconvinced and headed to our bikes.
The first 40km of our ride was uneventful, as we had taken the road the day before. However, after 40km the small, rocky pathway started to get even more difficult. We would find ourselves driving down a relatively straight route and then round a corner to find a steep decline of rocks and tree roots. I found myself in first gear most of the time and my shoulders were sorely vexed by the constant pushing and pulling required in order to keep the bike on the right path. At about 50km I had my first tumble. Riding at about 40kmh I slipped off the road, lost control and came to an ungainly halt, trapped under my bike. I brushed myself off and despite some pain in my ankle, carried on. The thing about crashing a bike is that there isn’t a whole lot you can do if you are okay. You just have to get back on.
After three hours we had traveled 70km. It was 10:00am and we were fairly tired. We found an old shack at the side of the trail and stopped. I pulled off my body armor and discovered that I was soaked in sweat. My companions were similarly moistened. We drank copiously from our water supplies.
We were about 25km from Koneck and from there it was another five hours to Lumphat. It seemed unlikely we would reach Banlung by evening.
After a short break we carried on. About an hour later we came to what we thought was Koneck, a reasonably sized village. We were all exhausted. Although we had only traveled 85km the route had been arduous and the last 15km had included some sandy trails that we would soon came to hate with unbridled passion.
We approached a local store and asked if we might rest there. The Char Crean was unpacked and proved to be delicious despite an ungainly appearance and consistency. After much discussion we realised that we might not be in the actual town of Koneck but were in fact in the District of Koneck. None of the villagers seemed to be able to actually name their village. They were as confused as we were.
After a brief sleep we re-saddled and headed out again. The next 10km were fairly populated as we drove through freshly harvested rice fields and for some time, along the banks of a river. Eventually we came across a much larger town.
”Where are we?” I asked a hardy looking soul.
”You are in Village Number Nine, in Koneck District,” he replied.
”How far to Lumphat, old boy?” I inquired.
”Psplittt,” he said, spitting out a wad of congealed saliva, ”You will not reach there by nightfall, five hours, despite the size of your motorcycles. The road is as sandy as the Sahara.”
I mused at his African reference and turned to my companions. ”We shall spend the night in Village Number Nine and in the morning we shall take Banlung.”
Next Up: An afternoon and night in Village Number Nine.