Well we had been warned…. Any internet resource describes the journey into Camodia from Laos as one of the least bikefriendly roads you can take. “Most boring road I have ever cycled on”, “Do yourself a favour and take a bus” “Avoid it by all means”.
Anyhow, we had a wonderful rest day on one of the Mekong Islands and it was maybe the first real rest day we had. There was nothing to do but swimming, sleeping and eating. Ellie managed to sleep around 20 hours in a 24 hour period. So, we felt strong and ready to go. I have to say it started not too badly. It was boring, flat, very hot already in the morning, an annoying headwind and we had two flat tyres in the first hour. But we made progress and the mood was superb. Crossing the border was a breeze as well. We heard so many horror stories about slow process and expected bribery… nothing, we paid our visa fee and cruised into Cambodia in 30min.
And then it hit us. The next 100 or so kilometres are not even boring, there are nothing. It feels like riding through a warzone, some king of apocalyptic wonderland. Fires everywhere, scorched earth, few houses, most of them ruins. This was one of the most desperate landscapes I have ever seen. The surface of the road was either bad asphalt, broken asphalt or dirt road. There was a constant dust hanging in the air, that made breathing difficult. But what I really like about Max and Ellie… I can count on their humour. We had long discussions about how we would name this road (Satan’s scrotum won) and at one point Ellie and Max had such a hysterical compulsive laughter attack, that we had to stop. At the end I got really into the mood of the road, but I suspect I was the only one.
The first place of rescue was Strung Teng, a middle-sized town on the confluence of the Sekong and the Mekong, that could be very pretty, but it is not. A decaying, decadent town full of lazy action. I have a soft spot for places that do not even try to be pretty. We did not even find anything good to eat. The next day brought us to Kratie, which is sort of touristy, because you can see endangered river dolphins and it is a good stop-over to Ankor. We did not see any dolphins, but is a lively town, with people dancing on the Mekong foreshore, some good places to eat and a crazy market that puts you off meat for the rest of your life. The only thing that really bothers us is the horrendous air-quality from all the fires around. We could also be in Gippsland.
It was all ok, but after the outstanding time we had in Laos…. Cambodia and us, we are not for a good start.
Today was much nicer, we are back on the Mekong, small communities on stilt houses, friendly people, irrigated rice-paddocks and only a short-day riding. It is nearly 150km between Kratie and the next bigger town and so we decided to have a short day to the only place with guesthouses on the way, Chhlong (We call it Shlong). It is a funny little town, with some old dilapidated colonial buildings. We were standing a little bit confused in the middle of town, when a woman asked us, if we are looking for accommodation as she is working for a hotel. We had heart about the Relais de Chhlong (We call it Palais du Shlong), which is completely out of our price range. Anyhow, she offered us a price that was not even half of the normal price and now I am sitting in a so luxurious room that it feels just wrong.