- Posted August 22, 2013 by
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Cambodia’s spectacular ruins
Khmer Empire– Back Story Pt.4
- sarahbrowngb, CNN iReport producer
Over the years of temple hunting and riding I have learned a lot. One of most importance, take plenty of photos. You will have a record just about every step of the way and something in your images will help you pull out that forgotten item from your memory banks. I have written in a few publications over the years and scrolling through photos allowed me to include significant tid bits. Digital photography makes it even easier and the price of memory is always getting cheaper. Just make sure you have enough batteries.
Dress properly and anticipate the various conditions you expect to encounter. Rainy days make for good photos too, just make sure you have rain gear. Good meals and plenty of water can fend off serious headaches experienced by dehydration.
On route 66, Pic 1 we give way to an ox cart. The day before I had done a face plant and busted my nose. Fortunately I had a face guard on my helmet and didn’t lose teeth. We continued into the jungle and spent the night in a village house. The next day was hot and humid. A few aspirin in the tool kit would have worked wonders for me. Covered with blood and sweat, we made it to Prasat Bakan in the middle of the jungle. Muddy terrain made the journey slow and arduous.
On the way to Trapeang Preh, we encountered this wooden bridge. Pic 2 A very skilled rider in our group could have possibly ridden over it, but we chose the safe course of action and walked each bike. A spill would have ruined the trip. We later strung our hammocks in a village house for the night, and the owner cooked for us. This trip for me was the Goldie Locks of all trips. Everything was just right. The right amount of mud, sand, river crossings and encounters while discovering we could traverse the countryside and come out at the Mekong River. We saw a temple along the way as well. Pic 3 each of us loaded our bikes into a canoe and the local economy made a little money. Pic 4 we got confirmation from locals heading the other way, that we were on the right path to the Mekong River where we crossed north of Kratcheh. After two days in the jungle and no sign of wild life, I run over a cobra on the home stretch into Kratcheh.
We made it a long way from T’beng Meanchey, Choam Ksan and a wrong turn while traversing the jungle paths on our way to Neak Buos near the Thai border. We stop at a grass house and no residents to be found. We ride across the rice fields and are greeted with a landmine marker. Pic 5 I know we are close to the temple. I walk to the marker and see two tire tracks going into the brush. I look back at Mark, Sean and yell to them its got to be in there. Pic 6 Our other friend Shaun is farther back looking on. We have a little “What do you think?” session and opt to go into the clearing staying tight on the tire tracks. More landmine signs mark the paths and we don’t deviate. The only statistic about mine clearing is how many are missed. We are treated to a magnificent temple site. Unfortunately many of the treasures are damaged with futile, sloppy attempts at looting.
Land mines are still in many parts of the country. Every year people find one the hard way though each year through more education and clearing, the numbers are decreasing. Pic 7 A sign marking land mines on Route 66 is taken seriously. Ironically after visiting Prasat Bakan at the end of Route 66, a friend visited a year later and the site was covered with land mine signs.
My friend Greg and I planned to go to Ko Ker north east of Siem Reap. Just north of Beng Malea, the skies opened up. We caught a little shelter, and after losing a half hour, we put on our rain gear and motored through the storm Pic 8. By the time we got to Ko Ker, the rain had stopped and we didn’t need the rain gear. We did have plenty of mud Pic 9 to deal with as a result of the rain. The route to Ko Ker is no longer a dirt track and it is now an easier day trip out of Siem Reap.
Living in Cambodia over the years has been really rewarding. I got to experience many aspects of Khmer life before its rapid development. I have had the opportunity to travel to various sites under different seasonal conditions. The rainy season is the best as everything is green and lush. The roads can be sloppy but in the dry season we are breathing dust. There are times when we thought dry season is here and encountered water. Crossing Prey Veng Province which only has two seasons, flood and drought, we were surprised to see water, but fortunately for a small fee of 500 Riel (12.5 cents), this Khmer entrepreneur would lay the plank for our bikes and ferry us across. Sadly this experience is disappearing. This particular route now has a paved highway with bridges cutting across the province. Had it not been for that first trip to Angkor Wat in 1999 my course of history could have been completely different.