We're back in the third world. Back in the land of chickens scratching for food at the roadside. Back to the rubbish strewn everywhere. back to the hundreds of stinky small fires burning leaves and plastic bottles. Back with hundreds of dogs lazing in the sunshine. Back with the crazy agricultural machinery and trucks. No more custom motorbikes, these ones barely move and have only a bolt & wire where the headlamp used to be.
All this changed the minute we got off the ferry. It was packed. Sunday morning as well. We wondered if it might not be running 'due to scheduled weekend maintenance', no way, this is buzzing SE Asia and there is money to be made. Not much though, the crossing was only about 17p each, another clear indication that it wasn't a 'whities' ferry.
We headed north for about 90 minutes at a steady 18km/h, taking it easy, we had a long day ahead. The weather forecast said it would only get to 30 degrees with a light breeze (headwind unfortunately).
Ordering a coffee in Cambodia takes a bit of getting used to. In posh places its easy but in the local cafes it's a bit more complicated. Hot, iced, black, milk or sweet milk? That's a lot of variations. The sweetened iced ones are a hot cyclists dream. 50% bloody strong coffee and 50% sweetened condensed milk which in itself is about 40% sugar!! All in a tall glass with loads of ice.Yummy!
On we went, back over the Mekong to join a bigger road, then after another hour and a plate of fried rice we forked onto the National Road 61. Tarmac? No not really. Bumpy broken surface of dust and loose rocks? Yes, of course. Thankfully that only lasted about 10km and then it turned into a smooth red, dusty road. Our speed increased but not as much as the passing cars & trucks. Phew, each one engulfed us in clouds of fine red dust that got in our eyes, teeth and everywhere else imaginable. Was it fun? You bet it was.
We stopped for a breather at what looked like a disused school. All the way along the road the little kids (and some adults) call out hello and wave frantically, some shrieking with joy or running out to chase us. Now we were stopped a group of filthy kids came over for a closer look. So shy, so cute, so cheeky.
More riding, more "hello, hello", more waving. We began to feel more like the queen on coronation day than a couple of dusty, sweaty cyclists.
Another stop in a little dusty cafe
More bumps, more dust. Another stop, this time we met a lovely young girl who had really good English. She was desperate to talk so came to sit with us. Education is so important here, it can really make such a difference to a child's future. We had a great chat about all sorts of things and also picked up some handy words in Cambodian like 'Guest House'. An hour or so later we used that very word and were pointed to a place down an alley. Now for $7 I think our view of the Mekong wasn't too bad
We bought a couple of cold beers and went and sat on a bench amongst the rubbish and cow pats. It was the best place going. Unfortunately at dinner our attempt at "no meat, just vegetables" didn't really work so the local alley cats enjoyed quite a lot of what looked like cows intestine and stomach lining. Hey ho we were hungry and after doing 78km it tasted ok when washed down with lashings of ginger beer....
Now we just love Chinese soft rock Ballard love songs as much as the next person. In fact we were so lucky we had the pleasure of listening to them all night. Where they came from we do not know but even with our pillows over our heads the joyful sound just kept on coming. It sounded even better when the cockerels joined in at about 5.
Time to get up and grab some breakfast....