Cows: A Menace in CambodiaJanuary 6, 2014
Yes another story about driving! No matter how much you may complain, be satisfied in the knowledge that your life is probably a thousand times more interesting than mine right now.
I decided to depart from my old stomping ground of Battambang after a two-year stint. The town is now awash with religious nutjobs, voluntourists, all round do-gooders and backpackers- it’s a genuine case of lunatics taking over the asylum. Even those cheeky drunken faces of actual friends become temptingly punchable, when sat at expat corner of the bar (far enough away from the ‘nice’people) listening to the same claptrap heard a hundred times before.
Not to mention the tourist spiel touted every day, like an old stuck 45, singing the praises of the bamboo train and bat cave over and over and over. And since the departure of a certain one legged curmudgeon, and Mr Flirt being locked up behind bars, I became promoted to, if not to the number one slot, definitely top table position in the league of ‘Battambang’s most hated man 2013’.
So a move was made, far away, to another province which makes the old town seem as cosmopolitan as New York City. I at least like the countryside. While it can’t really be described as peaceful, the pace of life is somewhat more relaxed than the in-your-face merry-go-round of the city. Apart from being subject of attention from locals that a chimp receives in an Asian zoo, combined with the amazement a westerner may express coming face to face with a bona fide Martian along with the more basic of basic facilities, there is one main drawback to being out in the sticks- work, or the lack of it, a shame that work from home business fell through.
A diet of rice, dried fish and frogs caught in the garden can only be tolerated for so long, and even though a can of Klang is a mere 1500 Riel, it wouldn’t be long before I was forced to get my kicks on locally brewed methylated spirits. Being skint sucks a serious amount of balls, so one has to evaluate options:
a) Survive on rice, amphibians and ethanol until blindness.
b) Admit my mistake and ask the humourless ex-boss if I can have my job back
c) Move to the city
d) Get on my bike and become a commuter
So, every weekday morning at 0630 hours, I run the gauntlet along the most horrendous stretch of tarmac in Cambodia- the vital artery linking capital to coast, National Road 4.
There are probably about 6 million ways to die in this country (5,999,980 being recorded as heart attack by the local authorities – Quincey they aint). Fuel tankers and container trucks lumber up and down, Dailims, operated by peasants whacked on moonshine swerve without warning, sometimes even on the correct side of the road, not to mention public transport and those damned SUVs – should my revolution ever bear fruit, Hummer drivers at least, will have hot things shoved under their finger nails and dragged out like a pig to be kicked in the belly until their sphincter bleeds BEFORE going up against the wall. Then we’ll see how quick Range Rover owners hand over those keys.
Death has another face along Road 4; one more stupid looking than a coiffured teenager weaving in and out of traffic like a Scoopy powered Barry Sheen on steroids. There can be no more pointless and, given my dietary habits, ironic way to meet your maker than when involved in a head on smash with a walking burger.
‘Whatever happened to that Pedro?’ folks back home may ask.
‘Did you not hear? He was killed by a cow in some backwater, Columbia or Cambodia or something . Apparently the natives stripped all the meat to the bone as his corpse lay twitching on the ground.’
‘Ha ha, what a tool!’
Google “Cows close motorway”. 1,860,000 pages of wayward livestock bringing British traffic to a standstill. It gives police marksmen a little practice with the old high velocity rifle and a chance for pun loving hacks to come up with headlines which are udderly shameless.
No chance of that in Cambodia, where these galumphing lummoxes are free to gambol across the highway, or get spooked and take off at speed down the middle, halting trucks and looking retarded with imoonity (sorry, enough).
Why is a question which can lead to varying levels of frustration in this part of the world – along with how? & when!?. There’s not the awkward issue of religion at play here, unlike in India (you chaps worship what now?), which can lead to embarrassing situations when heavily stoned and demanding a Big Mac, not a bloody Maharaja Chicken meal in a New Dehli McDonalds.
A calf on the open market weighs in at about $400, I gone done my research, as the life of a gentleman farmer has a somewhat personal appeal. My neighbor in the new village has an ox, a brutish beast the size of a Lexus. In the morning it snorts at me and likes to show off his tassel, which is as wide as the Mekong and as long as a docker’s tea break. This specimen is worth at least $2k.
Your average herd of Zebu cattle aren’t exactly the sharpest tools in the shed, so cannot be held for any blame for their desires to rummage through piles of rotting waste and plastic bags all day. This diet may explain why local beef is like meat flavoured chewing gum. Remember the tale of the Billy Goats Gruff? To these hapless bovines, festering piles of refuse always seems more pungent on the other side, who can blame them for lolloping out into the path of oncoming troll (Sokimex tanker) to try?
So cows aint cheap, but rope is. And there’s hardly a shortage of fields between the factories along the route. Do the cow herders who can oft be spotted leading their charges about simply give up and go to sleep somewhere? OK, thieves aren’t as likely to make off with a cud chewer as easily as half-inching an unguarded Honda Dream, but still, a fair whack of cash is left to it’s own brainless meanderings each and every day, not so much of an issue out in the real rural places- but on the Kingdom’s busiest road, not so bright.
The only modicum of sense the animals possess is also the most dangerous- the buggers know where they live, and when it’s time to go back there – rush hour. As the sun sets directly over the westbound road, blinding everything facing that way, motos buzz in, like a squadron of Stukas dive bombing Kent in 1940. Add to the melee a dozen or so half ton morons with 0 understanding of the highway code (like most drivers to be fair), the result is far from pleasant.
Just another problem to add to the rest, at least cattle aren’t in a moonion, blocking the way to demand a 100% hay increase- the CNRP are probably looking into that. A problem that will persist, no doubt, until the cows come home.