Posted on September 7, 2017
Part two of my bicycle ride around Cambodia.
After an uneventful ride from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh I rewarded myself with a day off from riding. This is the day I am going to get my bicycle tuned up to keep me moving forward for the rest of the trip.
Flying Bikes 2 bicycle shop is just a few blocks from my guesthouse making it easy to drop off and pickup my bicycle after getting a tuneup. Leaving Phnom Penh I felt like I was riding a brand new bicycle fully justifying an extra day in the city.
The ring-of-death that circles city seems easier when I leave town versus the trip from hell coming in to the city. I think knowing that there are quieter roads ahead make the terror less intense.
On my recent motorcycle trip around Cambodia Route 3 south of Phnom Penh was the worst road I encountered. This left me a bit apprehensive on this part of this bicycle ride but for some reason it seems like a completely different road today. I am not sure why but why question the good things?
My stop for tonight is in the small village of Tani. From a previous trip I know there is a guesthouse there ($6 a night) making it a nice stopping place for the night. Walking around the village before dinner it is easy to tell that few foreigners spend any time here. Once I pull out my camera people seem to want their pictures taken. They wait for their turn as I make my way down the road with camera in hand happily putting their youngest out in front for some camera time.
My back tire has been slowly leaking for a while now and it seems to worsen as the day goes on. I stop at a small repair place for a quick repair. It still amazes me how skilled people are at repairing flat tires. Maybe if I took the time I could get as good but that would take away the experience of watching these experts at work. And they charge twenty-five cents. Why would I frustrate myself and do it myself?
In no time at all my flat is fixed. As I pulled out my money I realized I didn’t have any small bills. Going through the countryside small bills are always best so I usually make sure I have a good supply. But this time I failed to keep up. I was in the middle of nowhere with no option to get change. There was no way he was going to have change for what I had either. Let’s just say that I made someone very happy today. And I doubt he will forget this repair for a while.
About halfway to Kampot I get off the main road and head for the dirt. I ride around the mountains near Kampong Trache. The dirt roads are full of dips and ruts filled with water making the ride challenging. The main reason for riding my bicycle this far from Siem Reap was these mountains. I wanted to get some drone video of the area while the rice fields were at peak growth.
Some of the local people remember me from my last motorcycle trip here. I guess a white guy with a drone isn’t easy to forget in these parts. The rice fields are full now allowing me to get the video footage I was after. There was a dark rain cloud looming over my shoulder much of the time. This forces me to carefully plan my exit should the need arise quickly. I still have to continue on to Kampot for a two night stay. I can see the rain falling from the clouds and the thunder seems to crack just at my back. With a little luck to ride to Kampot will be a dry one.
For some reason the second half of the ride today tired me out. Maybe it was the dirt roads with a full pack or the headwind most of the way to Kampot. Either way I was in the mood for a half rack of ribs to celebrate the effort and replenish my energy storage.
Kampot is one of my favorite cities in Cambodia. The buildings are old and full of French influence. There are more than enough restaurants to keep anyone happy and they never seem to disappoint me. I spent most of my rest day cruising around town after buying a new tire. Last night my rear tire started bulging causing a ‘clump, clump, clump’ when I rode. This morning it was gone but I knew the weak wall would bring it back at any time. A new tire and tube will probably cure my frequent flat tires also. My old tire has thousands of miles on it and it is time for a well deserved retirement.
After some good food in town and a good nights rest at the Blue Buddha Guesthouse it is time to head back to Phnom Penh for another century ride. About fifteen miles outside of town the roads splits giving me the option of heavily trafficked Route 3 or less busy, and unknown to me, Route 41. I opt for the quieter route and veer left at the appropriate time. Immediately I am transformed into a different world. The road is the same width as Route 3 but the traffic falls to almost nothing and the sound level allows me to hear the wind rustling through the rice fields .
There are few villages along the way but it is mostly desolate here. There are enough places to get refreshments to make me feel safe from disaster but for the most part the road is all mine. The number of excited locals I pass is certainly higher here than it would have been on the main thoroughfare. At about the halfway mark the houses start getting closer together and the villages get larger and more frequent. This continues until my right turn towards Phnom Penh. All in all the road was a much better ride. Good choice.
But this would soon change. Almost immediately the change slapped me in the face. The traffic was unbelievable. There are numerous garment factories along this road with all of the accompanying end of shift traffic one would expect. While I might expect it I don’t like it. As I make my way closer to the airport the traffic increases – a feat I would have thought impossible just an hour before.
I made it a couple miles where traffic is at a standstill. Because of the number of motorbikes squeezing in every conceivable space there is absolutely no room for me to move forward. Motorbikes surround me on my right, left, front and rear. The occasional cow must be also be avoided. The sun is setting and my guesthouse is still ten miles away. Today I will be forced to ride in the dark for a while – but at least it is in a city with almost adequate lighting. But the traffic is still heavy. Anyone who has driven in Phnom Penh knows the challenges during daylight which are only exacerbated at night.
As one can guess by reading this blog I defied death and made it to my guesthouse successfully. I am greeted by familiar faces as I checked in and my room was waiting for me. The staff/owners knew I would be returning and I would be hungry when I arrived. Luckily they have a good restaurant in the guesthouse so after I get a quick shower I only need to walk down a flight of stairs to start eating.
On to Part Three. The final days.