Angkor Wat to Xam Coong Thmay 109km
So I've got a destination in mind, a town right on the banks of the Mekong. So with the aid of my OsmAnd navigation app, I set a route, for cycling. It takes me along "Route 66". Well you've got to do it, really, don't ya? Even though it looks like some of it is dirt road, you still gotta go for a looksee. And so I did.
Breakfast, at my Mexican restaurant, was for the first time not so good. I ordered poached eggs, and was served boiled.....oh well. Then I went a couple of shops along and bought some baguettes and cheese, and I'm set for the day. My laundry was ready, ($1.20), and I was ready to rock.
I'm having trouble getting my head around two currencies. Everything is quoted in $US. Today I paid in Rhia, and was given $US change. Interesting system. I wonder how they pay taxes? On the Rhia takings only?
So zoomed through the traffic, all the tourist heading to the temples, and turned off on to Route 66. Immediately there's no traffic. Amazing. For the rest of the day I saw only two foreigners, in a Tuk tuk, being given the run around, I reckon. I was in the country. Flat, but definitely rural. However there was one subdivision, in the middle of nowhere, buildings all the same, with local government offices...."Water Management", "Tourism Management", "Social Services", and the like. The subdivision had guards letting only officials past, but I must have looked official, with my high viz and helmet, because I was waved through.
And then Route 66 turned to dirt, or should I say sand. And it narrowed to one lane, with ruts and bumps, and no cars, only scooters, and Fiona and I. I was a little apprehensive. What if.... There are baddies? I fall off? Fiona breaks? The road peters out? I take a wrong turn? What the heck. This is adventure.
It was amazing. People live, work and play along Route 66. At junctions there were tiny settlements, of maybe four or five houses, some doubling up as shops or services. All along Route 66 there were people working in the fields, working in workshops, walking between houses, coming and going to school. But it was only a single laned, bumpy, dirt track. And no tourists. So, so many calls of "Hello", and many of "Bye bye", they get a bit mixed up in their greetings, from kids and adults. Lots of strange looks...."What is this foreigner doing here?" For me it was a fantastic journey.
I stopped at a junction for a drink, and was just about to get back on my bike, when two locals stopped me. Route 66, a bit further along, has had a bridge washed out. Water at least waist deep. They recommended I go left. And all in sign language. I love this sort of travel.
Later, I stopped for some lunch, under a shady tree. Before I had a baguette ready, a group of kids had turned up. They were fascinated with Fiona. Lots of discussion between them re all of Fionas features, compared with their bikes. Then polite chat and thanks to me, and a photo, and we parted. I love these unexpected encounters.
Further on, kids were going to afternoon school. So many ride their bikes. Most of them are really old clangers, and many are too big for the kids riding them. I saw at least two small girls who couldn't reach the pedals when they were at their lowest point. They were just pushing the pedals at the top of the cycle. Why have we stopped letting kids cycle to school in NZ? The roads here are much more dangerous. Some of these kids, even young ones are cycling up to 5km to and from school, dubbling, a younger sibling.
Today was also "take your rice to market day". And the whole family climbs aboard the trailer, no matter how high they have to sit, and Dad drives the "tractor" (see the photos), because it's a day out for all.
Around 100km, I'm getting tired. There's a village coming up, but all day I haven't spotted a hotel or guest house. I'm thinking it might be camping at a temple, but I haven't seen one of them for ages. But it's my lucky day. A Guest House, and only $US8. And a little stall across the road that does Cow Pat. How could it be better? (Juliet could be here)