Journey Reports

Cambodia   April 23rd 2017, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Unexpected Adventure

Russian truck brocke in

Jakob & Ernest:

Pampered by good roads, incredibly good infrastructure, supermarkets and international cuisine, we reached the border between Thailand and Cambodia in early April. After we had to pay more for our visa than planned, we drove to the next city, accompanied by monsoon-like rain. As always in Asia, there are little stands on the edge of the main street were people sell fruit, meat or other treats. Surprisingly, we saw little carts where they sold baguettes with different cuts. Since Cambodia was a French colony until the 1960s, French influence can still be seen in the Cambodian cuisine.

The ATMs spit out only US dollars, which we had to exchange in the adjoining exchange offices to Cambodian Riel. In Cambodia, generally one can go shopping with Thai baht, American dollars as well as the national currency. Every small stand accepts each of these three currencies. Cambodia is also the first country on our journey, where they don’t have coins, but only banknotes, which for us as bike travellers of course means less weight ;-)

The next day, our last big adventure of this tour began - 250 km through the Cardamom Mountains over incredible off-roads. At the beginning of the day, it went up a few hundred heights of altitude into the densely wooded hills of the mountains at just below 40° C. Beside the street were signs of the Cambodian military who warned not to leave the street. The signs threatened with a 10-year imprisonment in case of disregard of this regulation. In general, we did not had much interest in a cross-country exploration of the Cambodian jungle, as the country is one of the most land mine contaminated countries in the world (6 million undetected land mines).

After about 50 km the concrete road ended, and it went on a gravel road deeper into the jungle. It was raining incessantly, and we had to stop at water springs in order to make water drinkable with our ceramic filter.

Of course, it came as has often happened to a precarious incident in the middle of the Pampas. It was about 3pm, it was raining and we still had to go about 40km to the next village. A rhythmic sound on Ernest's rear wheel stopped him ... The coat had an elongated crack from which the hose spilled.

We were just about to get the rear wheel out of the bike rack in the middle of the pouring rain when a pickup appeared. Fortunately, we have been carrying our old coat with us for 6 months, which should now be used. For us it was clear that the more elaborate repair on the muddy road without large food supplies and drinking water and the 40 km still to go would not have been possible in the remaining hours of sunshine. The pickup was the first we had seen that day, and it even had a free loading area. Once again an angel, who has emerged from nothing and helped us out of a predicament. Even with this off-road vehicle we needed an hour and a half for the 40km. In hindsight, therefore, it was a damn right decision.

We stayed in a homestay, and on the morning of the following day we met a group of Australian motocross drivers who were traveling with a companion car and guides and came from the direction we wanted to go to. At breakfast, they told us of incredibly bad ways, even the motocross wheels and the off-road vehicles were stuck. We followed their advice and dismantled our fenders so we would get a chance at all.

With a paternal-skeptical look, these older-but-still-young Australians bid farewell – and off we went. The wheels slid back and forth, and the full concentration was in demand. We took two "ferries" that took us across a lake. The ferries were so small that just two or three mopeds and our bicycles fit. The material was, of course, wood and the drive was a small outboard that propelled the board rack with felt 2 knots.

To our bad luck it started to rain when we were still on the second ferry. The streets became even more muddy and slithery. The children were playing on the street, as if there were no rain and no mud. The huts, which lined the path, were built on stilts and usually furnished with straw roofs and bamboo walls. On the way we overtook off-road vehicles, which were stuck and waiting for tractors to pull them out of the mud. Even we had great difficulty on some climbs to push our bikes, as our shoes slipped on the mud. Muddy and drenched, we reached a small village with a homestay after 35 km.

The next day we were planning to make an inhuman stage to the next big city: 105 km, a pass and 90 km off-road. After we got up early and both of us had a few eggs with rice crushed, it went off. After 20 kms Irni had his first flat tire. The mood was still good and the team was confident. When the third and shortly thereafter the fourth flat tire came on, our otherwise very cool minds slowly heated up. When it occurred for the seventh time with Ernest's bike during the last 30 km, we ran out of repair kit material. Burned out we sat under a small shelter and waited for three hours on the loamy street to wait for our next angel. In the three hours, 15 mopeds and two tractors passed by. There was no reception, and the people around us did not understand a single word of English. The way back was 30 km, and to the next city, where we would get a new repair kit, was 75 km away. So ... Angel, where are you?

Normally you imagine angels in white garments, who take away all the burden and problems from your shoulders and care for you lovingly and motherly. First we heard him, then we smelled him, and then we saw him: a Russian old-timer truck with a 6-wheel drive, who trudged slowly along the road. In the cockpit, three Cambodians sat in tattered Bayern jerseys and grinned. Well, almost angelic, but you take what you get! The bicycles were loaded onto the loading area and we also got up behind. We did not know where it went, but main thing we came off this place.

Five minutes later, the truck broke into an old wooden bridge with the right front wheel, about one meter deep. Under a small shock, we quickly jumped from the loading area and realized that now we might be in a more hopeless position than before. When a car came, of course, it could not get through (The damaged truck blocked the bridge). With daredevil maneuvers, the men with two carriages raised the truck centimeter by centimeter. The wooden beams from the front section of the bridge were pried out to be laid over the hole. The wheel of the truck hovered at this point perhaps ten centimeters above the hole. Slowly, the carriages were lowered and the four wooden beams laid on top of each other held the truck, albeit alarmingly swaying.

Slowly the truck rolled back, and we break out in shouts of joy at the almost impossible action the three boys had done. We now thought the truck was turning and headed back to the village, as the bridge was impassable. But no, dear reader, we are in Cambodia! The courageous, perhaps even life-tired driver steered the old-timer back directly onto the bridge and drove slowly but successfully over the bridge to the other side with creaking and crackling entablatures.

We think we were more excited than him and jumped around the truck like little boys who had found their new childhood heroes in the drivers. The men had shown us that even in the most impossible situations in which there seems to be no way out, one can find a way to light if one only wants.

We drove into the night until we came to a small village where the men brought us to a host family. The next day we were able to repair the hoses in a small moped shop and made the remaining 60 km to the next city. On the way we saw motorcycle ambulances we had never seen before. The patient held with one hand a stick with an infusion bottle and with the other hand he clung to the moped driver, who carefully tried to evade the pothole in the street.

A few days later, we reached Angkor Wat on well-paved roads and explored the centuries-old temples, which can be visited at much too exaggerated prices ($ 37 admission for one day).

We are now in Phnom Penh with the Salesians of Don Bosco, who run a technical school here. On April 19th, we reached the 14,000 km mark, which triggered emotions we never experienced before...

Now, only 350 km are left to our destination: Vietnam and the South China Sea. An incredible, enriching and adventurous journey is slowly coming to an end. Each of us will write a final report in Vietnam and will let you share our feelings and thoughts.

{Translation from German: Webmaster}

 i20170423-01Water filter^ Water filter ^
Raining is coming^ Raining is coming ^
Jungle^ Jungle ^
The rescuer^ The rescuer ^
 i20170423-06 i20170423-07The ferry^ The ferry ^
 i20170423-09 i20170423-10 i20170423-11 i20170423-12 i20170423-13 i20170423-14After the sixth flat tire that day^ After the sixth flat tire that day ^
7th flat tire ...^ 7th flat tire ... ^
Russian truck brocke in^ Russian truck brocke in ^
A family car :-)^ A family car :-) ^
 i20170423-19Happy New Year in Cambodia^ Happy New Year in Cambodia ^
Angkor Wat^ Angkor Wat ^
 i20170423-22 i20170423-23 i20170423-24 i20170423-2514,000 km^ 14,000 km ^
Dead birds ... and a dead cat^ Dead birds ... and a dead cat ^

Comments to this report:

Burkhard writes:

April 23rd 2017, 22:01

Kurz vor Ende kommen jetzt doch noch endlich die Abenteuer. Zu den Engeln: ich glaub, die sind mittlerweile auch emanzipiert und haben Hosen an. Lachen musste ich über das Bild, wo Ernest am Wegesrand sitzt und das Rad mitten auf der Piste liegt. Resignation pur, aber irgendwie gehts immer weiter, egal, wie mans nennt: Schutzengel, Hilfe, Zufall, Glück, nette Menschen, Geduld, Schicksal... Jungs, es ist schön, euch zu begleiten, ich lerne und freue mich für euich!

Steffi writes:

May 02nd 2017, 20:57

Danke, vor allem für das letzte, sehr wertvolle Foto!

Es zeigt, dass die Grenze, welche Tiere wir streicheln und welche wir essen dürfen, je nachdem wo wir sind, völlig willkürlich gezogen wird und nur in unseren Köpfen existiert. Die Anonymität von Salamischeibe, Bratwurst oder Geschnetzeltem auf unserem Teller geht verloren und es gibt keinen Grund mehr, zu glauben, dass irgendein Leben weniger wert wäre, als ein anderes. Vielleicht kann es irgendwann wirklich Freiheit für Alle geben - zumindest da, wo es so viele großartige Alternativen für uns gibt.

Ein fantastisches Finale für Euch!

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