Well our last three days in Cambodia were certainly eventful.
Feeling “explory” and in need of a challenge we decided to investigate the Mekong Discovery Trail. The information we had on it was sketchy to say the least. It seems to have been set up a few years back complete with cool map but has since slumped into obscurity – the only map we found was tacked to a bike hire shed and very faded. We were told we’d need a guide – 20 dollars please. Naturally we decided no. So armed with water and trepidation we returned to Koh Phdau and set off on paths unknown up the longest island in the Mekong ~ 45km.
We soon discovered the route was marked by small signs and blue posts. Not always in useful spots such as junctions and at times upside down but still there. We also realised as we bounced, jolted and jerked along, our route generally followed the main path marked by tire and feet tracks. These tracks quite often looked like those made by a car which confused me somewhat till we came across a family out in their cart hauled by two panting sweating buffalo. We felt their pain.
So navigation wasn’t bad and we covered the distance (more than 45km as the path was less than direct…) but my god the sand made it hard work! Fully laden bikes need alot of pushing when you sink half way up your wheels in fine dust. They also skid out from under you and need to be leapt off. The path wended through dry scrubby woodland not a drop of water anywhere. As we got further north lots of birds could be seen flitting through the trees. We also came across a man making his evening snare.
Needless to say it was a tired, sweaty and thirsty duo that made it to the top shore and persuaded a guy to take us over to the other side for the exorbitant price of 4 dollars. Sellers market sadly.
Our homestay that night proved eventful of course. While eating dinner on the floor I glanced at the black cat who gave me a withering look. Next thing I know, as I’m eating rice and veg, something incredibly hot is running down my back. I turn to see the cat sauntering off having just peed all over me! Lucy again enjoying the show….
Well, we were then ushered down stairs for the long overdue wash. This to be conducted in the dark under the stars behind the house. A plastic saucepan dipper employed to get water from the massive Ali baba clay pots onto us. We gathered our stuff and headed down stairs the family trouping along behind. Outside the family pig and chicken joined the entourage. As we laid out shampoo etc everyone else assumed their various positions. Dad showed us the dipper then after a few false starts did actually disappear. Youngest daughter climbed the water pot and perched up there using the phone torch to light up our ablutions so her teenage brother swinging in his hammock in the shadows could enjoy the sight of Lucy and I washing with piggy wig snuffling around our feet. It was all so ridiculous we gave up on modesty and laughed our way through the shower. We tried to tell the daughter to shine the torch else where but obviously whatever bro was paying her was a greater incentive than our indignant squeals!
The next day we left Koh Niai and cycled up the highway to Stung Treng. Some shopping for vitals – shampoo, sun screen preferably without skin whitener, cycle gloves, massage and money with of course a quick bakery stop. We also decided to do another kayak through the floating forest up by the Laos border. A nice man at Xtreme Asia lightened our wadge of cash, gave us directions to find our guide Mr Pross in Osvay and waved us on our way the following morning.
Osvay was a little village on the Mekong banks boasting a tiny restaurant overlooking the river and floating forest, run by Kika, recently returned from being a maid in Malaysia, and keen to set up a bar and guesthouse. Give her a year and it ll be bustling ~ a very determined lady on a mission.
The kayak was gorgeous amoungst the towering trees. Our one aim was to make Mr Pross smile. We acheived this by capsizing mid river – we hit a bush. I know this is most unusual as I never fall out of boats! I had my lovely xiaomi phone out taking photos and had just tucked it back into my bra when we turned turtle. Alot of squealing and panicked splashing from me to get it out before it became fully waterlogged. A night and day of drying later and I finally plucked up the courage to turn it back on. Still works like a charm….
We celebrated our kayak and last night in Cambodia by bringing a new meaning to “cricket and beer”. Along with our guide and his mates we sat drinking a beer and munching freshly fried crickets that I’d just helped granny de-wing and gut. Absolutely delicious like really juicy pork scratchings, bacon and crackling in one. Even veggie Lucy admitted they tasted good!
Breakfast (the biggest omlette ever with deep fried dough sticks and coffee) watching dawn spread over the river and then bouncing the overgrown dusty back path route to the border completed the Cambodia section of our trip – we were both very sad to be leaving but excited for the next chapter in Laos.
x Tash and Lucy