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18 Sep 2011

Chhlong and Back

Gilly is in intensive training for a 100km charity cycle ride around the Angkor temples in December.  That's 62 miles, further than the London to Brighton ride, in tropical heat, but slightly more scenic.  (More info here, sponsor her here.)

I am a sucker for punishment and thought I'd join in with the training.  Session 1 (for me), a 73.6km jaunt down to the next big settlement South of Kratie on the Mekong.  The furthest I'd done in the 12 months previously was the 0.4km commute to work each day.

Here is a little map showing the start and end point, taking us around the sharp bend in the river.

View Kratie to Chhlong in a larger map

A typical scene en route, boats replacing scooters as the most effective form of transport due to the widespread seasonal flooding.

Four palms, or the tops of them at least.

Still smiling after 45 minutes in the rising heat...

I put on a brave face, despite my aching legs and arse.

Right now is a festival particular to Cambodia called Pchum Ben.  Each day people take rice to the pagoda as an offering to their ancestors.  At this time of year this often requires the use of boats to get there from the road.  Here they are queuing for the next boat in the Khmer equivalent of Sunday Best.

As we get closer to Chhlong there is a large Muslim community and two mosques.  Once again, reaching these religious buildings means a short paddle.

In Chhlong there is one street with a strip of old French colonial buildings.  Some of these are falling apart, while others retain some practical function, either as a shelter for a shop, warehouse or small factory.

You can just imagine how grand they would have been when the paint was fresh.

This one is gradually being reclaimed by the forest.  (Gilly says, "It's not a forest!")

Feeling the heat and wiping her brow as we stop for a much needed intake of sugared water a.k.a. a Coke and a Sprite (or Co-ka and Spry as we say here).

Somehow I'm still smiling, even though I know full well that we're only half way.  Every pedal must be repeated on the way back.

One more stop to check out this restored building which we are told is a hotel and restaurant in the tourist season.  If we get the energy to do this again we can stop here for the night and go back the next day.

Road kill, Cambodian style.

Thankfully schools are closed until after the rains stop.

Not sure what this says but it is probably some form of milestone rather than a gravestone.

It's 11.30am and the heat is really pounding, not for these buffaloes though.

The heat and my pace-making in the home straight led to a loud pop as my back tyre exploded.  However, in Cambodia, you're never more than a few hundred metres from a cycle repair shop and for £3 we had a brand new tyre and were back on the road in less than 15 minutes.

Gilly takes over the pace-making after my mishap.

Without the stop for repairs we might have made it home before the dark clouds descended.  Poor cows, out in the heat, out in the rain, no respite whatsoever.

We could see the rain in the exact direction we were heading.  When we hit it there was also a headwind, making riding slightly more challenging for our aching legs.  However, the rain itself was pleasantly cooling.

Safely back home, literally soaked through.  Our new landlord took this photo, preceded by the following exchange:

Gilly (in Khmer): We have just cycled to Chhlong and back.
Landlord: What?
Gilly: We have just cycled to Chhlong and back.
Landlord: What?
Gilly: We have just cycled to Chhlong and back.
Landlord: Oh, that's a long way.
Gilly: Yes, very far.
Landlord (baffled by our stupidity): Why didn't you just take your motorbike?

All in all a good experience, and proof that you don't need any training to deal with this long distance cycling malarky.  Good luck to Gilly for her ride, you can sponsor her here.

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