A Fist Full of Cambodia: 15 days, 2 hammocks, Jungle Madness and Danger
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I started planning this trip along with another trip.
Ive got this giant world map down in my garage that i look at every day.
I noticed that Costa Rica and Cambodia shared basically the same latitude.
So, I went to Costa Rica to check out the climate:
Cambodia’s climate should be slightly hotter with less wind as
Costa Rica has the Pacific on the West and the Caribbean to the East.
Ive chosen January because it is the peak of the Dry Season.
Better for camping and better for riding. .. and better for avoiding malaria.
I began accumulating GPS data, physical maps, satellite images and travel guides for the Cambodia ride. then, meticulously pouring over all of the data and info while constructing the route.
as always, i tried to make the route as difficult as possible. choosing very remote sections of country and the faintest trails or roads that i can find.
this trip, like all my others before, will be based around camping and living off of the bike as much as possible. for this trip my plan is to sleep in as many temples or “Wats” as possible.
Here is a general overview of the route through the Kingdom of Cambodia:
Im Happy to say:
On this trip my good friend and partner in crime
(and fellow Dirty Dozen Dual Sport Gang member)
will be joining in for a tag-team of mayhem, jungle madness and general lunacy. cambo-destructo:
Mulley and I worked together on information and data collection for this ride. trips to the library and multiple beer hazed map-highlighting sessions at various bars around town.
this is a typical ADV planning session at my house.
table covered with all the maps and guide books available for Cambodia.
Cambodia prep 101
i needed to update my shots and get vaccinated for a few other things.
me getting jabbed-up at my local doctors office
Typhoid oral Vaccine
also had the doctor hook me up with some anti-diarrheal medicine.
.. which im almost positive will get used.
ive had dysentery so bad once in china that i sat in the shower all night shitting down the drain as there was no TP, then had to be hospitalized for a day.
so, im being extra careful .
the one on the left was full so i had to get a new one:
For this trip we will be using gasoline burning stoves instead of the compressed gas canister variety of stove.
well , we cant take the compressed gas canisters on the airplane.
Giant Loop has sponsored me on this ride.
Which is awesome because they make the best hardcore gear out there.
ive tested their stuff and i couldnt kill it. its absolutely Swamp Proof.
the luggage they make is directed towards the minimalist rider and i love it.
one of my favorite things about their gear is that its 100% made in the USA
Thanks so much for the bitchin gear guys ! btw cambodia is going to be covered in GL stickers when i get done with the place
Sonic Drive In has sponsored my air tickets for this ride:
we will be bringing all of our tools , tubes , spare parts, camping equipment, riding gear with us on the airplane.
we will be renting two Honda XR250s in Phnom Penh.
we have purchased different sprockets for the bikes which will gear them down to the basement. . something im sure will be useful.
THE RIDE STARTS JANUARY 2nd 2012 ENDS JANUARY 19th 2012
Stay tuned for the ride report …………..
THE RIDE REPORT STARTS HERE:
I’m going to tell this story the only way that i know how. The way I saw it and experienced it.
Because I dont want to cause any personal problems by association I need to put some words in
here just to keep things right:
FOR THE RECORD!
Mulley is a good guy and kept himself, his past and his future clean. i will defend that to the
grave because its the truth. None of my views, actions or beliefs should tarnish his reputation.
Just because i feel a certain way doesnt mean that he also jumped off the bridge.
He is not guilty by association.
Now on the other hand, i have very little self control, am very susceptible to Yellow Magic and
all other forms of suggestion, drugs and reckless exploration while in warp drive. i dont
suggest it, condone it, commend it or press it upon others but god damn it i accept it because
thats who i am and i wont change because i can’t.
anyone who wants to hold anything against me for the way i live or write can :
1. go fuck themselves
2. kiss my pale, white ass
3. (my personal favorite ) keep hating me, thus further allowing me to ruin your day.
now. on with the ride report
First. I think a little history is needed to bring everyone up to speed:
1884 Cambodia became a French Colony
World War II : When the Japanese occupied Cambodia the French left only to return after the
war to declare the country an autonomous state under French rule
1953 King Sihanouk declaired martial law and asked for international recognition as an
independent country. Independence was granted by the Geneva Conference.
At the start of the Vietnam conflict Sihanouk declared Cambodia neutral in international affairs
and in 1965 broke diplomatic relations with the USA.
1969: The US began a secret bombing campaign of communist forces in Northeastern Cambodia.
it was conducted without the knowledge of the American people.
Sihanouk did not protest the bombings at the time and even furnished the US gov’t with
intelligence on the vietnamese bases while giving in to the viet cong and north vietnamese army
in their use of cambodian territory.
Tens of thousands of rural peasants were killed in this carpet bombing campaign.
the bombings are cited as one of the reasons that the communist rebels started to show some real
success in recruiting new members to their cause.
1970 the bombings stopped
the US and S.Vietnam invaded cambodia and drove the communist forces deep into the jungles.
these forces joined a revolutionary group and became known as the Red Khmers, or the Khmer
Rouge. They overthrew the government and took control over Phnom Penh in april 1975.
Thus began one of the most terrible events in the history of the world.
Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge destroyed every part of the past and present society.
Their goal was to bring the country to “year zero” . A pesent dominated agricultural society.
anyone with an education was murdered.
2.5 million people died.
19,440 mass graves have been uncovered.
we visited a few of these mass graves. there are teeth , bone fragments and clothing scattered
about the grounds. in plain view.
the khmer rouge brought about their own downfall by conducting frequent border raids on Vietnam.
December 25 1978 Vietnam invaded Cambodia and overthrew the Khmer Rouge in two weeks. Vietnam
installed leaders of the ex-khmer rouge who had previously defected to vietnam. the KR fled to
the jungles and waged war on the new government with the help of thailand , china and the US.
Thousands were killed in civil war.
in 1989 vietnam withdrew from cambodia. the khmer rouge continued to fight the government.
in 1990 2,000 cambodians were killed in civil war.
September 1990 UN Security Council produced a plan to end the fighting and hold free elections.
A United Nations Transitional Admin. ran the country until elections were held in 1993.
the defeted prime minister refused to step down.
country now had 2 prime ministers which continued to struggle for power.
Khmer rouge continued to control the Northwest.
1997: Grenade attacks on political meetings
Association of Southeast Asian Nations stalled in accepting cambodia as a member denying the
country important trade options. foreign aid slowed to a standstill . foreign investors held
back cash much needed for development.
1999: ASEAN accepted Cambodia as a member , 2 parties established in the government. seems to be
most of the population still lives in extreme poverty without even the basics to live a fiarly
healthy life. many people dont even possess the knowledge of how to collect rainwater or boil
water from streams to make it fit for human consumption.
(Matt Jacobson & Mark Abatangelo 2004 MattJacobson Maps Silkworm Books)
the night before the flight.
I had a strange dream last night:
my truck was broken into and “pimped out” by a mexican MS13 gang member while parked in the
WalMart parking lot.
new, lush, red carpet (even on the dash), cool new CD player. Definitely a pink-taco grabber.
strange thing was that the seats were gone. upon noticing this, the person who had “pimped my
ride” appeared and told me that real men dont need seats. only women needed to see over the
(((((alarm playing the ice-cream-man song from my phone))))
Jump out of bed. load the truck with my ADV gear.
Today we fly to Cambodia.
arrive at the airport early. at the ticket counter they inform me that our flight from
Birmingham Alabama to Atlanta Georgia has been canceled ..
motherfuckingcocksuckingtittytweakingasseatingsono fabitch….. wait a minute..
i realize that the adventure has already started. this is going to be so rad.
negative mojo this early ? really !? hell to the yea
decide to turn on my phone.
Mulley calls just when the power comes on:
Mulley: ” dude our flight to atlanta is screwed”
me: “yea, i was standing at the counter being told the same thing.”
Mulley: “im on my way to the airport to pick you up. we are going to drive to Atlanta to catch
the next flight”.
Me: ” word. lets go “
we make it to Hot-lanta. jump on the Air Korea “ultra prestige cloud jumper” .
I start reading the book “The Road Gets Better From Here”. After a few pages the hot air
stewardess comes around with drinks. I start drinking whiskey on ice. the old asian guy next to
me starts blowing his nose. blood in coming out every time he does it.
Mulley gives me a sleeping pill.
I keep drinking whiskey .
I dont remember this…. :
after something like 25-28 hrs we finally land in Phnom Penh Cambodia.
get a taxi from the airport to The Blue Tongue Inn on Pasteur St.
dropped our shit in the room then headed out into the streets of The Cambo.
and the man sayeth BEHOLD Yee the Brew of a New WORLD !!!
the first of many… (this is an excellent beer )
we then dove into this joint for a few more..
upstairs houses the block-rockin’-beats. as you know, loud beats saved my life. my sound-system
turned to cranberry juice . its the truth. so say the sage.
so . this is how it works.
the chicks come hit on you.
maybe they dont. the ball is in their court.
some of them are fairly aggressive.
you pay their “bar fine” in order to get them out of the place. then after that its between you
and the woman to work out the details and finish the story.
we share a room, 2 beds . sorry. im not that kinky .
i probably had 2 hrs of sleep.
me to Mulley ” did you get any sleep? “
Mulley ” Nah man, i didnt get any “
we have breakfast at the Inn.
i have toast an omlet and coffee.
we walk around looking for the grease monkeys shop.
cant find it. call .
get a tuk tuk .
VIDEO LINK! ::phnom penh tuk tuk
i love the traffic laws here! there are NO traffic laws other than “try not to collide with
other motorists”. perfect.
we arrive at the Grease Monkey’s shop.
place is right next to The Drunken Sponge (whose canopy is blocking the Grease Monkey’s sign )
we immediately begin working on the bikes.
rear tires removed. heavy duty tubes installed.
adding bark busters.
installing our RAM GPS mounts.
and Giant Loop Coyote Bags.
… hello… im Johnny Cash…. ” i shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. when i hear that
whistle blowin’ i hang my head and cry” …
sorry . brain fart and as i write this im 7 Tecate in on a land slide victory..
Stickers getting stuck… Another Country claimed for The Dirty Dozen Dual Sport Gang arrrr!
we installed ultra HD rear tubes in the bikes.
Mulley also had an ultra HD in the front.
i said screw it and left “whatever the hell ” in the front .
new tires were on the bikes
bark busters were installed.
we left our luggage with the shop.
i decided to leave my extra front sprocket (one tooth smaller) with the shop along with
all my clothes save 2 pairs of socks and 2 pairs underwear.
the owner’s son
ready to go.
… and from this point we were riding into the void. that place where
i like to be. complete misunderstanding, chaos, unexpectedness, adventure,
mis-adventure, catastrophy , bliss, knowledge, knowing and not knowing, confusion,
frustration, happyness, hatred, sickness and health. Yea. Freedom.
i pull out into the Phnom Penh traffic for the first time.
all i could think about was:
” be like water, be like water, be LIKE Water Motherfucker”.
and it worked.
after working our way out of the hive of potential disaster
that is Phnom Penh we hit the legendary Cambodian Orange Dirt
rode it through the country side. farming comunities.
little children on the sides of the dirt cheering us on.
always have to be on the look out for these guys wandering around
the first place we stopped was next to this Wat or Temple.
i was about to piss myself. we decided that pissing next to a temple
may produce some bad mojo… so we elected to move a little further up the road.
the first “adjustment” of the trip.
mulley’s foot peg “were’nt right”.
we also had lunch here (i ate a protein bar) next to a little crop of … dead weeds.
this is one of my favorite pictures.
the ladies are wearing kramah (traditional khymer head dress)
they use them for everything:
they also use them to carry babies with.
we pulled off on a little side road.
a few little homes next to a cow that was tied to a tree.
a guy walked out from a side trail. i gave him a piece of chewing gum that he smacked on
me “k’nyom ch’moo-ah Don” . “Nee-uhk ch’moo-ah ai ? “
(my name is Don, whats your name? )
after working on it for a little be we understood and shook hands.
mulley walked over from taking a piss. he had his contact solution in his hand.
the local guy looked at him.
as he watched, mulley started squeezing the contact solution into his left eye.
the local guy was leaning into mulley’s direction, on his tippy-toes in awe and wonder.
the guy looked at me briefly like “dude… WTF ?” then started smiling and smacking his gum
again. i chuckled .
some how i picked up on him saying :
“jawng dtoh nah ? ” or at least thats what i thought i heard.
which i took for ” where are you going ? “
i told him kampot. which he understood. when i showed him Kampot on the GPS Unit
it really blew his mind.
mulley’s mug after a few hours spinning through the Orange Dirt of Cambo.
he had just put some contact cleaner in .
believe me . its really damn dusty here. its hard to see anything through the haze
of red. the stuff stains everything.
we arrive in the city of Kampot.
VIDEO ::click link below:::
hit a gas station before heading up to Bokor.
.. everything here has “prestige” or “elegance” oh.. and if its not “ultra” or “turbo ozone “
then psssshhh bitch you be a scrub .
rockin’ the prestige elegance 125 in Kampot
then there are the super style trucker hats.
mulley pointed out that they are “over size ” trucker hats.
after a more in-depth study i pointed out that they are not actually over-size, its
that the heads that the super style trucker hats crown are abnormally small.
they do look cool though. .. on them . not bald , bearded , white guys like me.
on our way up to Bokor
They were building a giant Buddha on the mountain. i love it . awesome !
If we were to build a giant Buddha on the side of a mountain in Birmingham Alabama
the Baptists would shit all over the ground, roll around in it, then start flinging and
smearing it every direction all while speaking in tongues in hopes a tornado would destroy
the pagan image.
we went up close to it to see if we could hang our hammocks from the scaffolding.
the workers were camped near it already. kind of looking at us funny when we stood around.
we decided to find a different place to camp.
tooling around in these old buildings was fun.
believe me. they have tons of history behind them.
there are many old villas that were destroyed during the khmer rouge years.
the fog was eerie.
someone had left an offering for the Gods..
we continue up the mountain the the old casino
The Villa at the end of the road
yea…. oh, yea
it was getting dark and we were scrabling to find a place to camp.
everything off the side of the road was way to thick or way too sheer or way too fucked.
finally we pull off behind this barracade:
….we camouflage our bikes ! yea!
get the hammocks up
mulley cooked up some kind of
tuna/ rice / trail mix/ dehydrated veggie stuff lol :)
i ate raw oats with my hand, out of a dry bag. awwwweeessomeeee.
really though they are pretty good ;)
next time : the jungle
Bouk Kou camp to Smuggler’s trail camp
copied from my travel journal ” The Real Ride Report” :
I enjoy interacting with differnt cultures. Its part of why I like to travel. Some people hate it because it makes things more complicated. more drawn out. Trying
my best to learn broken khmer from a book then trying to use it on the road is very rewarding. Just taking a stab at it often produces a smile from a vendor. I feel
bad speaking english to them. after all, its THEIR country. I should speak THEIR language. One of the best feelings is to be understood by a local. its like a door has
opened that has been shut to me for a VERY long time. The only way to unlock that door was to come here and interact with the land and It’s people.
Creating, finding and seeing these doors is another form of travel that i’ll explain some other time.
Language is the fastest way to gain respect and form a connection within a culture. Destroying a societies ability to write/read /speak their own language is the
fastest way to destroy a culture.
knowledge is power and it weighs nothing. So i ALWAYS take the time to learn as much as i can before i go.
Today we will be heading into the Cardamom mountains.
I was talking to one of the guys at the bike shop. He warned us not to camp in the mountains because of the large and dangerous animals (specifically the
Breaking Camp 1 Vid featuring Mulley :) click the link
Mulley rocks. very easy going, calm, well-rounded personality.
Good person to ride with.
Here, we see the Mulley applying Gold Bond Medicated Powder. If thats not well rounded then i dont know what well rounded is.
Much of life’s troubles can be avoided by following this ancient Chinese proverb:
dont sweat the petty things and dont pet the sweaty things.
ever seen that movie “Big Trouble in Little China” ?
i saw a basket on the side of the road and couldnt help myself
.. my point is. if you have’nt seen the movie “big trouble in little china” then you need to.. because it will complete you as a person.
we stopped at a little village on a river. just to check it out.
again. i love the cambodian people.
It was at this point Mulley had an abrupt moment of clarity.
mulley : “dude what do these people do all day ? “
me: lol good question !
mulley: ” i think they just ride around on their mopeds all day”
me: “lol i think you are right ! i think they may check the weather a few times too” .
ahhhh. livin’ the dream baby. livin’ THE DREAM!
but seriously . it seems like EVERYONE has some kind of business here. some little roadside shop that sells “Or Somethin’ ” (we’ll get into the meaning of that
the people are always going back and forth on their mopeds, bikes, tractors , cows etc.. between these little shops trading and buying from eachother. its awesome.
guys on mopeds carrying gas to far-out rice paddy villages. farmers with baskets of pigs and racks of ducks.
We had been going down some dirt road for quite a while.
we kept passing up a turn on our route. “nah that cant be it” “nah that cant be it”
fuck it. yea thats gotta be it.
we ran into this beautiful lady working in her rice paddy and her two kids.
had to break out the Giant Loop stickers
and the Dirty Dozen Dual Sport Gang stickers.
… and thats when we started riding out into the rice paddies.
ox paths going every which ama’ ways.
Mulley cam ::::: video click the link below:::
swamp cam ::::video click the link below:::
Gas for bike: $10
Orange Fanta drink: $1.oo
Pulling wheelies in a Cambodian Rice Paddie. ….
…. priceless .
sorry, This one is pretty long but thats why there is a FF button right ?
it shows the kind of stuff we were riding through. basically a maze in an overgrown sandbox..in cambodia. a long way from alabama :)
:::video click the link:::
Cambodian Earth Oven: before lunch
Cambodian Earth Oven: after lunch
once we finally got back on a dirt road we started hearing this loud musical instrument.
to me it sounded like an er ho (a type of chinese, 2 string instrument). so we started out looking for the origin of the sound.
we pulled into this monestary thinking it could be here that the sound was comming from.
couldnt find the musician here. the thing was so damn loud. the sound was traveling far over the ride paddies. i absolutely certain the sound was bouncing off the
swamp cam. sound tracking device.
it turned out to be a musician at someone’s wedding party !
as we rolled up the bride and groom came walking out of the tent.
pretty sure we were interupting something so we got out of there. lol.
Then we Rode through this massive Sugar Palm plantation.
If you ever get a chance. look at the lower fronds of the sugar palm.
the part where the green comes out of the brown.
the edges of the fat part of the frond are serrated like a knife. they are razer sharp.
the khmer rouge used these fronds to slit the throats of their victims / prisoners.
they used these instead of knives because they were processing so many people that the knives
would dull too quickly and would take too long to sharpen. sugar palms were faster.
strange growth from palm tree. acorn ball ?
maybe its actually a Critter ball. you know. space critters ? like the movie ?
lots of orange dirt through the palm plantation.
we stop for a Fanta, a coke and to re-up on dap soht.
Mulleys looking a little stressed , worn out , jet lagged, zoided ?
probably a mix of all of those :)
we head down the road. hit up a little gas stop.
i love this lady. she is so sweet.
:::Mulley Cam: Gas stop vid:::
we stop at a restaurant/ cafe i think its called “the 1/2 way cafe” if its not that place its really close to that place.
i had “rice with meat” and beer.
mulley had a few different things. not exactly sure what they were.
we hung out for a while, moved the maps around, poked at the GPS units. decided that the turn into the jungle was coming up pretty soon. mulley walked to the side of
the building to take a shit.
shitting while in moto gear sucks. i hate it. big/ hinged knee guards/ elbo guards/ Nanuk of the North seal hunting boots. . and then shoehorning your ass into a
small dark room then hovering over a hole.
he returned looking like a giant had duct-taped him to a ceiling fan for 5 minutes, released him and allowed him to climb down the beanstalk into reality.
i think our waitress was digging my jewels too…
i mean , how could she possibly keep from leaving a snail trail all around such a handsome stud like me ??…..
… ha ha ! ok yea im revolting.
but im damn sure i could smell her sweaty cooter.
Then we were off again
Heading into the infamous Cardamom mountains.
We decided to take a stab at a section of them that is less traveled and really, unproven.
nearly everyone we read about that was going to ride in the cardamoms was basing their
ride out of Koh Kong. A city 120km (aprox) NW of where we were pointing our knobbies.
we were going to ride NW from Chambak.
mulley cam: Blair Witch jungle…
Mulley Cam: crash in the thorns of doom
… at this point my batteries died in my helmet camera and we had both just stopped taking pictures because honestly we didnt give a fuck about taking pictures
the trail turns into a hiking trail that someone has cut with a machete. a hole the size of an ox through the jungle.
giant muddy moss covered rocks with a splash of water.
the trail goes right up the side of a boulder mountain.
the canopy is so thick it blocks out the Sun.
in the mud i spotted large cat tracks.
i also saw them back near the sandy sections.
the trail climbs halfway up the mountain then takes a hard left hand switch back just after a few boulder ledges.
then a hard right.
i stop just before the second ledge and listen for Mulley.
I hear him cursing in the woods. Mully doesnt say “fuck” just for the hell of it and im hearing him say it a lot.
Me: “YOU OK ?”
Mulley: “mmmehh ,huuuu, fuck. IM STUCK IN THESE VINES!”
he had gotten hung up in the thorns of doom. picture devil horns made of hickory wood on a vine made of something that just wont break when you bend it.
i hear him get back on the bike. start it up.
its then that i hear the worst noise ever coming from his bike.
he boulder bounces up out of a viney, boulder hole to the base of boulder mountain.
me: ” dude your bike sounds fucking aweful ! “
mulley : ” its my clutch, its overheating”
me: i dont like the sound of that. that worries me out here.
we both agree.
i get off my bike and hike up to the ridge of the mountain. it just keeps on going
like this for as far as i can see.
neither one of us want to burn a clutch out here or run the risk of trashing the rest of the trip.
about 10 minutes back we saw a flat grassy / rocky sandy area that the locals had been camping in. there were a number of lean-to style frame shelters.
we make the decision to head back to that spot to set up camp.
im pretty sure if you ask either one of us about the decision we will both tell you that it saved the trip.
we arrive and all i can think about are those big cat footprints and making a giant fire.
i immediately go for the lean to shelters and rip them apart for their wood.
we get a pretty big pile of jungle wood ready.
we hose ourselved down in 100% Deet. the good stuff.
it melts the plastic on our watches.
hang the hammocks up.
we wait until the sun goes down to light it so we can let it burn through the night.
to start it i pour gas from my fuel bottle on the wood. presto. fire.
i play harmonica for a little bit then we take turns using our cellphone speakers to play MP3s while we look at the fire.
i look over at Mulley and he is rocking back and forth.
he is fighting sleep. nearly falls off his feet a couple times lol.
Man we are Camping in the friggin Cardamom mountains, on the smuggler’s trail, surrounded by tigers waaahhh!!!
next time: Dysentery… Part Moo-ay
i awoke to another beautiful day with one, purple earplug still stuffed in my head. the other one was beneath my sleeping pad.
why do i sleep with earplugs in while camping ?
well there are a few reasons:
1. they keep my imagination from running loose.
example : (strange jungle animal sounds) … must be a tiger.
” what was that … ? ” …. must be a tiger.
2. they keep spiders from nesting in my ear holes.
3. mini unicorns.
so i birth myself from the velcro vagina of the hennessy hammock
to then be greated by the bees that are covering our sweaty motorcycle gear and swarming around us while we bother with getting dressed and packing up camp.
they really like the “foam” stuff. like the sweat-sucker-foam around the goggle lenses and the helmet liner foam.. and the gloves and the pants, body armor. . and the boots. . and the socks that were left hanging out overnight. you know. pretty much everything.
so , i go pull a smoke stick from last nights fire .
put it close to me while i get dressed.
works great. didnt get stung and the bees left me alone.
as im getting dressed and packing up im talking with mulley about random shit:
me- ” man, yesterday when we were riding through all that tall grass , did you see all those
tree stumps and rocks !? my feet kept hitting them. it was freaking me out. “
mulley – ” nah i didnt see anything “
me- ” really ? man that shit was getting in my head “
around this time Mulley has his helmet on and is lashing the buckle. then.
(frantic rush to remove helmet)
mulley- fucker bit me !
he had been stung on the neck by a bee.
its hard not to laugh when your buddy gets stung by a bee.
its just funny.
so we get the hell out of there.
and as we ride through those tall , grassy sections. …
Mulley finds a Geocache !
i look back and see him not moving with the bike on top of his leg and instantly think :
“oh hell he just broke his leg “
the stump had made a direct hit with his right shin.
the stump was tilted at an angle that was “leaning into and towards ” Mulley.
i know that had to friggin kill.
after picking the bike up and testing the leg out:
later in the trip Mulley would say he hit the stump so hard that the back side of his leg hurt and that he believed his shin to be fractured.
i believe it.
good thing he had those boots and knee/shin guards on or we would have been dealing with something like this:
wasnt that special !
ding dang dong dong ding ding dang dong ding dang
these guys have the place wired.
look as hard as you want. search low and high. you will never see a caravan of oxen moving through the jungle in America. just another example of why these rides are so important to me. i experience 100 years in the blink of an eye.
another one of my favorites.
see the girl hiding behind the tree ?
there was always an audience during our dirt-side luch breaks
random gas and water stop
another one of my favorites.. look at how happy the guy in the middle is.
just before arriving in Kampong Chnang i felt the need to have
my chain lubed in the traditional khmer fasion..
also wanted to practice my khmer . i had learned how to say ” can you please oil the chain” took me multiple attempts and a few times repeating it until they understood me .
so i asked the lady at the gas station if she could recommend a hotel to us.
she told me Sokha and to turn left at the Independence monument.
so i find the place.
we park the bikes and the owner comes out to meet us.
his name is pronounced “poo-duh” .
super nice guy.
Poo-Duh tells us there is a good restaurant down the road.
we walk around and eventually walk into a place with outdoor seating.
we appear to be the only people there. ” are they open ? “
there is a naked guy in the back left corner of the property by the fence
covered in suds washing himself with a water hose. he waves at us to be seated. hmm.
we get a bucket of Angkor Beer. . not Anchor Beer.
mulley wants a menu. they guy says ” chicken, rice, meat “
mulley motions with his hands in the universal sign for MENU.
they guy says ” chicken, rice, meat”
me : ” rice”
mulley : ” rice “
guy: ” ok sir “
Rice comes out:
i scarf that shit.
no later than 10 minutes after eating the rice my head is literally wanting to be
placed on the table. in other words. I feel like ive just fallen ill. like instant headache,
fatigue , cold sweat.. judo chop to the throat. yea , like that.
we make it back to the hotel.
im tired but my stomach is killing me. hard to rest.
around 1 AM i wake up in a cold sweat, “fuck” , cant see.
zombie rush to the bathroom and begin to vomit kim jong il’s ghost into the
i keep puking out of my nose and mouth until i begin to dry-heave.
then continue dry heaving until i feel as though my testicals are going to be heaved out into the shitter (which is now covered in biker-bail) .
at this point im pretty sure of what ive contracted but want to wait just to make sure before i start taking my antibiotics.
what seems like 30 minutes to an hour passes with multiple dry heaving sessions taking place.
then the universe jumped on me, pulled the boat-plug out of my cracker ass and out came the 100 year flood.
yep, i know you mr Dysentery .. we have met before.
I’ve traveled all over the place but Asia is the only place i’ve had Dysentery.
its the most unplesent thing. so dirty.
I’ve contracted it twice in China, once while in Guiyang it was so bad i had to sleep on the floor of a shower with the water on because i had run out of toiled paper, had shit the bed, couldnt stop shitting and when i finally “dried out” due to dehydration i had to be taken to stay in a hospital room next to 9 other people while hooked to an iv bag (with a picture drawn on it which represented my fucking name) for two days going in and out of consciousness. The “Doctor” would sit on a desk, spit on the floor and smoke cigarettes.
anyways. i REALLY hate getting dysentery.
i knocked on mulley’s door around 6:am
told him i was not going to be able to ride
i slept all day.
here is a video a made after the sickness passed
while i was down mulley took a tour of a floating village .
I wake up super early. Feeling energized. damn good actually.
I hear some kind of music off in the distance with chanting mixed in.
Poo-duh comes out of his room and asks me if I am feeling better.
Tells me that he was worried about me.
I ask him: ” whats all that music ? “
he explains to me that it is a ceremony for the dead.
the ceremonies are performed during certain phases of the Moon.
I didnt want to wake the Mulley this early so i decided to take a walk around town.
A dirty old dog started following me around. honestly i enjoyed his company.
a shining jem of cambodian ingenuity.
i like how things get done around here.
everything is held together with plastic bags, discarded water bottles and inner-tubes…
not Red Tape
I picked up a few Liters of water from a roadside vendor. she helped me practice my Khmer
numbers. then walked back to the hotel.
it was still pretty early so i decided to get my bike loaded up and slap some stickers on the
knocked on Mulley’s door.
” ‘ Mornin ! “
At breakfast, i had the apetite of a Gremlin.
Giant Egg omlet, lots of bread with jam. oh my god.
Poo-duh was the cook.
I had the pleasure of meeting these guys.
They were riding their bicycles around Cambodia.
Very interesting to me. I expressed to them how i would like to do something like that one
day. Really, i could get into that.
The man who is sitting at the table had also been out of commission for a few days
due to dysentery.
We said our goodbyes to Poo-duh and the geriatric bicycle club then headed Northwest towards Ponley.
There came a large fork in the road where we were sepparated.
apparently i didnt look back for a good 20-30 minutes. when i did there was no Mulley.
so i took a piss.
i figured Mulley must have been killed in a violent head-on collision with something like this……
or maybe something like this…
i rode back into town where i found mulley waiting patiently at a gas station.
we regrouped, shot the shit, and then continued on towards Pouset.
We pulled off to check out a Wat (temple). There were a series of statues depicting the progress of a man through his life.
from a young man…
…to an over-the-hill man with a cane…
to a street beggar …
Then finally, to a dead, rotting man covered in maggots having his guts pulled from his stomach by a hungry vulture.
life is a beautiful thing.
The large bird creature in this photo is a Garuda, its natural enemy is the Naga.
They represent Hindu and Buddhist beliefs as well as other aspects of Cambodian culture;
they symbolize different things when they are seen together and when they are seen separate.
These monks were hanging out in the pimp-palace.
Most cambodians practice Theravada Buddhism.
Basically, the ultimate goal is nirvana. which is the extinction of all desire and suffering; which then allows the person to reach the final stage of reincarnation.
In cambodia every buddhist male is expected to put in his “monk time”.
It can be a short time ( 1 week or 15 days). However, Im sure that if you want to hang out in the pimp-palace you will need to be doing some hardcore monking.
I caught this guy behind a wall huffing on a crack pipe.
… just kidding. he was shooting smack.
Im certain he scored it from the Calvin Klein model that was lurking around in the shadows.
fuck. ok sorry. ill stop that now.
To your right, you may notice that
the carvings, paintings and sculptures on this building are depicting the life of Siddhartha Gautama , its a cool story. check it out some time ’cause i ‘aint gonna waste my time telling it to you here.
We ride on to Bat Dambang.
mulley wants to stop for lunch.
we pull into some hotel looking joint.
at this point ” I TRUST No LUNCH” and would rather be severely beaten with hammers than consume any form of meat or vegetable. honestly the only thing i would have felt safe eating at this point would be a Moonpie and Twinkie combo meal from a SevenEleven.
Dont get me wrong, Im all for trying any and all kinds of strange food while traveling but having just gone through a bout of dysentery .. im just not “feeling it” at the moment.
plate of food with “meat” . not so bad looking or sounding.
AND a bowl of fish with fucking pineapple … And tomatoes…what the hell dude ?
and then there was this “grass jelly drink ” mmmmmm! dammmn! Grass Jelly Drink!
“honey will you pick me up some Grass Jelly Drink from the Ultry Super Quicky Fantastic Mart
on your way home please ? “
i broke down after mulley said “come on man ya’ gotta eat sumpin’ ” and had a plate of
noodles. I felt like i was eating a plate full of AIDS.
yeeeeaaaa drill that sonofabitch outa’ there !
your tooth would have to be frickin killing your face if ya’ think this looks like relief .
anyways, we make it to Siem Reap.
go down a few side streets and find a place down an alley called Smileys Guest House.
right after we arrive i start talking with this Austrailian woman named Danni and her friend.
they ask if i need anything ? ” yea i want a shirt and some shorts”
Danni: “ok hop on the back of my bike (bikes name is racer) and i’ll take you to the market”
me: ok lets go
she had never carried anyone on the back luggage rack of a bicycle before.
we take a few practice peddles then warble our way into traffic. its crazy.
while we warble along i work out that she and her friend have been teaching English at an elementary school here in Siem Reap for a few months.
i buy a shirt and a pair of shorts for $4.50
next time, Angkor Wat
I had fallen asleep while eating my oats watching the glittering Meat-head spectical that is Superstar Wrestling.
It was American wrestling which had been overdubbed. I noticed that only
the commentators voices had been overdubbed. all the wrestlers voices and crowd cheers were
not effected. What was this Hi-tech Gandalf the Grey wizardry? before hitting the sack i did a walk-by of the dining area in hopes of finding a “feeding schedule”. According to the sign, morning feeding would begin at 5:00. Perfect.
so i get out of bed at 3:00. start packing my bag for a day at Angkor.
rush to take an ingratiating, dribbling, spitter-spattering poo into the Eath-bound toilet of destructive and negative energy. I am certain that this toilet was possessed by a demon as this toilet displayed nothing but pure hatred towards me. every time I entered the throne room of Samael i was cast down by the rancid smell of open graves and the shrill crys of starving children.
At Morning Feeding Time I notice that the transvestite cook/maid is on the clock. She, It, sh/it was humming Cambodian pop songs in a quivering, high-pitch falsetto while making my ham sandwich. The moped that she, it, sh/it had rolled-up to work on was black with pink stickers that read “Nasty Girl !”.. (rahr, hiss. cat-claw hand).
I first read about Angkor while in Highschool since then its been in the back of my mind representing something truely “ancient”, “mystical”, “awe-inspiring”, “other-worldly”, “out-of-reach” and magical. A spiritual place surrounded by myths and legends.A city that was lost in the jungle for centuries. Pretty much something right out of a Ronni James Dio song.. you know, rainbows in the dark, voodoo and dragons.
The place was “discovered” in the 1860s.
It was constructed from AD 802 – 1432.
I knew the place was going to be big but i had no idea it was literally the size of a city.
Angkor’s name means “temple that is a city” and is generally believed to be the largest temple in the world. It’s scale is breathtaking.
We jump on the XRs and ride to Angkor. At the gates I meet an old, leathery, road worn man.
He has tattoos that read “rolling stoned”. He tells me that he has been riding his bicycle around India for the past 5 years. I believe it. don’t you ?
Bow 3 times and wish for good luck, or maybe a slutty harem of slender Asian women, or do the right thing and wish to be cleansed of all humanly desire? Difficult decisions to be made here at Angkor Wat, but whatever you choose to wish for remember to get on your knees and bow 3 times or else your butthole will close shut while you sleep. Thats if you are a man. If you happen to be a woman who forgets to bow 3 times to the stone Buddha your vagina will turn black, grow spider legs, then crawl away into the nearest floor drain.
The construction of Angkor Wat involved 300,000 slaves and 6,000 elephants
Angkor is a structural representation of Mt. Meru (basically like the Hindu version of Mt.Olympus).
The Temples of Angkor are the soul of Cambodia. They are a source of great national pride and spiritual strength to the Khmer people.
Temples here replicate the known spacial universe (at that time) in their architectural layout. every surface has been touched by the hand of an artist.
every carving is symbolic. Structures face certain directions for a reason.
Angkor Wat faces West, the direction of death.
The giant bas-reliefs are designed to be viewed in an anticlockwise direction, a practice that was present in ancient Hindu funerary rites. The seven-headed Naga bridge is symbolic as well. it represents the bridge between the human realm and the realm of The Gods.
Bayon Temple was constructed in three levels and has 54 towers that display 216 smiling faces of Avalokitshvara. The faces also resemble Jayavarman VII. The All-Seeing King. To this day there is still much mystery surrounding the purpose of the Bayon Temple.
Professional Bad Ass for hire
Mulley’s ass shown for scale
my personal favorite structure at the Temples of Angkor.
this is “figgin ” rad..
Around Angkor Thom
Large areas are still undergoing restoration.
from the looks of things this is going to take a long, long time.
Much of the stone is sand stone. much of the carvings did not stand the test of time.
what a place.
Never again can we expect that humans will build structures like these which place such a great importance upon imagination, fine attention to detail, craftsmanship and depth of meaning. Personally, visiting the Temples of Angkor displayed what can be created with the awesome power of the imagination. Its creators truly succeeded in raising a dream world out of one of the deepest, darkest jungles on the planet.
Siem Reap to Preah Vihear
It was nice to wake up knowing that we would be exploring and grinding sprockets over lands that I had never seen or smelled before. Pushing into the void. Nervous energy, curiosity and anticipation. Oh , it makes my nipples hard and my throttle hand jerk just thinking about it. I was up early looking over the maps and GPS routes while having coffee. The Mulley awoke from its slumber to join me and my onion and yoghurt covered, raw, potato (which had far exceeded it’s “please enjoy by” date) at the table.
Roads and trails drawn on Cambodian maps and GPS files are always “approximate”. Sometimes they are there and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are there however they spider web into a hundred directions other than the direction in which you are heading. I found it best to take a rather “loose “approach to navigating. This means allowing more time for less distance. Keep in mind I prefer to stay in the muck and off of the pavement so this also involves following little footpaths out into the jungle, turning around, following another one, backtracking etc. until an appropriate trail is sniffed out. When I say “appropriate” I mean: a trail which emits a positive vibe for potential progress. As you can see, we are absolutely NOT in a hurry to get absolutely anywhere because we are in fact absolutely nowhere. This resulted in a planning strategy that was both easily understood and highly effective. “just keep going that way, avoid the fucking pavement and gravitate towards the tiny dotted lines because they are the best ones”. I call this “riding the pull “. I’ve found it’s the best way to get myself and others into the random, unexpected pile of deep shit.
After breakfast I take a few minutes to monkey around with my chain and front sprocket. Every revolution of the chain there is a loud popping sound when a section of it passes over the front sprocket. The chain was wearing out. A few of the links were seized so bad that they could not be bent by hand. Nothing I could really do about it other than wonder when it would break so I decided to allow the chain the opportunity to destroy itself, at which point I would then deal with the problem using sticks, rocks and violent threats.
Leaving the booming congestion of Siem Reap we headed North, towards Ta Koh. We made an unexpected stop at the Cambodia Landmine Museum. What I would find inside would deeply move me as well as add a whole other dimension to my perspective on the country.
Cambodian Self Help Demining (CSHD) is an all Khmer NGO that was established in 2008 to clear small villages throughout the Kingdom of Cambodia. CSHD is comprised of ex-child soldiers, widows, mothers, fathers, villagers and university graduates all working together to make their country a safer place for all….and that includes dirty, trash talking dirt-bikers.
Behind the Museum there is a Relief Center which is home to dozens of injured, handicapped, orphaned and poor children. They are housed, clothed, fed and nurtured. All children attend public school and are tutored here by the staff of the Relief Center. High school graduates are provided with a scholarship to a university or trade school. It is their choice which they attend. All of the ticket sales to the landmine museum and the shop provide the funds to care for these children.
U.S. Bombing of Cambodia
The above map shows the over 60,000 bombing missions flown by American pilots between October of 1965 and August of 1973. Each of the red dots marks a village or area targeted during those years.
The CSHD (Cambodian Self Help Demining) team also locates, extracts and disposes of unexploded ordinance such as bombs, grenades etc. which are continually being found across the countryside.
During the Vietnam War, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the North Vietnamese supplied their troops and allies in the South via a supply line that ran through Laos and Cambodia. It was know as the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
In October of 1965, President Lyndon Johnson of the United States ordered the bombing of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Thus began a nearly 10 year, continual bombing campaign by the United States. In June of 1970 US President Richard Nixon, on the advice of his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, began what came to be known as the “carpet bombing” of Cambodia to support the American ally Lon Nol and to interdict and destroy the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The bombing of Cambodia resulted in the loss of an estimated 600,000 civilian lives and contributed significantly to the rise of the Khmer Rouge.
After the War
Hundreds of thousands of these bombs did not explode when dropped and are still scattered over the countryside. Even after more than 40 years farmers are still finding them in their fields and children stumble across them when they play around their schools and homes. Bomb hunters find them, hoping to remove the explosive charge and sell the casing for scrap (if they survive).
Cluster munitions are large bombs, filled with sub-munitions that are released in the air and detonate on impact. They were first used during WWII, they were used extensively during the wars in Southeast Asia. Not all bombs or their sub-munitions exploded on impact and after 20 or 30 years they still destroy lives, families and villages on a regular basis.
In 2009 a young boy in Battambang lost an arm and hand to a cluster munition that lay unseen in a farm field for over 40 years. Today that boy lives at the Cambodia Landmine Museum Relief Center.
“The landmine is eternally prepared to take victims. It is the perfect soldier “ –Jody Williams
Pictures of prosthetic legs that were used by landmine victims
Demining in Action
A Few Stories from Former Child Soldiers
- “My parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge and I was raised in army camps with other children. I received my first weapon when I was about 10 years old. I fought for the Khmer Rouge until I defected to the Vietnamese Army. This was in the early 1980s and I was still a child. As I was one of the newer soldiers in my unit I was required to go out at night and hunt for food. We hunted with our regular weapons, Ak-47s or M-16s. When I would go into the jungle to hunt I sometimes ran into my friends from the Khmer Rouge, children like myself, who I had grown up with, who were hunting for food to eat. We would hunt together and when we were through, play together. The next day we would kill each other.”
- “When I was 14 years old I worked alongside the Vietnamese Army fighting the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. One day we were outnumbered by the enemy. Some of our soldiers were killed, others ran for their lives. While running from them some of us purposely dropped ammunition magazines from our AK-47s onto the ground. The Khmer Rouge did not realize we had added a poison to the bullets so that when the gun is fired it gives off poisonous fumes. Later we returned to find the Khmer Rouge choking, which enabled us to kill them all.”
- “I like to tell those who are interested about a little unusual story which occurred during an encounter that I had when I went into battle with the Vietnamese army against the Khmer Rouge. One day I was shooting across a field against the enemy when through the sight of my weapon, I saw my uncle who I was ready to shoot. This startled me and in surprise, I lowered my weapon. However, my uncle didn’t recognize me and continued to shoot at me from 50 meters away. I hid in the grass and upon noticing my reluctance to shoot, my friends asked me why my accuracy, which was normally good, was now not good. I told them I had a headache and couldn’t shoot straight. I had to shoot back, however, so I just shot over my uncle’s head until he ran away. Only many years after the war ended did I tell my uncle what happened that day and we had a big laugh. Now we both live in peace and are happy. Today my Uncle Raine lives at the Cambodia Landmine Museum and helps me care for my children and his older sister, my aging aunt (whom I call mother). “
Artwork from around the museum
From 1975 to 1980 the uniform of the Khmer Rouge was black. From 1980 to 1990 the uniform changed to green.
What really hit me in the chest was the thought of having to worry about landmines every time I went for a ride in my home forests of Alabama and while cutting and maintaining my single track sections. I love being in the woods, its where I find peace, vent frustrations and thoroughly enjoy myself. To me, the Alabama forest is not a hostile place and for most of the world, this is just some twisted nightmare from an alternate universe. Someone else’s problem. If this were a reality in Alabama, would I be missing limbs, blind or dead ? Probably. Would off-road motorcycling be such a popular activity? Probably not. Imagine seeing landmine victims on the news every night and begging from the sidewalks of your favorite Wal-Mart, or receiving a frantic ER phone call from your neighbor that your child had blown its arms off while trying to catch frogs from ditch across the street and the doctors can’t stop the bleeding. It would give a whole new meaning to the popular tree-hugger slogan “tread lightly”. To the Khmer people this is reality.
Leaving the Landmine Museum we rode east before Banteay Srei down dusty orange roads which eventually came led us to a lift gate and its young, lone watchman. I’m pretty sure that we would be the only visitors he would have today. The route I had plotted during breakfast was routed through some kind of off the beaten path waterfall. It didn’t show up on any of the maps. I showed the guard the map and pointed in the direction I wanted to go. He just shook his head then started shaking his hand “no” in the direction I was pointing. He wanted a fee to let us pass. I shook my head no. He pointed back towards the direction we had come from so we jumped on the bikes for the first re-route of the day.
The alternate route would take us down an old, bombed-out stretch that, once up on a time long, long ago in a kingdom very fucking far away was attempted (unsuccessfully) to be paved. I really don’t understand the point in paving a road if the paving is not going to be maintained. If the road would have just been left alone to remain a dirt road it would have been absolutely fine. However, large, jagged, oddly shaped, craters were all that was left. Sometimes it was just easier to go left at 90 degrees rather than go straight. The sides of the road (2 lanes ? maybe 3?) were lined with very tall saw grass and sand with random boulders and overhanging sections of old road that had had the earth washed away from beneath.
Farmers in the Groove
So, what is the best way to negotiate something like this? The answer is to do as the locals do and just stay off the road. Stay as close to the tall grass as possible. Much faster that making an attempt at staying in the center of the road which would result in riding a zig zag pattern with the occasional 90 degree avoidance maneuver.
On a few occasions I had brief, delusions of grandeur and attempted to ride the center while carrying great amounts of momentum. Hoping to strike fear into the road with my awesome, man-beard then command it to part for me like the Red Sea did for another man of the beard, King Tut. This only resulted in the violent bottoming, smashing and banging of luggage, bike, anus and body every 10 feet or so. Thus, I concluded that my beard had not become long enough for The-Striking-of-Fear into untamed lands and ultimately succumbed to traveling the very un-beard “point of least resistance”. In other words, I rode on the god damn shoulder.
Master Blaster Runs Barter Town
Onward to Koh Ker, prasat Kra Chap and the other Indiana Jones like structures left abandoned for centuries in the forests of northern Cambodia.
Koh Ker was for a long time one of Cambodia’s most remote, hardest to reach and dangerous temple complexes in the North. It contains 42 structures within an area of just 5 miles by 2 miles. They are all older than dirt and very mysterious looking in a Temple of Doom way. Nearly all of the temples here were mined during the wartime years (as you now know, have ended just recently). Mine and explosive removal teams tallied up a high score of 1382 mines and 1,447,212 pieces of exploded and unexploded ordinance (insert air-guitar solo here). By 2008 most of it had been removed. So, in other words don’t walk too far into the woods when ya’gotta conjure the darkness.
From a motorcyclist’s perspective the Koh Ker area was much cooler than Angkor Wat simply because it was so far off the beaten path. It is literally in the middle of a forest and far from any major city. These are the kind of ruins that I came to see. Freshly demined, covered in jungle growth, no tourists other than ourselves and no security guards to keep me from handling the most-ancient goods. There are literally museum quality artifacts laying on the ground that can be grabbed up and barbarically misconstrued and creatively mocked into giant phallic symbols. Cambo Rocks !
“Holy crap I’m holding a crusty relic! “
Hey Angelina Jolie I got something for ya’ bitch
Prasat Kra Chap
Koh Ker was the center of the Angkorian Empire from AD 921 – AD 924. It was founded by Jayavarman IV. During this time he constructed a large, 37 meter high pyramid to the gods with an enormous Linga on top. And yes, “Linga” is a phallic symbol. The king built a giant pyramid with a huge penis on the top! Bow chica bow wow.
Many of the guide books suggest spending a whole day noodling about the grounds of Koh Ker. Doing what? Well, that I’m not exactly sure of. Spending an entire day walking around, inspecting elaborate piles of rock while incased in plastic, enduro gear sounds like a waste of adventure time to me. Frequent traveling on enduro bikes has taught me that the best way to visit the “Easter Eggs” scattered around the Earth is to overload the senses as quickly and efficiently as possible. Sensory overload will produce the “OK I’m over it” response which will directly lead to the vocalization of a motivational statement such as: “let’s get the fuck out of here”. So logically, the faster that you can “get over it” and then “get the fuck out of there” is directly proportional to the amount of “Easter Eggs” that can be discovered and the potential time available for strange encounters, karma, destiny, fate and wonderfully odd circumstances to infect your journey. The more you allow your hand to grasp the coattail of fate and the more decisions that are made based on pure instinct then the grander the adventure will be.
And now, Deep Thoughts by Donovan Gravlee
Identifying the Suck
Things that suck often include but are not limited to: long lines, police, screaming children, trash piles, Yankees, monotony, overpopulated cities, athletes foot, overweight black women with red hair, running out of gas, fees, hustlers, eye contact with drunken locals wearing pinky rings, wet sleeping bags, Islam, pavement, contracting dysentery, breaking condoms while having sex with prostitutes and last but not least dying.
At Koh Ker there is a dirt loop road that provides access to the other structures in the area. On the northeastern side of the loop there is a small foot and ox cart trail that begins next to a large tree. I passed it up a few times because the tall grass made it difficult to see. I was betting on this trail would leading us to the small village of Kulen and it did.
I headed up the trail which was primarily silt, ruts and tree roots. The silt was deep enough in some sections that it made the bike bog down a few times. I remember having to really focus on my riding through this section. The scenery is something I can only describe as a widely spaced hardwood forest with 4 to 5 foot tall grass filling in the gaps between the trees. The trees do not grow as tall as they do in Alabama nor do they have as many leaves or branches.
After 20 or so minutes of riding I stop and look behind me. No Mulley. I wait , drink water and take a piss. Still, no Mulley. I scream the name of Mulley “Mulleeeey!”. Still, no Mulley. I ride all the way back to the very beginning of the trail. There, I find Mulley. When we had left the final temple he was about 50 yards behind me on the road. He didn’t see me turn onto the trail, so basically I had vanished. That is how hard it is to see this trail head.
After an hour or so of sandy, rutted stuff the trail goes straight into the tall grass. We just ride through the stuff, pushing through it, hoping to meet up with a section of trail with better visibility. I’m just “going that fucking way”, riding the pull, heading towards the closest village on my GPS unit and yes, we are definitely kicking major adventure ass at this point. Surely one of us is bound to be killed by a landmine at any moment .
The foot trail to Kulen requires balls, confidence , experience, hope and luck.
This fallen tree required me to blaze a trail through the forest, something that worried me after having visited the Landmine Museum. Hopefully I wouldn’t become a statistic.
Illegal logging in action
During our lunch break of protein bars and water we noticed a man dressed in all black, carrying a small shoulder bag an axe wandering around in the grasses. I waved him over and he cautiously and reluctantly approached us. He maintained a good 15 foot distance from us as we tried to communicate with him. Using our hands we pointed in the direction we were headed and the direction that we had come from. He asked us something in Khmer which I didn’t understand but felt as though he was asking if we had seen any other people. We both shook our heads. Mulley tried offering him some kind of trail mix but he didn’t want any of it. I pulled out a pack of gum, removed a stick of it and offered it to him. He knew what it was and decided to come a little closer to accept it. Having realized we were no longer a threat we all just stood around looking at each other for maybe five minutes. I looked at the guy, passed my hand over the expanse of land and asked “Mine ? “ . He shook his head. Not sure if that meant: “no, I don’t understand” or “no, there are not any landmines here”. Then Pho- Man of the Forest decided to get back to the task of wandering amongst the tall grasses. I couldn’t help but think “I can’t believe this guy hasn’t stepped on a fucking landmine yet”.
The trails begin to branch, fragment and dead-end quite a bit through low areas that are filled with deep white sand which always makes it difficult to ride while navigating. Eventually we begin seeing little wooden homes and animals walking around on the trails. Over the years I feel that I’ve become pretty decent at navigating hard to cypher trail systems and networks I attribute this largely to riding solo and my tendency of riding beyond “the point of no return”. There are always the dead ends and miscalculations that leave me poking at my GPS for a few minutes however I’ve always been able to come to a decision rather quickly about where exactly I am, which way I should be going and which trail I feel will get me there. I will say that Cambodia is home to some of the most complex trail spider webs and meandering paths to nowhere that I have ever encountered. If you don’t have plenty of experience navigating in other countries (which will allow you to remain calm and keep pressing forward), a firm grasp on GPS routing and satellite navigation then I would not suggest heading down these no-mans-land trails unless you have a local guide with you.
Cambodia Department of Transportation Approved
Many dirty hours later we weave our way out of the forest trails system via a sandy wash filled with pigs, garbage and urine which leads us into a small village. Our first objective here was to find some gasoline. A few minutes rattling about the village let me to a little hut with the typical wooden rack of old, glass 7up and Pepsi bottles filled with watered down gasoline (which I was so happy to find). The shop owner only had a few bottles so we cleaned him out of his inventory pretty quickly. As we were filling up all of these beautiful children began appearing from nowhere. There must have been at least 15 of them smiling, staring, ogling, giggling and running around us. I started passing around all the Giant Loop stickers and any other goodies that I had stuffed in my pockets. The children were amazed that they were receiving gifts and were visibly happy and grateful for the stickers. When I would hand each child a sticker the child would use one hand to accept the sticker, the other hand would touch the receiving arms elbow and then the child would bow the head all in a show of respect and gratitude.
I was both wowed and deeply moved by the mannerisms of the children and the giant smile that they brought to the father’s face when he saw that his children had remembered the etiquettes that he had taught them. This is why I love hard, remote, international moto-travel. The stress and difficulty of it breaks down my calloused, jaded insides. It flushes them out with long miles of realness, endless days of eye opening newness and hours of intense meditation. This is not soul-searching. This is soul-finding. The off-road motorbike is the finest instrument that has ever been created and will ever be created for exploring global cultures, terrain and the ultimate meaning and purpose of a man’s life.
This guy was clearly out of his head. He had some interesting tribal tattoos on his chest
Topping up with gas Northwest of Kulean Chueng
The maps and GPS data for this area were way off meaning that the roads that were drawn on the maps and GPS units were nonexistent. We followed every possible avenue in the area only to be greeted by a dead end or water-filled rice paddy. As we explored the village we came across a number of EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) units that were at work demining the area. Some units were demining active rice paddies. They were clearing mines just steps away from the sides of the road. After Plenty of backtracking and sniffing around the place we found our way out to the main road, stopped to fill up on water and down a few orange Fanta drinks then headed north to Srae Em and Preah Vihear, along which we would see people hunting with high powered rifles from the back seats of their SUVs.
North to Srae Em
One month before we arrived in Cambodia (February 5, 2011), fighting between the militaries of Thailand and Cambodia broke out over the long disputed grounds of the 900 year old Preah Vihear temple (the Thai call it Khao Phra Viharn). Shots were fired, mortar rounds were launched. The clash resulted in at least one Thai soldier dead. Back in 1962 an international court ruled that Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia (apparently Thailand never got the message).
Anyways, all this military shenanigans had the Cambodian police and army on high alert. There were military style road blocks all up and down the road to Preah Vihear. There was absolutely zero traffic. We arrived in the town of Preah Vihear late in the day hoping to ride up to the temple and camp. There was a rather large, important looking building next to the road so I pulled in there thinking that we would need to buy tickets or at least have some kind of interaction with the people inside. It turned out that they wanted to have us register with them. There were no tickets, no admission fee. Just after completing the paperwork up rolls the moto-police.
He speaks English and its easy for me to understand him (I like it when that happens, makes things so much easier).
Cop: “excuse me, what are your intensions here? “
Me: “we would like to see the temple”
Cop: “Preah Vihear Temple ? “
Cop: “I’m sorry it is too late for you to see temple. You must return to your hotel now”
Me: “we don’t have a hotel. Can we camp here tonight?”
Cop: “I’m sorry tourist not allowed to camp here. You must go to next city to find hotel”
Me: “Can we reach the city before dark?”
Cop: “No. It is too far”
Me: “Is there any way possible that we can camp somewhere close to here? We will not make trouble”
Cop: “We are not worried you make trouble. We are worried your safety. You stay here. Please do not leave. Please let me ask my boss. I will return”
The guy rides off and I’m thinking “.. we got this”. Mulley is looking a little skeptical. The only thing I’m worried about is my passport (which I do not have). When we rented the bikes the rental shop manager required that one of us leave our passport at the shop so that we would not leave the country with our bikes, ditch them in Vietnam then take the next flight out of Hanoi.
So, I, in all my infinite wisdom and in a selfless display of glittering stupidity bit the bullet and offered up my god damned passport as collateral. This is a typical practice at international bike rental shops. Sometimes the rental shop will allow you to leave a credit card or credit card information on file with them rather than your passport (in case of damage or theft of the motorcycle). Most of the time, the bike shop charges your credit card for the full price of the motorcycle then issues a refund upon the “undamaged return of the motorcycle”. That’s most of the time not this time.
The henchman returns on his Honda Piggy-Pooter and tells us that “the boss” wants to talk to us at the police barracks which are located just down the road. I’m still thinking “..we got this” when we roll into the barracks. The henchman walks us up into a covered, wooden structure with a large table that takes up the whole area of the floor. “Boss” walks into the structure and takes a seat. Boss man gives us the Who? What? Where? Why and From ?
He then asks to see our passports. At this point im thinking “..oops don’t got this”. So, I pull out my photocopied passport. I had made photocopies of it before I left the USA just in case of a situation like the one I had currently worked my way into. Boss Man looks over my photocopies and then walks away. The Henchman walks away. Henchman returns and says “This is a problem”. I explain that I had to leave my passport at the motorcycle rental shop. Boss Man returns and suddenly can speak some English. He wants to know where the photocopy of my Cambodian Visa is. I explain that I do not have a photocopy of the Visa because the Cambodian Visa was placed into my passport upon entering The Kingdom of Cambodia. I had made the photocopy before entering Cambodia. The Boss Man says “Ah, hmm”. The Henchman says “ Can you please show me your International Driver License ?” . I say “sure, no problem” as I hand over my standard issue Alabama Driver license hoping that he won’t notice. “We have a problem with this, this is not an international driver license “ (fuck, busted). “We can not allow you to continue without an international driver license”.
Me: We were not aware that an international driver license was needed to travel in Cambodia”
Henchman: “yes this is a problem”
Me: “Is there any way that you could allow us to visit the temple ? “
He talks with The Boss. The Boss walks away.
Henchman: “please wait here”
The Henchman returns with a few blank sheets of paper which he handles as if they are some sort of rare and important resource pulled magically from the ass end of a Shiva statue. He explains to us that the only way that he can allow us to continue and grant us access to the temple is if we were to make a donation to the police barracks. At this point The Boss Man returns and sits across from us. Ahhh so this is their game I think. I ask The Henchman “How much of a donation do you want?” He replies “Whatever you feel is necessary to fix the problem”. I like this guy. I turn to Mulley with a shit-eating grin on my face. The Boss Man and The Henchman are looking in our direction intently awaiting our decision from the other side of the table. Mulley looks at me and I can barely keep the laughter held back.
Mulley: “Man, How much money do you think we should give them? “
Me: (in restrained laughter) “Dude I’m thinking like 20 bucks or something”
Mulley: “Each ? “
Me: “Nah, like I give them a 10 dollar bill and you give them a 10 dollar bill”
Mulley: (in restrained laughter) “ nuh, do you think that’s gonna’ be enough? “
Me: “ I don’t know let’s see”
So we hand over $20 to The Boss Man. We write down on the sacred white papers that we understand that it is dangerous to ride in Preah Vihear, We do not have international drivers licenses, that we were warned by the police, we are responsible for ourselves, passport info etc. We basically wrote out a couple of “hold harmless” documents. What a relief. We has sat there for 45 minutes thinking that they were going to pull the plug on our ride. I would have been happy to fill out at least 100 pieces of sacred, white sheets of paper.
Just as we were departing our little “come to Jesus” meeting, The Boss Man asks us: “Excuse me do you like to drink beer ?” . Well shit the bed! Out comes the cooler full of beers. He then invites us to eat dinner with the high ranking officers and grants us permission to hang our hammocks under the shelter we were just under. Sweet. That was the best donation I have ever made. I think I’ll start making more donations.
We sit on stumps alongside a giant tree that had been sawn in half and then fashioned into a giant table that could seat their entire police squad. There was an English teacher that was there teaching the police basic English skills. I asked him to attempt to work my Khmer into shape so we both tried our best for an hour or so and had many good laughs in the process. Dinner was served for us which consisted of: boiled cow stomach, fish cheese, cucumber and onions. For dessert, using my giant combat knife, I cut up one of my chocolate peanut butter protein bars and passed it around for the guys to try (I think they dug it). I then drunkenly played my harmonica at the table for about 5 minutes (I don’t think they dug it).
Mulley and I being questioned by the party police in Preah Vihear
The newest members of The Dirty Dozen Dual Sport Gang:
Right-“The Boss Man” Left-“The English Teacher”
Bomb shelters at the police barracks
The Boss Man wanted to try the bikes out
Hammocks hanging next to the officer’s dinner table
Pass the boiled beef stomach
Drunk, fed and happy at the police station
Preah Vihear to Stung Triang
We pack up our camping gear then ate breakfast out of our bikes. I eat handfuls of dry oats, Mulley has dried fruits along with other goodies from his bottomless food stash. Every time he digs into his Giant Loop bag I’m amazed at what he pulls out of it. It’s like all of the food is reproducing somehow. Does he have some kind of science experiment going on inside this bag? Yes. Of this I am certain.
Today the plan is to snoop around the Preah Vihear temple then ride East to the old, French colonial town of Stung Triang. Last night while consuming beer and conversing with the English teacher we inquired about the way to Stung Triang. The Boss Man helped us out by grabbing up one of the officers whose family was from Stung Triang. The officer basically told us that the road was under construction and that there was a boat that we would need to hire to cross the river. That was the extent of the information. Basically “go that way and may The Force be with you”.
At the time of writing this the road up to the temple was under construction. Having said that just go ahead and assume that all the roads in Cambodia are in a “under construction” state of being. Anyways, the thing twists and turns all the way up to the top of the mountain. Don’t think “hell yea that sounds like a sweet sport bike road”. Think: “diesel fuel and oil soaked corners, large sections of pavement removed some with 10 inch drops into deep gravel”. You need a dual sport bike for it… or a Cambodian Super Ultra Elite Prestige moped… or a cow.
When we made it to the top of the road I was expecting to see a long line of Chaco-sandal-wearing-eco tourists and a large, well groomed parking lot full of tour busses. NOT. What we saw were a few food vendors that had set up camp there. They had a couple tables shaded by blue, plastic tarps. It appeared to me as though some of the people were living there. Plenty of Cambodian soldiers were walking around with AK-47s slung across their camouflaged backs. Bunkers built from sandbags were along the side of the mountain and the pathways leading up to the temple structures which the children were using as cover to get a closer look at the strange looking moto-dudes that were invading their living space.
Bunkers at Preah Vihear Temple
Khmer Children Playing on the Bunkers
People Living Behind the Bunkers
One of the Temple Guardians and his AK-47
We are walking on the border between Thailand and Cambodia. The Thai are so close that on a calm night the Cambodians could hear them fart. We can see the Thai army and their flag with the naked eye. There is a road that runs through the no-mans-land in the valley below. On the other side of this road is Thailand. Their guns were pointed at us and I am absolutely positive that they were loaded. The two countries are at a standoff over the long contested temple adding to the pile of military history that surrounds this place.
The Thai Flag and Thai army are within shouting distance
The Khmer Rouge played the role of “king-of-the-hill” at Preah Vihear temple from 1993-1997. In true Cambodian fashion they mined the ba-Jesus out of the place making it a hill climb of certain death to any challenging military raid. Although the Cambodian government (which I’m sure has never lied about anything..) has denied having planted more mines during their 2008 “show of strength” with Thailand I am pretty sure that they did. In 2009 a Cambodian foot-soldier was turned into a brief, warm, shower of Vienna Sausages when he discovered one of these land mines that were not planted near the Monumental Stairway.
Climbing The Monumental Stairway
We were required to have a military escort while at the temple. We were the only tourists there. The place was crawling with soldiers, most of them ex Khmer Rouge. They were all super cool guys who were mainly interested in our enduro gear and the combat knives both Mulley and I had lashed to our legs (I carry a modified Gerber Silver Trident). At no point did I feel threatened by the soldiers guarding the temple nor did they hassle us.
Mulley Playing Grab Ass with the Soldiers
(really they were just interested in our ride and enduro gear )
When I looked through these binoculars I saw another set of binoculars looking back at me from Thailand!
Preah Vihear temple is perched upon a giant 2,050 foot escarpment in the Dangkrek Mountain range. The setting is both majestic and dramatic. The early Khmers could not have chosen a better location to construct such a work of art. The temple complex is laid out North to South, designed to be entered from the bottom of the Monumental Stairway which takes you southward to the top of the mountain where the Central Sanctuary and Mandapa are located.
The temple was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, The Supreme Being who controls the never ending cyclic process of creation, dissolution and re-creation of the universe. (Ho’ bra , deep kine shit coming, buckle in). Creation is stopped when the balance between the opposing forces of good and evil is disrupted. Basically, when the balance is disturbed life cannot be sustained so Shiva dissolves the universe to re-create it again. Still not getting it ?
OK, the easiest way for me to help you get your thick head around the importance of balancing the universe is to tell you that Vishnu is in charge of balancing night with day, winter with summer, Harley Davidson riders with Dirt bike riders and yes.. The Force with The Dark Side of The Force… One without the other there is not. Yes, yes the force you will know. The Hindi believe that this is not the first world or the first universe and that there will be many more worlds and many more universes to come. Personally, I agree with them.
Large Reservoir at Prasat Preah Vihear
The ancient keepers of the temple were fascinated by prime numbers. The large, round, holes in the rock were used to hold sacred objects (looking south down the first of two pillared causeways)
One of the five Gopura (pavilions) at Preah Vihear
Near the Naga Balustrade
The Churning of the Ocean of Milk –Bas Relief
The place is just amazing
Every carving in the temple has a deep spiritual meaning, many of them (like this one) tell a story.
As mentioned before, many of the Hindu temples were long ago converted into Buddhist temples. All are important spiritual shrines and are still being used and occupied by the Buddhist monks of today. The majority of the Buddhists here in Cambodia and Southeast Asia practice Theravada Buddhism. Buddhism is not a religion rather a philosophy of life, it is non-theistic. Religions such as Islam and Christianity for example, focus upon a god or gods and the teaching and memorization of doctrines that are to be believed. Buddhism teaches that we can realize truth for ourselves. It focuses on practice rather than belief. I do not consider myself to be a religious person but if ever encounter shrines to the Gods of the Lands through which I am traveling I make it a point to stop at them and ask for protection and safe passage. I try my best to practice Buddhism however I’ve found that resisting temptation is nearly impossible for me and fully expect to be reincarnated many, many times before landing myself in the same zip code as Nirvana.
View from the top of Preah Vihear
When we get back to our bikes there are two soldiers standing next to our bikes along with one of the police officers from the night before. One of the soldiers has his hand on my bike and is wearing a big, cocky grin on his face; he is saying something to me in Khmer. The police officer tells us that the soldier wants us to pay a “parking tax”. Mulley and I think he is joking so we all laugh about it for a few seconds then we realized that the joke was on us and they were actually hitting us up for a fucking “parking tax”. I’m not one to argue with a couple guys in camouflage carrying weapons so I ask “how much?” The officer informs us that we are to pay 20,000 Riels to each soldier which is about $5. Not a lot of money and it didn’t make me angry but the problem we were having at this point was that we were nearly out of our small denomination US Dollars and large denomination Cambodian Riel which would make food and gas purchases rather interesting as you can’t really expect to buy 2 gallons of gas which are being sold out of glass Pepsi bottles on the side of a dirt road in remote Cambodia using a US $50 bill.
At this point in the trip I had settled into the mental groove that forms after days of sensory-overload, stress, discovery and riding beyond the-point-of-no-return. It is a rhythm that is produced by the country, the pace and the vibe of the ride. For me, every different ride produces a different mental groove. For Cambodia it was a kind of lunacy-shell that formed around the part of the brain that should normally produce feelings of fear, self-pity, caution, empathy, concern, frustration and panic. Not only does the lunacy-shell keep these feelings so deep inside that they are forgotten, it replaces them with feelings of calmness and acceptance. When a situation presented itself that requested one of the “bad feelings” be issued the shell instead conjured up a message that required me to A: Laugh about it B: Grunt at it or C: Momentarily stare blankly into space until the universe presented me with a less chaotic solution.
The road from Preah Vihear to Stung Tiang begins as a nice, wide, well groomed dirt road. I got the feeling that the Cambodian government had plans on paving this road in the near future which would be a certain shame as this was one of the nicest dirt roads I have ever ridden. There was absolutely no one else on this stretch of road. I thought it incredibly strange that we had not encountered any other vehicles after a few hours of riding. We stopped for fuel in a small village that had sprung up at a cross-roads.
The shop attendant was a beautiful young woman wearing pajamas and a large hat. All she could do was stare at me and smile which I didn’t mind because I enjoyed staring at her and smiling. I suppose I appeared to be some sort of Martian with my mirrored goggles, helmet camera, strange clothing and blurbering language. She just stood there looking at me until a soldier that was stationed on the other side of the road came over. I pointed at our gas tanks, he pointed at the gas can and everybody but the girl nodded their heads in a unison of understanding. The soldier lifted the gas can for the girl who paid absolutely no attention to how much fuel was going into the bike or if it was actually going into the bike at all. She stood totally transfixed upon the strange creature across from her. It was at this point that I realized that my love of motorcycling had just transported me to a place where the locals were just as interested and curious about me as I was about them.
The Girl in the Red Pajamas
The road became less maintained after the gas stop which was a welcomed change. There were still no other motorists to be seen. On either side of the road were large, deep ditches filled with various objects of doom; that in the event of a 40+ mph get-off and the subsequent impact with said objects would certainly result in a broken, bloody and very much in-shock moaning person. So, I tried to stay in the middle of the road as much as possible. My plan was working perfectly and allowed me to maintain a good, comfortable speed of around 50mph or more. The weather was perfect; the bike was singing and somewhere, deep inside that orange dirt filled beard of mine; there was a smile and from that smile there came a laugh which was derived from a mental image. That mental image was of three, light-skinned, Asian women in thong panties; topless on a small bed, fighting over a large, oil covered watermelon. My high pitched cackle reached a manic dirt-biker crescendo just as I crested and attempted to jump; a small rise in the road.
F stands for FUCK! Instantaneous laughter stoppage; I grunt magnificently, smile replaced with jaw-clench, the 3 light-skinned Asian chicks abandon ship and leave me holding the oily water melon. All that remains is an ass hole puckered so tight I couldn’t have driven a snot-covered nail into it with a sledge hammer; well that and a crystal clear understanding that I had nearly flown my body into a ten foot deep, death hole going 50mph riding a tail wind. I threw the bike on the ground, started laughing and ran up the road while waving my arms in the air to warn Mulley… who never appeared.
Surprise! Where once there was earth now is air (or a bridge with very bad fung shui)
Both of these caught me day dreaming
After standing in the middle of the road for a few minutes awaiting Mulley to materialize so that I could issue give him my hysterical signal of the impending doom that awaited him just over the rise I righted my Honda then was overcome by the urge to birth a small country out of my ass there on the side of the road. After liberation I rode approximately 10 minutes back to find the man prodigy that is the Mulley parked in the shade, on the right side of the road near a burned stump.
Mulley repairing a broken chain
Me: “ Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Man, I had to pass somethin’ fierce. I thought you were going to ride up on me taking a shit… er.. what happened to the bike ? “
Mulley: “ Man my chain broke and got all wrapped up and jammed around the front sprocket. It broke the case guard, but I’ve almost got it fixed now. I threw a spare master link from my KTM in my tool kit the night before we left. I got lucky and it fit perfectly.”
Me: “Hell yea, must have been one of those premonitions. By the way there are large sections of road that have washed out. The locals have put wood across the gaps so that the trucks can get across; don’t ride in the middle of the road because the little bridges don’t have a center to them.”
Mulley: “oh, thanks (chuckles) “
After getting everything sorted out we had lunch on the side of the road. Protein bar for me and pre-packaged tuna for Mulley. I hung back while Mulley took the lead for a while just to make sure that the chain repair was going to hold. Everything was well.
Mulley and I have ridden dual sport bikes together for a number of years. When I say “dual sport” I mean riding a tagged dirt bike through nearly impossible, single track, woods terrain while carrying camping gear; only rubbing pavement to connect the different woods areas. We both enjoy a good challenge, think crashing is funny, neither of us talks very much and I’m pretty sure that between the two of us we can come to a fast, reasonable solution for nearly any problem that presents itself; all while throwing in some good humor along the way to lighten the mood. A good traveling partner needs to be someone who shares the same interests as yourself, near the same age as yourself, familiar and accepting of your temperament, pace, ride goals and has been active in the planning and routing of the ride.
We came to another cross roads with two wooden houses / shops on either side of the road. The first one was out of gas so they directed us over to their neighbors who were happy to see us. They asked us how many liters we wanted by showing us fingers and shrugging. Again, we bought all the gas that was available. I love buying gas like this. It’s such a departure from the old, bland procedure of riding into a Chevron or Shell station; inserting your credit card then riding away without having any human interaction.
Approximately 4.5 miles Southeast of Kampong Chrey we busted a left turn down a washed out and sandy dirt road that would take us to the shores of the mighty Mekong River who’s murky liquid emerges from an ancient leprechaun spring engulfed in a symphony of guttural-Tebetan-Monk-chanting and framed by an ever-present, double-rainbow that stretches to infinity upon the Tibetan Plateau. It then journeys for 2,700 miles through: China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and finally ending in Vietnam.
The mighty Mekong River takes a sharp drop into the Earth. The pointy little mountain in the background is located in Laos ( mmm.. Beerlao)
After watching the river fall into the Earth for a while we decided to head back to the main road; we wanted to catch the ferry from Thalabarivat into Stung Triang before the Sun sank into the Mekong. The track continued South for approximately 25 miles then turns East towards Thalabarivat for another 20 miles. It is not always clear which way the track goes because there are many dead ends and branches that shoot off from the main track at times.
Near the small river town of Thalabarivat Mulley and I were separated while looking for the ferry launch area. I stopped next to some locals that were sitting outside of their hut. I pointed to my eyes then to my motorcycle then shrugged my shoulders then pointed left and right; this was meant to be interpreted as: “ Hey guys, excuse me but have you seen another motorcycle like this one riding around? If so, could you please tell me which way that motorcycle went ? Thanks”. So, the leader of their porch-tribe pointed right and I went right. I circled the village and back-tracked but no sign of Mulley. I finally just stopped in the middle of a conspicuous intersection in what I felt was the center of the village. Mulley rides up behind me.
Me: “ man , I lost you there for a while”
Mulley: “ yea , I wasn’t sure which way you went”
Me: “ I asked those guys outside their hut if they had seen you and they pointed to the right”
Mulley : “ (laughing) Yea!? I asked them which way YOU went and they pointed LEFT !”
Me: “awesome. Where in the hell is this damn ferry ? “
We finally find the ferry which was a wooden long-boat powered by the ubiquitous red and yellow Khmer tractor motor that is seen in every jungle-buggy, farm vehicle and slow moving provincial-human-mover across Cambodia. In a display of impeccable timing we were just in time to catch the final boarding call to the last ferry to Stung Triang. I was so jacked. This was crazy. The boat operator threw some planks on the shore that attached to the boat. We rode up the wood and parked the bikes just under the boats blue shade canopy. I took of my helmet and sat down on the edge of the boat. I noticed the lady across from me staring at me. She laughed and turned to the man next to her, said something to him then they both laughed at me. I guessed that they were talking about how ugly and filthy I was, which in turn made me laugh and we all laughed together. One of the guys on the boat could speak pretty good English. He looked at Mulley and wanted to know how much he weighed which made us laugh.
Loading the bikes onto the last ferry to Stung Triang
Our ferry ride across the Mekong took place just as the Sun was going down. It was beautiful and I will never forget how I felt and what I saw.
After disembarking the ferry (strangely we didn’t have to pay anyone for the ferry ride ) we headed into Stung Triang to find a nice place to crash. After investigating a few side streets we settled on the Tonle Meas Hotel. It’s a well-run and clean hotel whose owners live in an elevated Khmer style home literally in the Hotel’s back yard. After hitting the showers and watching at least a ½ pound of orange dirt come out of my face and beneath my armpits I was ready to feed, belch and produce a plethora of raucous flatulencies.
We found an inviting looking restaurant within view of the large round-a-about in the center of town. We took a table next to the giant garage door which looked out to the center of town which was perfect. We each ordered three different entrées (basically 3 meals each !) and the beer flowed like spittle from an angry pirate hooker.
All this food for only $6.00 each
Stung Triang round-a-bout
After a few beers I found it entertaining that the employees were parking their vehicles inside the restaurant right next to the tables.
Gayest Cambo-picture of the ride. What can I say, I love Cambodia.
Stung Triang to Ban Lung
The next morning I got up pretty early (around 6:00) as I was looking forward to getting on the road to Ban Lung; I also needed to change the oil in the XR so I packed up all my stuff and loaded it onto the bike before walking out into the city to grab breakfast, hunt for oil and do some people watching.
I walked slowly through the market that’s located in the center of town then wandered around a few of the backstreets just watching the inhabitants of Stung Triang prepare themselves and their shops for another day of business. I love to observe people working; I enjoy seeing how they interact with customers, fellow employees and their tools. It’s amazing to me how many different levels of concentration can be expressed only by the muscles in the human face.
Many of the street vendors do not have refrigerators or ice makers simply because they do not have electricity or running water. So, early every morning the Ice-Man cuts up blocks of ice on the side of the street, loads it into the moto-delivery guys bike-mounted drink coolers then the moto-riders distribute the chunks of ice around to the street vendors. Nearly every street vendor has a large cooler from which they sell copious amounts of Orange Fanta, Green Jelly Drink and Anchor Beer.
Meet the Ice-Man
I stopped in for breakfast at the same place that we had eaten dinner at the previous night. When I sat down the guy brought me a plate. Upon this place lay a large, deep-fried egg-commodity. Upon this egg commodity rested a pooling body of light brown fry-grease. As I cut into the egg-commodity it was revealed unto mine eyes that this vile, Euro-armpit smelling, egg-commodity was no more than an egg-like sponge whose sole galactic purpose was to entrap every possible ounce of fry-vat grease inside its yellow blister of doom.
Having found myself here, hungry and locked into a Mexican standoff with a rancid consumable. I thought to myself “What would MacGyver do”? Across the table from me was an old baguette that had been sitting there since before I had arrived at the table of reckoning. So, I grabbed it up and dug the soft white bread out of the center of the baguette then stuffed the entire fried-egg-commodity inside of the rock hard baguette crust. Feeling like slum-chef I ate the yellow puss-bladder of a sandwich then headed off to find some oil for the XR.
I scored some oil from one of the gas shops in town, made a funnel from garbage I found behind the Tonle Meas Hotel then got to work.
“ADV Garbage Funnel”
Stung Triang Oil Change
As I walked up the stairs to my hotel room I broke out in a cold sweat and became extremely noxious. I jumped in the shower and hosed myself down with water, dried off then briefly laid face down on the bed before making a dash to the restroom to puke violently into the toilet. After 5 good heaves I did an about-face and shit pure liquid, then immediately turned my shit covered ass around and puked multiple times into the fecal-filled bowl.
The vomit tasted and smelled exactly like the grease impregnated egg which I had ingested at “The Table of Reckoning”. This realization only induced more and more bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. It was a dance, “The Cambodian Two-Step” and it was one helluva’ brutal jig. While I lay there next to the toiled I attempted to tap-out but the egg-commodity seemed to feed on my suffering like Pinhead from the movie Hell Rasier… Pinhead: “The eternal refrain of humanity, pleading ignorance, begging for mercy. No tears please. It’s a waste of good suffering.” I couldn’t believe how fast it had hit me. One moment I was perfectly fine, ready to conquer the universe; the next I was ready to have someone hammer a railroad spike through my skull.
Knock on the door. Aaaww fuck. I know its Mulley and I’ve got to tell him that I can’t ride today.
Mulley: “hey man. Ready to roll ?”
Me: “ dude I just puked and shit my brains out. I think I’ve got the plague again. I want to get into a car wreck and die so I can go to mother-fucking heaven”
Mulley: “ think it will pass? Think you can ride today? “
Me : “ No man I’m seriously twatted. I can’t stop shitting and puking. I ate some kind of rancid egg at breakfast…” (conversation stops so I can go puke and shit)
Mulley: “damn that sucks, I saw a clinic up the street. I’ll go get some meds for you”
Me: “ man I’m sorry about this crap. This is the second time. If you want to ride on to Ban Lung I totally understand. “
Mulley: “ nah its cool , I’m not going to leave you here”
About 30 minutes later Saint Mulley returns with a plastic bag full of pills, bottled water and little orange flavored packets of electrolytes. I start jammin’ on the goods like a fly-ridden Ethiopian child fighting for the last scrape of corn mush in a 5 gallon bucket.
Around 18:00 I’m feeling good enough to take a ride around town. Mulley takes me to a large bridge at the end of town. Sun is setting. No cars. Really cool place. We stop and look over the Mekong for a while. While Mulley was out exploring the city earlier he had spotted a little restaurant that was roasting a pig so we headed over to check it out.
I wasn’t really hungry but the food looked nice. I just sat there, drank beer and undressed the waitresses with my mind. “mmm .. I sure would like to smell her ass”. There was a group of Khmer guys at the table next to us with a bottle of whisky. Within an hour they had emptied the entire bottle then sped away on their flashy mopeds. When we arrived back at the hotel I ordered myself a massage. When the girl arrived at my room one sentence kept repeating itself over and over again inside of my head “Don’t shit the bead. Don’t shit the bed. Don’t shit the bed”.
East to Ban Lung we ride. At every stop I continue popping antibiotics and “cloggers”. There is a very large stretch of dirt road that is under construction and being paved. Cambodian road construction areas are one of the more the dangerous places for a foreign motorcyclist to be. Cars simply do not care if they smash head on into your body going 70mph or run you and your bike off into a ditch. Size definitely matters here on the road. When in doubt, get the fuck out of the way and try your best to grow eyes in the back of your helmet. As a general rule: The more expensive that an SUV is the more deadly it is to motorcyclists. Beware of the Lexus, but pray that you never encounter a Range Rover.
There were quite a few concrete bridges that had been built on the dirt roads we were riding. Many of them had large holes where the dirt had worn/washed away just where the dirt meets the concrete; creating a high lip. Some of the bridges also had large, dirt water-breaks built 5 to 10 feet in front of the bridges. I encountered the first of these water-breaks doing 50mph while engulfed in a dust cloud that was being generated from a large truck that was a few 100 yards ahead of me. I didn’t see the water-break until the last second so didn’t have time to move my body to the rear of the motorcycle which caused the ass end of the bike to buck me up, off the seat and forward so that my dick hit the crossbar and my back was over the headlight. To make matters worse there was a dust-engulfed, oncoming car that had materialized itself onto the bridge at the same moment I was holding on for tech-support. I have no idea how I survived this; I was over the handlebars, doing a mini-endo and somehow did not crash or get shit-smeared by the car.
This stuff was drying on the side of the road. Not sure what it was.
“The Asian Squatter”
Upon arrival in Ban Lung we did some exploring along the some foot paths on outskirts of town. We ended up dead ending in some kind of orchard.
While planning the trip one of the “sites” on our Cambo-bucket list was to visit the Yeak Laom Lake of Ratanakiri. It is located about a mile East of Ban Lung which is the capitol of the Ratanakiri province. Yeak Laom is an absolutely beautiful volcanic crater lake which is believed to have been created 4,000 years ago (there is a sign that claims it is 700,000 years old.. but really, who knows?). The lake is about 875 yards across and about 55 yards deep. The crater rim is completely surrounded by a dense forest.
A lil’ bit of Yeak Laom History:
The indigenous inhabitants of the region (the Khmer Ler) have long recognized the lake as a sacred place that is home to the spirit of the land, water and forest. According to the locals there is some sort of magnificent aquatic being that lives in the lake. There are still military trenches and machine gun bunkers around the rim of the lake which were left over from the Khmer Rouge days of the 1970’s.
Entertaining the Water Spirits
Summertime and the Livings easy
This nice lady was selling fresh honey and honey comb; so fresh it still had the bees in it.
We hung out on the peer for an hour or so, drank a few Coca-Colas and watched the wind ripple the water’s surface. I couldn’t stop staring out at the banks of the lake; perfectly defined symmetry. The lake was like a giant, liquid, pupil forever focusing on the sky. I’m a believer in the water spirit of Yeak Laom.
After reviewing our maps and poking around on the GPS units for a bit; It was around 10:45 when we decided to depart the lake and ride to the self-sufficient tribal villages located north of Ban Lung. While researching and mapping this trip Ratanakiri province, Ban Lung and these hill tribe villages had really peaked my interest mainly due to the province’s remoteness as well as the lack of tourism and development in the area. Surely we would get into something interesting up there in the boonies.
The locals here call Ban Lung “dey krahorm” (red earth) because of the orange, rust-colored dirt. The dirt roads and the carrot colored dust we would be eating for the rest of the day left our enduro clothes and gear permanently stained. Once you have ridden Cambodia one of the things that can never be forgotten is this orange dirt.
North to the tribal villages (Ta Veang Krom/Leu)
As we rode further north the people became fewer and fewer and instead of cars there were mopeds, diesel “mad-max” contraptions and ox-carts. We stopped to top up our gas tanks at a little place that had large gas drums set outside. At this point we were used to seeing these types of gas stations but what we were not used to seeing was the green fuel that they were selling. I wasn’t sure if it was diesel or 2 stroke pre-mix. We tried to ask the locals if it was OK to put their gas in our bikes but we had mixed reactions such as:
1. People just staring at with blank faces
2. Groups of people looking sideways at our bikes and then back to the fuel
3. One person nodding “Yes” (the gas vendor)
4. One person shaking their head “NO” (the other gas vendor)
So, we decided to play it safe rather than run the risk of having both our bikes crap out on us due to attempting to run them on diesel. After visiting a few different gas vendors on the way north we realized that the only kind of gas that was sold around here was this green colored liquid. Luckily we both had filled up our tanks and MSR fuel bottles before departing Ban Lung.
Heading north from Ban Lung the automobile becomes a rare sight
When we used sign language to ask “can we put this gas in here (our bikes)”. This was our answer:
This was the start of an ongoing joke between Mulley and I. In the outer provinces of Cambodia you will find these plastic jugs filled with “or something”. This particular jug happened to be filled with “eyeballs or something”
We decided against putting this fuel in our bikes. The high density of 2 stroke mopeds and diesel powered mad-max machines contributed to our skepticism.
Eventually we reached the end of the road, literally. At the end of the road the locals had set up a number of wooden shop fronts which sold everything that someone living in this area could need. We rode up a small trail and were greeted by a wooden suspension bridge; this needed to be crossed in order to reach the tribal villages on the other side. This bridge is strung across the O Ta Phtoy which is one of the larger tributaries to the Tonle San (the Tonle San eventually flows into the Mekong). It is only wide enough for motorcycles to cross in single file and as you may have guessed, it sways and bounces every which-a-way when ridden over.
When I saw the bridge I felt like slowly lifting my hands to the sky and singing a heartfelt Gregorian Chant. I was gripped by the feeling that a very significant event was just moments from taking place. This is one of the rewards that come to those who seek and explore where others are too timid or blind to tread.
Many things about motorcycling are forgettable because they become mundane from repetition. I have found that it is the moments that are starkly different from anything previously encountered or experienced which have the ability to leave a lasting impression upon us as well as change our perception of self. It is the search for and discovery of these drastically different riding experiences that is the main driving force behind the spirit of adventure, path-finding and trailblazing. One of the greatest gifts to man is that, once set in motion, the desire to explore and discover is both insatiable and perpetual.
Crossing a wooden suspension bridge to the tribal villages of Northeastern Ratanakiri province
shrine at the end of the bridge. Cigarette butts?
MULLEY CROSSES SUSPENSION BRIDGE
Mulley describes our surroundings
Having crossed the bridge over to the magical land of tribal, we stopped to have a celebratory protein bar snack. We hammered a Dirty Dozen Dual Sport Gang sticker onto one of the main bridge supports which unleashed a swarm of savage, black, beetle-like flies who had been nesting in a large crack in the wood before we went to hammering on it. After a while we just gave up trying to run from them and allowed them to land all over us while we were eating.
A few hardcore moped gangsters rolled up around the same time that we were succumbing to the fly infestation. These guys ride back and forth to the villages all day hauling supplies on the backs of their mopeds; seriously true-grit dudes and yes, their mopeds were wearing knobbies. I had to shake this guy’s hand and make him an honorary member of the Dirty Dozen Dual Sport Gang. He was hauling large amounts of fuel, on his moped down sandy, single track walking paths… all day, every day!
The true grit, knobby-clad, moped hustler known as “Spider”
welcome to The Dirty Dozen Dual Sport Gang
Riding down sandy single trail through small villages, homes are elevated and have no electricity. Tall grasses sideline the trails and tall, overhanging trees provided shade. Various animals such as black pigs, chickens and scrawny dogs scramble around in front of my front wheel. We follow the well-worn foot paths out past the villages where the trails become rugged and hard to follow; the homes become tiny and are raised to higher elevations. We are riding along the Tonle San.
We explore a few side paths that lead far into the jungle. Just sandy foot paths. We ride up on a man and woman who stop pulling their wooden wagon through the jungle to get a good look at us. We ride around them. Eventually these trails either dead end into marshy crops, close out into undergrowth, connect into a maze of other trails or lead to somebody’s dwelling. After riding down a faint trail covered in leafy plants that was becoming less visible by the minute; we found ourselves making the decision to turn back towards the villages due to lack of fuel, sunlight and a well-established trail.
In these villages, the people still use mortar and pestle to process their foods. Everything is very “back-woods”. All that really matters here is family. 90% of the people can’t read or write their own language. Sickness kills easily here as even the most basic medical treatments such as antibiotics are nowhere to be found. There are no medical facilities here. There are no doctors. If you get a bacterial infection here it could leave you blind, deaf, permanently handicapped or dead. I didn’t see any schools. What I did find here were some of the happiest, friendliest people I’ve ever seen. Every one of them waved and smiled at us. There are so many things that these people don’t have but they make up for it with the amount of happiness they have inside.
Mortar and pestle in action
When I rode up these little girls were climbing in the tree; they all jumped out and started giggling when I stopped my bike to take a few pictures.
I think they are absolutely adorable.
Like I said, the Sun was getting low and I was feeling filthier than a street-walking, tag-teaming Harlem crack whore in a Summer time heat wave. I wanted to head back into Ban Lung to find a clean hotel room with a hot shower and air conditioning; I was feeling a strong desire to gorge myself with frosty Angkor beer, salty french-fries and some sexy ladies. I couldn’t wait to get the party started.
We crossed back over the suspension bridge and rode through the little area that had accumulated a variety of vendors. As I was passing the last few vending huts a child of maybe 5 years old bolts out from a shop on my right and runs full power, chanting a death wish in front of my bike. “Ohhhh Motherfucker”. I lock up my bike. The rear end swings right, then left. I look down at my left boot and in a thick cloud of orange dust just to the left of my foot-peg I see the little girl looking up at me with huge eyes, her hands clenched in fists under her chin, her face locked in terror, no shoes, no pants just a small white shirt. Then the rear end of the bike slides back out to the right and I come to a stop.
I get off my bike, sure that I had just tail whipped a small Cambodian girl with my chain and sprocket. I turn around and in the cloud of orange dust I see the little girl standing there frozen. What I assumed to be her mother and maybe her aunt ran out from their vending shop and snatched up the girl by the left arm. They both held her and examined her for damage, I was sure that I had hit her. I waited for them to mob me, tie me to a tree, skin me alive then throw me in a fire-ant be. Miraculously they found the child to be unscathed! Once they saw the child was ok the mother grabbed the little girl’s leg, held her upside down then proceeded to spank the monkey shit out of her ass for running out into the road. “Damn that was close. I’ve never come that close to killing someone’s child before “.
What would I have done if I would have killed or severely maimed that little girl? What would have the mother and father done? What would their community have done with me/ to me ? Surely the police would have been involved. Jeez. Talk about some luck.
Mulley rolled up a few seconds later and I explained to him what happened. He really didn’t have anything to say about it. I think he was kind of in a daze. We continue riding and get far out into the middle of nowhere again. Along the dirt road there are ramshackle wooden bridges over the creeks that are roughly nailed together. Approximately 3 minutes after crossing one of these I feel the familiar, wobbly mush of a flat rear tire “ Doh !”
I stop. Get off the bike and begin looking for something to elevate the bike so that I can begin the process of changing the tube. Mulley rides up:
Me: “hey man I’ve got a fucking flat tire. Sorry”.
Mulley: “Aw crap. That sucks.. well shit happens. Lets get to work”
It just happened that I stopped next to a small foot path that led into the jungle. I walked down it looking for a fallen tree. I found one and rolled the bike into the jungle. Mulley and I lifted the bike on to the dead tree. I removed the tools and spare tube from my Giant Loop bag and started removing the rear axle, chain, caliper and wheel from the XR250. Darkness was going to catch us soon. After removing the wheel I examined the tire to see if I could find the cause of the flat. What I found was a nail that was the length of my hand. I’m pretty sure if I went back into town with this nail I could probably sell it to someone (it was a really nice nail !).
Anyone that’s ever changed a tube in the wilderness of a foreign country will tell you that it’s a very stressful job and often induces a spontaneous episode of Turrets Syndrome. From what I have experienced it is often less stressful for me to change a flat while riding solo than it is when riding with a partner. This is because when I’m riding with a partner I feel like I have to rush, change the flat as fast as possible.
The nail had punched two holes in the tube. I removed the old tube from the tire and stuffed my spare 18” rear tube inside the knobby tire. Everything going smoothly, I start pumping up the tube with my small bicycle pump. . “fucking tires not holding air man, I think I’ve pinched the tube”. I had pinched the tube. I’ve changed plenty of tires and this was the first time that I had ever pinched a tube. Crap. Off comes the tire (cursing ), out comes the tube (cursing). Mulley has a patch kit which we decide to try. Neither one of us has ever used a patch kit before, we always just carry spare tubes and replace the tubes, so why not ? Lets give this patch thing a try.
So I rough up the area of the tube where the hole is, put glue all over it then slap the patch over the hole. I apply pressure on the patch for a good 3 or 4 minutes. I say to Mulley “hmmm.. dude I don’t think this is going to work” I put the tube back inside the knobby tire and tire-iron the tire onto the rim. I pump up the tube but it fails to hold air. Use tire irons to remove one side of the tire from the rim. Remove the tube.
I take my spare21” front tube out of my bag and once again start stuffing it into the gap between the tire and the rim. My fingers are totally raw from continually jamming them in and out of the small space between the tire and rim. I’m fucking bitchy and I want to get drunk and hate-fuck a prostitute. I stand up and throw my tire gauge out into the jungle like a child throwing a temper tantrum.
A man walks up out of nowhere. He stands around for a while watching me pump up the tire with my little hand pump thing. He smiles and laughs. Walks away. A few kids walk up from the trail to watch us monkey with the tire. The man returns and hands me a bicycle pump, the kind that you pump with your foot “awesome!” . “Where in the hell did this guy find a friggin’ bicycle pump”? I ask Mulley. Laughing “ hah that’s good, I have no idea!”
At this point we are both going slightly crazy from the heat and the stresses of the day and the looming fall of darkness. Mulley walks off to take a piss. A few moments later he returns: “ Man! There is a giant bee hive over there on that tree. I’ve never seen a bee hive that big. Must be millions of them. I’m kind of worried they will swarm us. Man, its huge”. I glance at him while lifting the wheel into the swing-arm and guiding the rear disk between the calipers and pounding the axle through with the palm of my hand. I respond with: “huh.. ? ..ggrraahh.. shhhnnrrff”. Which roughly translates to : “Man that’s interesting but I’ve got to get this bike put back together so we can get back into town and get mother-fucking drizzunk.. damn its hot out here”.
As I’m finishing up the tire changing fiasco Mulley is making a video of the guy who brought us the tire pump:
Mulley: “Dirty Dozen”
Local guy: “ zerry fumy”
Mully: “ Dir—ty Do—zen”
Local guy: “zirdy zery”
Mulley: “no listen. Dir—ty Do—z—en”
Local Guy:”dirdee Doezen!”
Mulley and Local guy together: “Yea!”
Mulley gives the guy a Dirty Dozen Dual Sport Gang sticker which he quickly sticks to the side of his moped. I throw him a Giant Loop sticker which he places right next to the D12 sticker. Awesome.
By the time we start riding its dark. We ride really slow, side by side all the way back into town which took us around 2 ½ hours. Neither one of us had tried running a front tube in the rear tire before so we weren’t sure if it was going to hold up or not. It turned out that the front tube that I placed in the rear tire would end up lasting throughout the remainder of the trip. This was an important lesson to me and it would forever change the way I packed for a trip. I would now only carry front tubes as spares. Gone were the days of packing a rear tube along with a front tube. It seemed pointless when I could use a front tube in both the front and rear of the bike. Live and learn (in later trips this would bite me in the ass).
Bridges and Dust
Ratanakiri Bike Stand
We did flat repairs next to this giant bee hive…
__TUBE REPAIR VIDEO__
Back in Ban Lung we found a nice motel near the edge of town. The building doubled as a furniture retail shop. They were selling intricately carved wooden pieces made from heavy wood; beautiful stuff. Mama San suggested that we go have dinner at a “western style” restaurant down the road. We jumped on the bikes and went looking for the joint.
We were surprised to find that it was a really nice place that served hamburgers and french-fries.. “oh god yes!” They also served the coldest Angkor beer in the Kingdom of Cambodia. We both ordered giant burgers and two heaping plates of french-fries. Sexy, oh so sexy. The people around us were looking at us like we couldn’t possibly eat all this food. They were wrong. “in yo face !”
The Gecko House is home to the coldest Angkor Beer in the Kingdom of Cambodia
After dinner we headed back to “Mama San’s” motel. I had a 2 hour massage, took a shower, wrote in my travel journal for about an hour then around 00:10 went outside to smoke a cigarette. There were a few chicks sitting in some wooden chairs. I sat down next to them and started showing them pictures of my trip. One of them was particularly interested and sat with me while I showed her the pictures. I eventually talked her into posing on the bike so I could take some pictures. She decided to stay up a little later than usual that night.
A nice end to a very long day
The Piston Press Bodhisattva_
When I woke up the power was out in the building. I dug the green, plastic Petzyl head lamp out from my pack, put it on my head then turned it on. I had slept well last night and awoke with a renewed feeling of drive and chutzpah. Today was going to be a good day.
After packing up some of my gear and loading it onto the Honda I went back inside and took a cold shower in the dark. The cold water washed away what was left of my groggy, sleep face and provoked a “woooo weeeee!” hello world scream from the bottom of my gut. . I was feeling exceptionally alive today. I felt young, brave, healthy and careless. I believed myself. “Today I can see myself”. I put my dirty-ass clothes back on then set out to find someone that could repair my damaged rear tube.
Riding around Ban Lung I spotted a white car tire hanging from a wooden post. The global symbol for a tire repair shop. I think it is funny how a completely disconnected tire repair man living in a small hut, on a dirt road that runs alongside the Urubamba River in Peru uses the same white-tire-hanging-from-a-wooden-post symbol that the blind-in-one-eye Baja Mexican guy uses; same as the tire repair guys in Borneo, China and Costa Rica…and surprise, it is exactly the same as the white tire that this Cambodian guy is using. This white tire thing really gets around. I’m not sure who thought of it first but the only places that I haven’t seen it is in the USA or Western Europe. Anyhow, we have clearly fallen out of the universal symbol loop at some point. I think where we went wrong was getting the idea that one tire repair shop was different than any of the other million tire repair shops. Once that happened each tire shop had to have its own, specific, back-lit, plastiform sign with custom font face: Firestone, Goodyear, Big 10 Tires etc. . Anyways, I think we should get with this whole white-tire-on-a-stick trend; it could really do wonders for the small business crowd here in the USA, shit we could probably franchise it out.
So (cough), I scoot into the local “White-Tire-On-a-Stick” and I’m greeted by who I believe to be the owner of the shop. I pull the damaged rear tube out of my Giant Loop bag and point to the two holes in the tube. Guy calls over one of his two employees and shows him the holes in the tube. Employee nods in understanding. The owner goes inside the garage and returns with a bowl of noodles. He stands next to an old oil drum that is filled with water staring into its murky depths while slurping his noodles. I walk over and stand next to him hoping to see something interesting in the water. He had turned the old oil barrel into a type of fish pond/ aquarium. It had lily pads floating on top with little purple flowers budding from them. The boss started watching me as I gazed deeper into his magical creation; I moved my face closer to the water, there were dozens of tiny shrimp swimming around nibbling on the bottoms of the lily pads and a few large size minnows cruising around. “Oh? Whoa!” I said. I look over at the boss, he is looking at me with a giant, toothy grin on his face. He laughs while holding his noodle bowl up to his face laughing and pumping up and down on his knees. “That’s really cool!” I say to him, he smiles and nods then says “ah ‘berry cool-uh”.
The mechanic that was to repair my tube could have been anywhere between the age of 19 and 35, it has always been a difficult task for me to guess the age of an Asian person. They most certainly age slower than the rest of us. My wife is Chinese and although she is currently 28 years old, through the extensive use of her Yellow Magic, appears to have only achieved the age of 16
The mechanic carries over a piston-press rig, sets it down on the ground in front of me then crouches next to it to begin his job. If you have never witnessed a tube being repaired using the piston-press method it is something to add to your motor-head-bucket-list of things to experience before you A. go blind or B. die heroically attempting to defend a beautiful woman from a rabid gang marauding trolls. This process for patching holes in tubes and tires is the best that I have seen and I have never seen it used in the USA. It is part art, part skill and part ingenuity.
The piston-press rig is a handmade contraption made from scrap metal and old parts that have been welded and fitted together. This particular one was one of the better made ones that I have seen. It was made from 3 steel C beams each approximately 1 foot in length and 4 inches wide. The 3 C beams are welded together to form an angular C shape. On the top of the C a hole is drilled which accepts a long, threaded axle. The axle passes through the hole and screws into the inside of an old piston that has been modified to accept the axle threads. An oily, flammable solution is poured into the piston and set ablaze in order to heat the piston. While the piston is heating up the mechanic begins preparing my tube for the patch job.
He begins by using an old hacksaw blade to rough up and de-rib the tube which he wraps around an old, metal pipe for approximately 15-20 minutes. He works very diligently and is completely consumed with his work (this guy is good). Next he cuts a few 2inch x 2inch squares from some scrap rubber he has laying around. He rubs what looks like axle grease around the holes in my tube. A thin plastic wrapped product is produced; to me it looks like a square of sticky, black, tar. He peels away the plastic as you would from the back of a sticker then uses a pair of scissors to cut a few pieces from it. He places the tar between my tube and the rubber patches, removes the hot piston from the press, lays the tube down, places a piece of thin aluminum (which has been cut from an old beer can )on top of the tube; carefully places the red hot piston on top of the aluminum then screws the axle down into the threads that have been welded onto the piston. The further the axle is screwed into the piston the harder the piston is pressed onto the tube. He cranks it down to a tightness that would bend a penny in half.
Every 10 minutes or so the Bodhisattva of tire repair would remove the piston along with the aluminum guard then quench the tube with water (which would boil on contact). After which he would refill the piston with oil then screw it back down onto the tube. When he was finished the repair was perfect, the best one that I had ever seen. Two large knuckles of thick, solid rubber now occupied the space where the two holes once existed. It gave me a warm feeling of safety knowing that I now had a spare rear tube to fall back on just in case the front tube I was running in my rear tire were to go flat.
Piston-press method of Tube Repair: Ban Lung NE Cambodia
Completed piston press tube repair
“Boy Chopping Ice” Ban Lung NE Cambodia
“Hardcore Biker” Ban Lung Ratanakiri Provence
The Tonle Sre Pok, Chain Tanglin’ and the “Cow Path” to Sen Monorom
Today would be a long day of dust, heat and gritty tear-ducts. Before departing we did our usual fidgeting, pseudo-organizing-dance with maps, gear, pockets, water and gasoline. The maps all conflicted with each other (as usual). The GPS zigged where the maps zagged. None of the ladies in the hotel knew where the roads south were or what they were like (as usual) and I thought it strange that I had not seen a male employee during my entire stay here at this “furniture shop-spa-motel-bordello” nor had I seen tanning bed.
We turned off the pavement and headed SSE towards the tiny river town of Lumphat. Some maps show it as being on the Northern side of the Tonle Sre Pok and some of them show it located on the Southern shore of the river. The “village” consists of one large building on the North side and a smaller size building that sold small food stuffs along with “road & farming necessities” on the other. Lumphat’s existence revolves around a small ferry system that transports people and their vehicles across the Tonle Sre Pok, the same river that the insane Colonel Kuntz and his own handpicked army of hard-nosed Cambodians were encamped on in the movie Apocalypse Now. A long time ago there was once a small airport here but it has since been overgrown by jungle and moved near Ban Lung. The town is dead.
When we came to the river we laid eyes on our future Titanic of the water-ways; two skinny canoes that had been connected together by nailing a platform on top of the two boats. The motor and propeller system seemed to have been created by synthesizing a weedeater and a computer cooling fan. Two young guys acted as ticket takers and crew of the “Barge de Elegance”. Of course the two kids took advantage of us by charging us more than double the local price to cross the river. I didn’t mind; the kids had a good business going here.
As I rode my motorcycle across the plank of wood and onto the little raft a grin drew itself onto my face and could feel my soul absorbing the moment. I loved every minute of the short ride across the brown, slow moving river. Crossing a river via one of these wooden raft-boats was high on my list of things to do on this trip and I’ll never forget this little place on Earth; it’s now chained, locked and stapled to my guts.
Crossing the Tonle Sre Pok at Lumphat
“Barge de Elegance”
The other side of the river marks the start of what some locals call “The Cow Path” and others “The Death Highway”. This vague, sandy path runs 130 miles from the Ratanakiri province to the Mondulkiri province. It’s not a path to be taken solo during the rainy season as it would absolutely be “above-the-air box “ flooded, difficult to navigate, muddy and an absolute hell of a losing battle for one man on a bike to survive. When it rains in Cambodia, it floods. I was almost certain there would be no gas on this road so we topped up our tanks and spare MSR fuel bottles before leaving Ban Lung; turned out that we wouldn’t see another gas vendor until we were an hour away from Sen Monorom. The guy was set up in a wooden shack selling gas out of a barrel and beer out of an ice chest. We rolled up riding on fumes.
Once we were off the raft and on the other side of the river we met a group of cows walking along the sandy road. I used my best “here cow, heeeere cow” in an attempt to lure them close enough so that I could jump on the back of one. Sadly they sensed my intentions and stayed just out of my reach. I returned to the XR a depressed failure.
The woods here are strange to me. Tall, brown-tipped grass fills the wide gaps between tall, squiggly grey trees; their branches are high and have very little leaf coverage. The air smells like a hay field. I feel like the air should be incredibly humid but for some reason it’s not. The sand on the road continually became deeper and could feel myself settling into a good groove. I let my mind drift away into a deep concentrative LaLa Land of eyes ahead, clutch, throttle and rear brake. As I made a hard left turn through a sandy corner I looked over my left shoulder to check on Mulley. “Hmm. No Mulley.” As I turned to face forward I spotted two, heavily dressed motorcyclists attempting to pick one of their bikes up out of a large sand pit. I had to investigate.
As I got closer I noticed that it was two women! Both were riding Yamaha SL230s that were so hugely over-packed, poorly packed and unbalanced it made me smile and laugh out loud as I pulled up next to them screaming “Howdy whats uuuup!?”. I helped them pick up one of their bikes we briefly exchanged hellos. They were from Germany and according to them “.. they were going to try to make it to the next hotel before dark”… I knew that the next hotel was in Sen Monorom and judging from the terrain, the time of day, the way their bikes were loaded, the way they were dressed and the way they were riding I figured that they would either A. Turn back in an hour B. Break a bone C. Die of dehydration D. Be camping in the rain tonight or E. Actually make it to Sen Monorom and make me feel very, very unmanly. I told them that my friend was supposed to be behind me and he wasn’t; “I need to go back to find my friend”. Told them I would see them later and rode back to find Mulley.
As I pulled up to Mulley and his bike he was sitting next to it poking at the front sprocket with a screwdriver.
Mulley: “ hey man”
Mulley: “man my chain came off. Look how bad its jammed up in there! It freakin’ broke off the case guard”
Me: “damn! Lemme’ see … shit!”
The chain was really jammed up in there; perfect time for a lunch break. Mulley ate some tuna packets and I gnawed on my last protein bar. As we ate Mulley freed the jammed chain from around the front sprocket with a screwdriver after which I handed Mulley my JB Weld and he formed it into a few magical balls of goop. The first ball of goop was to jam in the hole that was left from where the chain ripped out a bolt that had originally held the case saver guard in place. The other ball was to make a JB Weld case saver just in case the chain decided to get naked on us again. While he had the tool kit spread out Mulley decided to swap his front sprocket out for his spare which had one tooth less than the stock sprocket. I couldn’t help but think “ hey… I want one of those too”.
“Death Road-Side Mechanic”
“Jammed up in there”
“JB Weld, a moto-travel classic”
We caught the German duo in around 20 minutes. They were struggling pretty bad with the terrain but seemed to be having a great time. The sky was looking like it could possibly rain in a few hours but for now the dust was high. While we were working on the bike a large Mad Max truck passed by us. One of the guys standing in the back of the truck had an AK-47 assault rifle slung over his shoulder. Seeing men carrying guns has never bothered or frightened me; honestly I thing everyone should be packing heat.
We were now in a race with the Mad Max Truck of Doom. Not because we were trying to win a trophy or impress the driver with our superior American riding skills but because the dust cloud was fucking terrible; the dust was so thick that it blocked out the Sun and made breathing nearly as uncomfortable as being inside of a porta-potty at the state fare during a summertime heat wave.
The truck was moving fast and was determined not to be passed; this dude seriously believed he was in a competitive rally race with us. The sand pit of a road was enclosed on either side by large overhanging; sunbaked mud banks which made passing opportunities not only slim but deadly. After numerous attempts at passing the beast, each time having the door slammed in my face then nearly run over by its giant rubber dirt grabbers; I finally made it past. There was a kind of dirt island in the road, to the left was the normal deep sand and to the right was tall grass with hardened, rutted out mud. The truck took the left and I shot out to the right barely squeaking out ahead of him. We eventually stopped on the side of the road for water/ piss/ eat/ goggle-cleaning break; of course the torture truck passed us while we were standing around with our dicks out. We took it as a challenge, gloved on and chased the driver down once more; this time passing him without hesitation.
This video was taken some time after passing the truck.. the second time.
“Ban Lung to Sen Monorom Dry Season Road Conditions: featuring the Mulley”
“my name is Mud”
A water buffalo playing in his mud hole
“Endless dirt. Forever”
“the family pet & who needs underwear? ”
Dark clouds gathered above us to block out the Sun. We had not seen the German women since we left them back in the deep sandy area. After a brief conversation in the rain we both agreed that the Germans were substantially fucked. The thought of being stuck in that muddy, rutty, sandy wash of a forest in a Cambodian downpour at night made me wiggle my sweaty toes.
The road had opened up at this point and reverted to the nice orange flavor we had come to love. We stopped to put the rainflies onto our backpacks then peeled-out headed directly into the downpour. The sun was about to set and the only thing on my mind other than “man, I bet my feet smell like rotting mice” was gasoline. We were both running on the reserve side of the petcock and we had already emptied our spare gas into the bikes and we had passed nothing for the greater part of the day other than a wire fence which was occupying itself by dutifully keeping nothing in and keeping nothing out.
The rain was washing all the grit, snot and sweat from my Adventure-beard into my dry mouth. The strong salty flavor of body fluids and grime made me lick my lips. The bite valve of my hydration unit was a slimy brown crud nipple. I began to laugh in obscure rhythms, roll my head side to side and chant like a shaman on ayahuasca while bouncing up and down on my bike like an ape. Just as I was building my vocal groove up to a glorious, eardrum perforating crescendo-gasm I crested a hill and saw a man selling gas and jars of “Or-Something”. Shoo shoo ma kah KAH day-ah sha Boomba Klack Klack ah way.
The man and his family were living behind his business which is absolutely normal for people to do here. He was a nice, cheerful and helpful man who was eager to interact with us. He loved it when we gave him some stickers to decorate his gas barrel with. His wife was back in the little wooden shop which contained pretty much anything a person could possibly NEED or CRAVE out here including: spare moped tubes, cigarettes, live catfish, beer, giant trucker hats and jars of or-something. I saw that she had a few karmas for sale which were hanging from a crossbeam so I purchased one for myself and one for my wife. I pointed at a red and white ice chest. The man waved for me to open it. “YES! BEER!” After we each had a beer and a Coke we thanked the man, waved goodbye to his family then motored on towards the city of Sen Monorom.
“Glad to see this happy guy.. and his gasoline!”
“here comes the rain”
“somethin’s fishy ‘round here”
“Beers of the World “
“jars full of…OR-Something”
We rolled into the small city of Sen Monorom with about twenty minutes of daylight left to find a hotel. We rode to the end of the main street where we found the Oeurn Sokana Hotel. It’s a big spread of a hotel. We got ourselves checked in, showered, primed for drink and ready to get fed. As we were leaving we saw a large group of Australians unloading from a van. They were here building schools for the villagers in the outer provinces which I thought was pretty interesting, not exactly how I would want to spend my vacation time… but interesting.
It began to rain as we dove into a random restaurant. I had a burrito. Yes, a Mexican burrito and it was sooo good. Along with the burrito I had a giant baked potato and beer, lots and lots of wonderful beer. Some of the Aussies from the hotel spotted us and came to eat with us. We swapped stories with “the leader” of their humanitarian clan (we would later run into this guy randomly in Phnom Penh). He told us that he had been coming to Cambodia for a number of years doing humanitarian things but had always wanted to ride a motorbike around the country. People like him and his organization are the reason why most of the school kids here are taught to speak and write English rather than some stupid, economically useless and socially worthless language like French. So, I greatly appreciated his hard work and endeavors.
Eventually Mulley and I gave up trying to mystify them with our stories of adventure and bearded manliness so we retired to our air conditioned hotel rooms. I hung up all of my wet clothes, washed my rotten socks, shirt and bandanna then slept deeper than a sorority girl doped on Rohypnol. I spent the night dreaming of ass, grass and gas.
~“Adventure is that way?”: Dak Dom, Bous Rah, Ph Pu Reang & Kratie~
All images and words copyright Donovan Gravlee & Enduroearth.com 2012
We do not see things as they are we see them as we are. Riding a motorbike across the surface of strange and distant lands allows us a rare glimpse into ourselves which can only be seen when filtered through the daze, haze and circumstance of a long journey. The soil of remote places has the ability to show us who we truly are. As the days pass the night time reflections are mirror clear, it becomes easy to hear the footsteps of the soul. A quiet mind is all that is required to focus on them. Those of us who choose to follow their sound will have few regrets.
…”The places we have been, experiences we’ve had, the boundaries we have crossed, the limits we have pushed and the people we have met all contribute to the formation of “the Self”. I’ve always seen international travel as something otherworldly; like I’m some sort of space voyager drifting through the landscape of some unnamed planet running on a tank full of luck, semen and rust. Oddly, what should feel un-real is actually more “real” than the reality that I keep leaving behind at home. The macho element usually sets in after the fifth day of filth or after the first “navigation of faith and determination”; the point where stress and the unknown are overcome by what makes men REAL men…motherfucking balls confidence and facial hair. “
… That’s when the rain stopped and I realized that the bike had been on autopilot during one of my deep, daydreamer episodes. I shake my shoulders in a shiver. “ phew, man, I was far out there that time; how can my mind float in the clouds while my body hangs out on the Honda? .. jeez ..far out that time. Dangerous.”
I shook off the daze as I rolled to a stop and put both boots on the ground. We were on a dirt road approximately 12 miles East of Sen Monorom. Just ahead of us (maybe 20ft away) were three young girls two of them looked to be around fourteen or fifteen the third was younger, maybe eleven or twelve years old. They were washing their clothes in a large pool of water. That pool of water slowly flowed off the side of a jungle covered cliff to our left. We had arrived at the waterfall known as Dak Dom.
The O Ronaoung is the large creek that forms the fall waters. Eventually it flows into the O Phlav and finally into the Tonle Srepok. I look across the pool of water to see a foot path that leads into the dripping jungle then look down at my GPS. I look at Mulley and give him the “oh yea, now we’re talkin’ “helmet-jerk indicating we needed to cross over the top of the waterfall in order to get to the awesome looking trail on the other side.
Girls Washing Clothes at Dak Dom Waterfall: Mondol Kiri Province
Dak Dom Waterfall
On the other side of the waterfall there was a local guy with a 4×4 SUV, a blue baseball hat and a tan long-sleeve shirt. He approached me and we started talking. His English was excellent; he told me that he was a tour guide and wanted to know where we had been and where we were going as well as what we thought of his country. I asked if he had ever been on the small trail that was ahead of us. He told me that he had but it was a very long time ago. I asked “Is adventure that way? “He laughed for a while and then replied “Oh yes you will have many adventures there”. Perfect.
It was a perfect day; spirits were high. The rains had pushed the heat away and the sky was filled with puffy white clouds that looked like scoops of vanilla ice-cream. The air was crisp and clean. No cars, no businesses; just a line to follow in Khmer dirt. All the rain that had come the day before also meant that the rivers and streams would be full of water. Mondulkiri province is noticeably cooler in temperature than the rest of the country. With its higher elevation and long rolling hills (Mondulkiri means: “meeting of the hills”) the wind really gets a chance to carry some momentum here.
The trail opened up as it climbed in elevation and eventually turned into a double track trail that ran along the top of the mountain ridge. We stopped at a large fork in the trail near what appeared to be a dilapidated military outpost. There was a small building that was raised maybe 3 feet off the ground. It was made of old, grey sun hardened wood. Mulley and I were stopped next to each other looking at our GPS units. We were wondering about where some of the side-trails went; trying to use the GPS and physical topography / landscape to make educated guesses. As we were procrastinating on our decision making, three guys in solid green military outfits walk out of the old shack and start to stare at us. We stare at them. Mulley says “Y’think we should go talk to them? “ With absolutely no hesitation I say “Shiiiit, I aint goin’ over there.” As I’m saying this one of the men begins walking towards us with a straight face, slowly waving at us to come closer. As if we were telepathically linked, no words spoken, both kickstands go up and we peel the hell out of there. I think they wanted to “tax” us. I wish tax evasion was this easy back home.
There are many side trails, forks and convergences that can create “route doubt”
We dropped down into a dense, green tangle of waxy, elephant-ear-sized leaves, viney-tentacles and tree top canopies. After crossing a few creeks the trail morphed into a single oxen cart trail. Wet, orange clay. The center of the trail is a steep, dome shaped ridge line that is much higher than the ruts that lay on either side of the trail. There is a worn foot-path that runs along the top-center of this jungle dome trail. The Khmer jungle seems to reach out at my handlebars as I ride. The humidity is so high that the leaves are sweating. Every so often a few drops of water fall on me from above; the ones that land on my goggles make tiny mud boogers that smear when wiped by my sweaty gloves. A privileged feeling washes over me; I’m lucky to be here. The Earth was showing me its alien insides as I rode through its veins.
“…once the mind falls into a trance state we are no longer able to see things as they are. We are only able to see things as they were. While in a trance the normal, constant, internal dialogue we have with ourselves ( the inner voice) no longer exists. There is no questioning existence or reality, no conversation, no check-ins. A lapse in reality. During this lapse we are not able to fully comprehend, understand or evaluate our surroundings; we simply absorb them. Everything sensory is committed to the halls of our subconscious memory. Once they have fermented long enough the memories slowly surface as daydreams..”
My thoughts were drifting off into the clouds more frequently now. Space cadet. Not sure why. Maybe it was the small shafts of light that were breaking through the jungle lighting up my goggles like a strobe light set to 140 beats per minute. Maybe it was the combination of the shafts of light and the hypnotic drone of the Honda XR250. Photic and auditory driving techniques have been used to induce altered states of consciousness by shamans of the world for centuries. Shamans used campfire-fanning, chanting and repetitive pounding of skin-drums to induce their trances. The motorcyclist uses monotonous motor-drone, blinking shafts of sunlight and sweat.
miles and miles of movin’ and groovin’
The trail came to a water crossing. I’ve always enjoyed a good water hazard and this one looked the business. The most important thing about water crossings is: absolutely do not drop your bike in the water. If the bike is dropped, water will enter the air box, exhaust pipe or any other point of access. If the motor is running then the water will be sucked into the engine, which will cause the motor to hydro-lock/seize. This can cause serious damage to the engine. If you do drop your bike and it sucks in water then you should remove the spark plug and air filter, then turn the bike upside down in an effort to drain the water out of the motor. You should then drain the oil, change the oil filter and change the oil as soon as possible (do not allow the bike to stand overnight with water in the oil).
If you are in doubt of depth of the crossing you should walk in the water first, don’t just poke it with a long stick. Walk your intended line. This will allow you to feel for rocks, logs or other large debris lying on the bottom. If the water is over air-box and/or exhaust height and you absolutely must cross then you will need to prepare your bike for the crossing. I’ve used Vaseline and condoms with success. Smear the Vaseline all over the seals of your air-box. Put a condom around the snorkel of your air-box, secure it with something like a zip tie then smear Vaseline all over it. Wait for your exhaust pipe to cool down then put a condom around the tip of your exhaust pipe then smear more Vaseline around where the condom meets the pipe. If your bike has any computer equipment this should also be covered in Vaseline. Finally, push and pull your bike across the deep water. If you have a friend with you, tie a tow strap around your front forks, have him hold the strap while on the opposite side of the bank. He can pull the rope if you need help getting over a rock. If the water is moving its best to have a person on either side of the bike so that it doesn’t get swept away. The only reason you should ever attempt a crossing that has the potential to kill your bike is if you have passed the point of no return for gas.
Crossing the O Por, Mondol Kiri Province East Cambodia
We were grooving down a shady trail, The Mullinator was just ahead of me; I was enjoying watching him bounce around. All of a sudden a local guy on a moped headed the opposite direction appears from under a giant leaf, locks up his brakes and slides into Mulley. Crashola. First thing that goes through my head is “nice shoes”. Somehow the guy had on a pretty trick pair of Converse All-Stars. Second thing that went through my head was: “shit I hope his bike is ok”.
The guy didn’t want to make eye contact with us. He acted like it was his fault. His clutch lever was out of whack and his headlight mount was broken; the left foot peg on his Honda was bent to the sky. The Khmer guy noticed this and went looking in the jungle for something to pry it back into shape with. Mulley got on the guy’s bike and used his superior American strength to smash “mullinate” the tiny foot peg back into place. Homeboy kick-started his bike then rode off into the jungle never to be seen again. Shortly after this I had to throw my bike on the ground while riding because there was a poisonous jungle caterpillar crawling around inside my jersey eating my flesh.
Dense Jungle, giant ruts, mud and darkness. It became so dense in sections the kind of dense that we had to dismount the bikes in order to push them under fallen branches and tangles of vines. The trails were walking trails. I have no idea where these people would be walking to or from. They went every which-a-way. I was just taking my best guess for which way I should lead us, which direction to head. All gut decisions that came quickly and easily. We were both having a blast. Mulley ate shit a few times due to getting cross rutted in the orange clay. I could hear him behind me singing “welcome to the jungle” at the top of his lungs. He had released himself. Let go. I felt happy for him as I looked back to see he and his bike push through a thick net of jungle branches, vines and stress. This ride would change him forever; nothing would be the same again. I smiled in my helmet, faced forward and pushed on. I could hear Mulley behind me: “ uh, huhh, meh… hey HEY , man , man we need to go right. Hey man we need to go right!”. I started laughing to myself then said “OK!” as I took the trail to the left.
When the trails become small, the adventure becomes big and the senses are pushed to redline.
In my travels, this has always remained true.
As we moved along I passed a group of three old, Pnong hill-tribe woman walking towards me on the trail, wearing woven baskets on their backs filled with sugar cane. As I coasted by them with my clutch pulled in I noticed that the woman nearest me was smoking a huge joint of marijuana. It was rolled up in some kind of leaf. This thing was huge, half the size of a ‘naner (that’s sounthern for “banana”) with the same thickness! Instantly I slammed on my brakes sliding to a stop. I got off my bike and waved my arms “Hey!, Hey!”. All I was thinking was “holy shit I’ve got to get some of that pot!” The old women stopped for a moment as they shimmied around to look at me. I took two steps towards them, the one with the hog-leg joint pulled it out of her mouth and said “booga bwa la la boogaaa!” the other two sounded off in agreement “Woo Woooo!” All three of them turned and power-walked away from me as fast as their feet could carry them.
I was instantly disappointed in myself for reacting the way that I did. I should have removed my helmet and approached them slowly with the humility of a beggar. I’m sure I must have looked like a hostile being; especially to the stoned old woman that I was attempting to communicate with. “stupid, stupid, stupid!” I thought, kicking myself. “Fuck it, I’ll buy some from a tuk tuk driver when we get back to Phnom Penh”.
The path leads lower and deeper into the heart of darkness. Streams converged more frequently and the canopy became higher. I wanted more. I came around a bend to find a Khmer Jungle-Buggy crossing a large stream. These machines are the undisputed kings of the jungles. In the rough sections such as this (and the Cardamom Mountains) you will see them manned by three men. The machines are front wheel drive, have giant flywheels and are geared to the basement. They have tractor tires on the front which provide insane amounts of traction. The controls look to be somewhat complicated and are different from machine to machine but the steering was the same on all of the “buggies” I encountered; they all had a yoke-like steering system ( V shape) with the open end of the V being where the pilot put his hands and the point of the V being the pivot point for the steering. The frame is just that, a welded frame. These machines are very light weight; when the pilot encounters something that is either too steep, rocky or slippery to drive over the two guys in the back of the buggy jump out and lift the rear of the machine or pull the front. They are fucking bad asses and they are very proud of their creations.
The guys in the buggy stop to watch the two white wackos on motorbikes bumble through their jungle creek. I looked up at them while I was along the side of their buggy, they were all looking at me with huge smiles on their faces. The water was filled with boulders but we both made it through without dropping the bikes.
Khmer Jungle Buggies and the men who love them
I had no idea what to expect when we left the jungle. The dirt roads became more traveled, wider, easier to navigate and less demanding. Time passed slowly through my body. I felt like I was looking at a picture of myself, like I was somehow existing in the past, not the present. This was a strange feeling but it excited me, stirred me up inside. It meant that Cambodia had become a part of me; who I am. It had seeped in and filled a hole, I had absorbed its heat through my skin, breathed its orange dust through my nose; It had tried to poison me and failed, I had skidded over its harshest terrain and seen the sunshine through the smiling faces of it’s children. The place had taken me and I respected that.
Ahead was a sun soaked clearing. As I rode into the Sun I got the “clearing feeling”; if you are a hiker or one who spends quite a bit of their time in the forest you probably have experienced “the clearing” feeling. After a few hours of walking through dense wooded areas ducking and dodging limbs and vines; then coming upon a clearing where the Sun’s full rays shine down and there is a clear view of the sky there is a huge sense of stress relief. Almost like the first desperate gasp for air after holding your breath for an extended period of time deep under water.
The initial buzz wore off and I realized that we were at the edge of a giant waterfall. We had reached Bou Sraa by the most crazy, insane and indirect way possible. Bou Sraa is a magnificent, deafening, double-drop waterfall. Its waters drop once then drop again 85 feet onto the rocks below; absolutely amazing, jungle waterfall. Gigantic breath of fresh air.
The mesmerizing falls of Bou Sraa
The blind musician
~The Road to Kratie~
The knobbies scrub along the slick pavement. It’s raining; we are headed south west on the N76 towards Pho Am; a dusty cloud of a town near the Vietnam border. Twisties forever through the mountains. The clouds lift and I start hammering on the 250 pushing its motor and tires in and out of the corners. Sections of the N76 are perfectly black topped 4-lane that are devoid of traffic; like the government built it but no one came. Brown monkeys sit in the middle of the road. There were no cars for at least an hour of riding. “Why?”
Small villages pop up alongside the road which had now metamorphosed into a crumbling grey path of risk, confusion, fun, mild panic and rampant, disorganized, unpredictable behavior from the beings which inhabited these roadsides. Naked men walk out in front of speeding cars, cows wander aimlessly head-on in my direction; giant piles of cow shit, mopeds with baby pilots dart across the road full speed without looking for oncoming traffic.
Stay loose, pay attention or die.. and death will come from a child playing next to the road who happens to be swinging an 8 foot long rope in 100mph circles above his head; lashed to the end of that rope there just happens to be an old, rusty hammer with some douche-nozzle’s name on it. Everything is out of control. To see a person sitting in the middle of the road digging a hole in the ground with a screwdriver while chewing on sugarcane is perfectly normal here. I felt like I was in Top Gun and I had just entered “the danger zone”. A mother fucking 911 emergency situation in progress at the clown farm.
I’ve experienced these places before. Places where space and time are warped, where physics, reason, probability and logic are all replaced by one, universally accepted rule: fuck it. The faster that a guy realizes that he has entered into a “fuck it” situation the greater the likelihood he will survive or maybe I should say “escape”? Whatever.
Join the mayhem, contribute to the chaos. Ride on the shoulder, off the road, in the middle of the road or just zig zag from lane to lane but whatever you do DO NOT (under any circumstances) ride in your lane at a fixed speed or do anything else that is even remotely predictable. Why? Because you will be out of synch, out of rhythm. You will be UNPREDICTABLE to the chaos natives; and when you get unpredictable in the Danger-Zone.. that’s when your face gets smashed by the rusty hammer, attached to the end of a rope, that a kid was swinging in a circle above his head as he walked along the side of the road. Fuck it.
Knees in the breeze, grinding sprockets and shedding knobbies we hammer on the 250s West to Kratie. We stop for gas at a little wooden shack on the side of the road. It’s just large enough to shelter the little old man that is hunched over inside of it. Just outside is a sun-bleached wooden rack displaying his 1970’s style 7up bottles filled with gritty gasoline. He is happy to see me; I give him a giant dirty smile and he laughs. Mulley comes in with the rear brake locked in a 20ft slide. The old man stops smiling. Mulley dismounts laughing. “Man, my bike is hot !” He points his hydration hose at the cylinder and pinches the bite valve which fires off a stream of water which vaporizes upon contacting the motor. I look at the old man.. he looks up at me and says “woooooo! Ha ha haaaa!” we all laugh together in agreeance that its fucking tits to spray hot water on a red hot dirt bike motor.
Kratie is a town of about 80,000 people that is situated on the East bank of the Mekong river. The years of civil unrest and war were kind to Kratie; most of the old, gay, French colonial architecture is still around (actually its pretty neat). The town has a super long boulevard that runs next to the river. There are food vendors, pop-up tent shops and produce sellers. In the center of town there is a large market filled with Angry Birds t-shirts, Kramas and disfigured people.
We ride up and down the boulevard a few times checking out the various guest houses. All of them looked nice (some of the best ones that I had seen). Eventually we settle on a large two story guest house that is run by a large Chinese family. After unloading the bike I took a shower and tracked down a girl to give me an hour long massage. Mui Bueno.
Life on the East bank of the Mekong (Kratie Cambodia 2012)
Man washing his horse in the Mekong River (Kratie)
Another day slips away from me (Kratie Cambodia 2012)
Angkor Beer, the best beer in “the kingdom”
“yes.. ill have the fried internal part with mushroom please”
Stay thirsty my friends.
Kratie to Phnom Penh, “Flo Ting Heap”, “Gaan-cha” & Firepower
There is always a stuffed-sack of unbalanced emotions that exists in the back of my skull on the final day of a long ride; more like different people inside the nugget that all fight for control over my decision making. Today the lineup was populated by: the robot dancer, the firecracker throwing child, the guy who made it, Mr. Inhibition and a part of me that wanted to go home. The problem is they are all decent at arguing a point and not one of them is willing to compromise. The only time the conversation changes speakers is when one of them needs to piss, shit, drink or super-size it.
(Where are my green sox) “There they are” hanging on the back of a chair with the word CAMBODIA written down the side, large capital letters scribbled using a black magic marker. They smell worse than an Alaskan hooker with a heroin dependency and are skank-stiff as I pull them back over my feet. It sounds strange but I love it. Falling apart, watching everything I have disintegrate. Gloves wearing through, colors fading, holes in my shirt, bike leaking oil, body wasting away (fungus growing on my skin). Or as we say in Alabama “wearin’ that shit out”.
In Sen Monorom and now here in Kratie we were visited by the ghost of Ronnie James Dio. Legendary rock singer who died from rocking… “Why would Sir Ronnie be chasing rainbows in the dark here in Cambodia?” Maybe he was searching for dragons and queens ? Golden Rings of fire? Magical Shiny diamonds? Ride the tiger Ronnie , ride the tiger.
Ronnie James Dio lives
From Kratie we would be following the East bank of the Mekong River until we reached Kampong Cham at which point we would cross the river for the last leg of the ride into Phnom Penh. The bikes were looking rough. We had ridden them into the ground; covered in grime, broken and failing parts, rotten oil and motors running hotter than the face of the Sun. Hopefully the XR250s would stay together long enough to get us back to the Grease Monkey Garage.
The early morning weather was perfect again. Cool temps and clear sky. The dirt roads were holding water from a previous rain storm; probably the same storm we rode through on our way to Sen Monorom. The mud was a mix of the rich, black Mekong mud, cow shit and chicken scat. After an hour or so of trying to avoid the mud holes I gave up, deciding that it was less effort for me to just ride directly through their centers.
“observing the foreigner”
Passing through small farming villages along the river; I led us between stilted, wooden homes whose sleeping quarters were some 10 feet above the ground in order to protect the homes from rising river water. The stilts were also used to hang hammocks, tie up goats and sometimes children. We zigzagged between and around people; many times so close that we touched their arms with our handlebars. Children ran outside to point, smile and wave as the large, loud, foreigners passed through their town kicking up dust and disrupting village life. Village life being: predicting the weather, sitting in the shade, playing ball and riding mopeds.
Somewhere in the vicinity of Kanhchor we stumbled upon a group effort. The “effort” being to construct a bridge across a muddy inlet using the least amount of reasoning, money and supplies needed. It always amazes me to see how these communities come together to get the job done and I absolutely love the complete lack of government intervention and regulation on these “get er’ done” style projects. None of this would ever fly back in the USA. Someone would be getting sued, the police would be blocking all points of access, there would be a huge onlooker delay and the fat people would be hungry. All of this regulation is why the American road system is so predictable and thus so fucking boring.
Anyways, what the people of Kanhchor had done was build a bridge out of garbage, sticks, spit, mud and two old canoes tied into place with shoe strings and a Wal-Mart bag.. and I’m sure there was a dead dog thrown in for good measure. Brilliant! Amazing how fast things are accomplished when government regulators are removed. Here, the people had worked creatively together to quickly solve a problem and to fill a need and since I was in the lead I would be the first to test the structural integrity of this floating trash heap of a bridge. Schwing!
My first observation was “fuck”. My second observation was “This is really not intended to be traversed by motorcycles”. The funny part is that I was riding across the bridge before I had reached a conclusion on my first observation, and shortly after commencing my trans-garbage heap voyage I had disproved my second observation (which I really wasn’t concerned about in the first place). The platform of doom swayed and shifted beneath my tires. I put my feet down to steady “the craft”. I rode across a canoe that had been covered in what appeared to be a few sets of bamboo window shades?? I thought to myself “I can’t believe this is holding together”.
After disembarking the buoyant pile I was stopped by a shoeless murmuring man near the road. I got the impression that he wanted me to pay him for using the bridge (not going to happen). So I did the only thing I could think of: point up in the air, wait for him to look in the direction I was pointing; then take-off while he was distracted. Not speaking the local language has its benefits.
Around Noon we were scooting through the dusty, honey like humidity on a track that ran on the outskirts of a tiny town. I say “track” but it was more like we were riding in the wake of a B-52 bombing run. The ground was made of extremely compacted, dry mud-clay. Ruts were waist high in some places and crisscrossed each other in an unpredictable manner making the going slow but very much enjoyable.
I saw Mulley pull off the side of the track then lean down to look at his bike. The universal sign for “wait a minute something isn’t right here”. His chain had come off again. “well.. just in time for lunch !” I said as we pushed the bike off into the tall grass next to a small, empty brick/concrete building. We sat beneath some kind of tree I had never seen before. It was covered in non-aggressive red ants. As I was making an attempt at taking macro-style pictures of the ants one of the little villager kids came over to see what all the commotion was about. He had on an old dirty white t-shirt and snot was running down his face from both of his tiny nostrils. The left nostril dripped clear snot and the right nostril oozed a green variant. I noticed the clear matter flowed freer than the green variant.
He seemed happy when we spoke to him then went immediately to examining our bikes the way an art connoisseur examines a fine painting in a gallery; hands clasped behind the back with a slight forward lean from a reserved, non-threatening distance. He didn’t seem to like what he saw. He turned to us with a blank stare. “Hey you want some food ? “ sais Mulley. Mulley gives him candy that he had picked up in Stung Treng along with some sort of dried fruit wizardry. I give him a few of my protein bars. The kid grabs everything up and runs off to his house. After the kid leaves we have a good laugh:
Mulley: “damn man. Protein bars! (chuckles ) ”
Me: “Ha! Yea! Later tonight that kids goinna’ have his first ever, SOLID shit. He’s probably gonna’ have an out-of-body experience birthin’ that turd. . he may just blow a seal or tear an o-ring. You know, shit a brick.”
Men placing sticks over large holes in the road so that a truck may pass
Approaching “Flo Ting Heap”
“Flo Ting Heap”
-VIDEO- :::::: Kratie to Phnom Penh:::::: click link below
:::::::::::-VIDEO-click link below:::::::::::::::
You have been Mullinated
The humidity was thick and the heat was sticky as we crossed the bridge into Kampong Cham. I felt like I had rolled around in a pool of maple syrup filled with cigarette butts; fucking blahhh. As far as I was concerned, we had made it. From here on in to Phnom Penh was pavement, gas stations, restaurants and thick, grey, booger making diesel exhaust. The sensation hit me as I crossed the middle point of the bridge, high above the Mekong River. “Another one down”. “Victory”. I stood up on my pegs, raised my fist into the Khmer air and let out a high pitched “Cheeeeehoooooo!” As I sat down I scanned around to see if anyone had noticed my loss of self-control. The guy on the moped to my left had a huge grin of approval on his face.
We stopped at the first gas station in Kampong Cham, next to the bridge. After filling up at the pumps we walked in. It was there, in that well lit, air conditioned heaven of capitalism that I saw the most beautiful thing. Slender, perfectly shaped, symmetrical and precious; so strong was my urge and desire that I felt my salivary glands gush full strength into my mouth. I swallowed hard. It was as if all the lights had gone dark in the world except for a small pin-hole spot of light that shown down upon me; a filthy, sweaty, crazed, blue eyed American covered in beaten, endurance-moto-gear. The moment was here, I had to do something. I outstretched my hand. Time slowed and the point-of-view spun around me like I was Neo in The Matrix. All lights on, full volume sound, Skrillex radio, eyes wide fucking open; my dirt covered mouth puckers like a chimp blowing kisses. “Haaa! Bitch! Yeaaaa!”. Mulley first looks at me and then around the store to properly assess the situation which I imagine was awkward and confusing. I look at him and say “Dude they have fucking sour cream and onion Pringles here!!”.
I sat there in the gas station, in the air-conditioning and ate the entire cylinder of crunchy goodness. Every bite was followed by “oh , oh my god its sooo god damn good” or “oohh, mmm, hm yea”. Mulley was trying to talk to me, trying to tell me he was going to go next door to do something but I couldn’t really hear him through the Pringle haze. “mmmhay I’ll hrr”.
As we neared Phnom Penh the traffic was completely chaos. I decided to just go; get to the bike drop off as fast as possible. I was getting agitated by all of the people, exhaust fumes and sweltering heat. I was putting myself and others in danger with the way I was riding. I needed to get off the road.
I arrived at Grease Monkey Garage around 17:00, dropped my bike off with them and went over to book a room at the Flamingo hotel which is located near the infamous “Heart of Darkness” club. This is a great part of town to be in if you are a complete sleaze ball (such as myself). I checked in, took a shower. Around dusk I walked back over to the Grease Monkey Garage to see if Mulley had arrived. The lady that was running the money side of things wouldn’t give me my passport back until Mulley returned his bike with payment. About 15 minutes later Mulley pulls in “Man where did you go ? I got lost and stuck in traffic. “I say “I’ve been here man, I’ve already taken a shower and booked us two rooms down the street at the Flamingo. Hey, they won’t give me back my passport until you pay for your bike; I’ve already paid up for mine. I’ve been trying to get them to give it to me but they won’t budge man.”
The mechanic starts going over Mulley’s smashed out bike and starts finding things like: worn sprockets, chain, cables, completely missing chain guide, other shart and yadda yadda. Mulley had rented a Honda XR250; he had returned with a Honda XR250 with AIDS. I see that they are both in the mood for a good sign-language argument so I take a comfortable seat at the desk and continue arguing with the lady behind it. The lady keeps refusing to give me my passport. She keeps pointing at Mulley and then pointing at her calculator which shows the amount of money that the mechanic says he owes for the bike. The situation is really starting to piss me off; mainly because the lady keeps refusing to hand over my passport after I had already given her the money she asked for. Eventually I give into my anger (and desire to get drunk), stand up and demand my passport while pounding on her desk. She holds up her finger and starts waiving while picking up her telephone.
After a good hour and a half of sitting there negotiating for my passport and watching the Mulley vs. mechanic sign language battle; a girl of around 12 years of age walks into the shop in her school uniform. It is the woman’s daughter and she can speak enough English to help. I tell her my problem; she translates it to her mother. Her mother tells her problem to the daughter and her daughter translates it to me. Finally the lady gives me my passport (thanks Ronnie James). She then proceeds to sort out the situation between Mulley and the mechanic. Hell yes. Let the celebrations begin!
We hit up some of the bars near the Heart of Darkness on Pasteur Street (Alien Bar, Pit Stop, Howie Bar, Shanghai); drinking our fill of Tiger, Angkor and Beerlao. At night, in this part of the city the traffic is noticeably reduced and at a much slower pace. I’m guessing this is because most of the vehicles don’t have functioning headlights and the inhabitants of the city have learned that it is bad medicine to drive at night.
Many distractions going on here, it’s a dramatic change from being out in the quite, remote, wilds of the country. Everything is so loud here. Not “volume” loud but commotion loud, things that cut into my attention span. Prostitutes walking the streets, flip-flop wearing tuk tuk drivers searching for fares, welders raining sparks onto the sidewalk, loud karaoke bars and people changing tires just outside of their dimly lit shop fronts.
This area of the city has exploded with population growth and economic rebound. It is barely able to keep up with expansion and infrastructure. Walk a few miles on tiny side streets and you will likely end up in a scene out of an old war movie “me love you long time”, crumbling buildings and crater filled roads. There are hundreds of tiny businesses on every street and stuffed above, between and below those business “apartments” are the residential “condos” of the hundreds of people living on that same street. There are hardly any police. In fact the only police that I can remember seeing in this area were on a motorcycle which was being towed by another motorcycle. If you can think it you can find it here. Drugs, sex, redemption and Russian roulette are just a tuk tuk ride away.
New to me was the concept of “the bar girl”. Mulley had gone back early to the Flamingo. I had decided to stay out and check out some of the different bars. I walked into one with red neon all over it and was greeted by the bar tender. There were only a few people in the bar area which could seat maybe 10 people. I sat down and ordered a beer. A girl comes up to me and introduces herself as Lisa. Good looking about the same age as me (30) or a little younger (28). She asks me if I know how to play pool and if I want to play. I say “sure where is the pool table”. We go upstairs “I’m going to get a drink honey do you want one? “ she asks. “yea I’ll have what you are drinking”. She comes back with whisky and Coke.
There are two older guys sitting out on the balcony talking to some girls, seems strange. I walk over and talk to one of the guys. His name is Jack and he moved here from Australia eight years ago. He rents a small apartment and repairs microwaves for extra money. I ask him “Hey so what is the deal with these girls here?“ He laughs and tells me “Oh, you mean the bar girls? Well the way it works is you buy them drinks until their bar-fine is paid or if you don’t want to hang around long you can just pay the bartender the girls bar-fine directly. Then she will go home with you”. What a great idea! This old fucker had figured it out. He had the place wired. Damn good place to retire. Damn good. Bastard. The girl ends up beating me at pool several times. I give up and go home.
The next morning I feel like a warm loaf of bread that’s come right out of the oven then covered with butter and honey. We had finished our ride 3 days ahead of schedule so we had time to party and see some of the sites around Phnom Penh before we head back to reality. I walked down the hall and banged on Mulley’s door. We decide to walk down to the street and find a tuk tuk driver to show us around which will later turn out to be one of the best decisions we made here in the city.
Redemption Cambodian style
Sarim was a hardcore tuk tuk driver (pronounced ook ook not uk uk). He basically lived in his tuk tuk; sleeping in the back seat every night made living cheap and working easy. His dream was to one day own his own tuk tuk so he could keep 100% of his fare money. When we first met him he was crawling out of the back of his “tuk” from taking a nap. “Hey, hey guys you like to shoot gun?” he said with a huge grin on his face. “Hell yea we like to shoot guns!” I replied. So we jump in his street fighter tuk and set off through the backstreets of the Pearl of Asia while giving introductions and making it known that we were real-deal bad asses that liked to rub our dicks in expensive shit.
We really grew fond of Sarim; he knew the city like the back of his hand and would take his tuk tuk through anything. Large portions of the city were flooded when rain storm barreled through the city a few days before our arrival. Sarim enjoyed every flooded mile of it. There was one area of town that had been completely reduced to rubble, rebar and turds. I thought “no way is he going to drag this trolley through here”. Sure enough we banged and slammed our way through the piles of concrete and garbage laughing all the way through. Sarim became our exclusive driver over the next few days.
Cambodian Car Pooling
An hour and a half later we had made it to the outskirts of the city. We traveled down a long dirt road that let into some sort of military installation with tanks, watch towers and an old, large, single level, concrete building. “We are here” said Sarim. Two guys in camouflage jackets came out to greet us with smiles on their faces. I looked around and saw that there were racks of machine guns, assault rifles hanging from one of the walls. One of the men asks “so what you wanna’ do? You wanna’ shoot da gun?” I smile and ask the guy “What else you got? Have any hand grenades ? “ . He smiles and says “Oh yea we have ah’ da’ hand grenade you wanna da hand grenade? “. Me: “oh yea I wanna’ da ‘ hand grenade!”
He shimmies off and returns with a round concussion grenade about the size of a tennis ball and tells me to follow him out to a little water hole. He bends down and picks up two stones off of the ground and hands them to me. He says “You practice with ah’ da’ wock. You trow’ da wock in da’ wahtah like ah’ dis”. He makes an underhanded tossing motion. “not like ah’ dis”. He makes an overhanded throwing motion. “now, you practice two time wit ah’ da’ wock’ “. I underhand toss the two rocks into the middle of the water hole. He removes the safety clip then puts the hand grenade in my hand. “ok, when you pull da’ pin out you trow’ ah da bomb like ah you trow’ ah’ da rock ok?” Me : Alright Him: “you remember trow’ ah da bomb jus’ wike’ you trow’ ah da’ wock ok!?” Me: Alright Him: “ok, now; you trow ah’ da bomb now”. I can barely keep from laughing. I pull the pin out, and throw the bomb in the water… booom! Instant happiness.
I’m digging this place and want to play with some more equipment so I walk over to the wall filled with guns. I pick the biggest belt fed machinegun they have on the wall. We walk into a concrete shooting room with a high concrete table top and a dimly lit, hallway. One of the guys starts loading up the weapon and oiling down the belt. The other guy looks at me and says “Hey… you wanna’ try shoot ah’ duck?” At this point I’m thinking “this would never happen in America.. especially Californistan”. I tell the guy “Hell yea I want to shoot some ducks. Can I have two ducks?” “Two ducks? OK you shoot ah’ two ducks”. He sends a kid out on a moped to buy the ducks from a farmer who lives next door to the compound. A few minutes later they are tying rope around the ducks legs then around a stake which they hammered into the ground at the back of the range. The guy looks at us and tells us not to take pictures of the ducks because his boss doesn’t like for them to shoot the ducks.
At first, I fire the machinegun in short bursts trying to take the ducks out quickly but the thing is not accurate at all (or I just suck at shooting this thing). In fact it’s the most inaccurate gun I’ve ever fired before (I think it actually shot sideways a few times). Frustrated, I decide to just hold the trigger down and unleash the wrath of reality upon Daffy and Donald Duck. After blowing through the bullets the guy tells me not to take pictures of the duck, then “you go make sure duck dead. If duck not dead you kill duck”. I walk down the range and there, sure as shit, even after sending 200 rounds down range I had somehow managed to kill only one duck and wound the other! How in the fuck did this duck survive?! Feeling like a total asshole, I reach down and grab the terrified; burping duck by the head and spin it around in circles. About halfway through the third rotation the ducks head pops off in my hand and the carcass slaps to the muddy ground just behind me. “Ok! “ I say “They’re both dead now!”
You trow’ da bomb jus’ wike you trow’ da’ wock OK?
Click the link below to watch the video
Rambo does Cambo
Click the link to watch the video
Sarim, The hardcore Tuk Tuk driver is the newest member of the Dirty Dozen Dual Sport Gang
Khmer Radiation Rig
The white, plastic tank behind the scooter is filled with water. The water drips down a rubber line onto the motor to keep it cool
oil me up baby!
Master Blaster Runs Barter Town
“So, Sarim, Hey can you get me some weed ? You know, marijuana?” He looks at me, smiles and laughs; then puts his fingers up to his mouth like he is smoking a joint. “Yes, I can do this for you. Meet me outside the Flamingo later and I will have this for you”. Perfect, I never pass up a chance to sample the local grass and after the whole bummer of missing out on the jungle ladies cone joint I was ready to burn a few down.
Our rooms were on the third floor of The Flamingo Hotel which was situated off a side street from Pasteur Street. The building is five levels high; each level has eight or less rooms on it. At the end of the hall there was a communal balcony that overlooked the city, nice place. My plan was to roll a few joints (5 or 6), empty out the beer fridge (yes our rooms had little mini beer refrigerators stocked with beer) then migrate to the balcony, get blasted, watch the people below do their thing while doing some reflective and projective soul searching:
What was I doing with my life? Am I happy? Should I move away to some ass-backwards country where I would start a motorcycle tour company and then, HOPEFULLY be happy? Down below on the street I see a frail, sick looking hooker walking around in front of our hotel trying to turn a trick. “Ick, that is one nasty cunt” I think to myself then decide that prostitution is a good thing and should be legal. Mind wanders between beer and marijuana. I notice that I’m studying the way that the people below move. I’m looking for some kind of pattern of interaction; where is their personal space? I notice that Cambodians require/ enjoy having more personal space than the Chinese. The Chinese will walk dick-to-asshole and not feel uncomfortable. Yes, I am implying that a Chinese man can have another Chinese man’s dick, in his asshole.. and not feel as though his personal space has been invaded. Here in Phnom Penh people like to keep others at least an arms-length away. “So another adventure is coming to a close, when does the next adventure begin?” Simply having this thought sets the next adventure into motion. I don’t want to come down, I never want to come down which is why I’m always planning my next trip. Will all of this change for me one day? Will I still be a dirty, self-destructive, careless, selfish, egocentric mother fucker when I have a family? I hope so. I hope I don’t ever become a softy tied down to a house in some Leave It to Beaver, TV Land, “keeping up with the Jones’s “neighborhood. As I look down at the bustle on the streets and over the skyline of the city I feel the urge to run away from everything. I think about where I live. I see my house in my mind’s eye, I can see my smiling wife and my happy dog sitting on the front porch. In the vision something startles me, I look at it and its wrong, off, not exactly correct. The colors on the Rebel Flag that hangs from the front of my home are slightly fading. I can’t allow that to happen. When I get home I need to buy a new one.
Ass Grass N’ Gass. Sampling the Khymer “Gaan-Cha”.
I do love me some marijuana
A Special thanks to Giantloopmoto.com J
Views from the Flamingo Hotel’s Balcony
That is Sarim lying down in the back of the Tuk.
Raid the beer fridge!
Tuol Sleng &Choeung Ek: Displays of Death, Suffering and Brutality
I have previously mentioned Cambodia’s past. It is something that was lurking in the background of this ride since its inception. Pol Pot and his army of Khmer Rouge wanted to take society back to something they called “year zero”; a society which revolved around collective farming and forced labor camps. This meant destroying any hint of capitalism, education and government. To do this Pol Pot (Sal Lut Sor) would order the imprisonment, torture and death of those he deemed enemies of the revolution. This included: teachers, artists, business owners, government officials, the upper class, bankers, scholars and anyone else who was seen as “knowing too much” or anyone who spoke out against “change”.
The Khmer Rouge had a saying “in order to kill the grass you must kill the roots”; meaning that killing the head of the family was not enough, all members of the family would need to be questioned and then exterminated in order to smother the threat. The scary part about Pol Pot’s vision of bringing their society back to “year zero” is that he actually succeeded. The effects of killing off an entire generation of Cambodian families and progress resulted in a society of poor, uneducated, illiterate, unguided, and unskilled refugees. As I rode through the countryside on my motorcycle I saw the long term effects and open wounds that were left by the communist regime. I interacted with the people whose parents were evacuated, worked in forced labor camps and are still living without basic things such as medical supplies, clean water or electricity; all things that we take for granted here in America. Not until recently has their economy started to make a recovery; but this recovery is heavily tainted with corruption. The road has been long and hard for them; I can’t help but admire their toughness, resilience, ambitious nature and their will to climb from the rubble.
Sarim’s tuk tuk squeaked to a stop just outside the Tuol Sleng Primary School. I had done some research on the place before leaving the USA but wasn’t really prepared for the in-depth, documented truth about what the prisoners of this facility went through.
In 1975 office S-21 (located at the Tuol Sleng Primary School) was created by Pol Pot and designed for detention, interrogation, torture and killing after confessions were received and documented from the detainees. As time wore on the regime became increasingly paranoid and started to turn on its own members. As a result of this many of the prisoners here at S-21 were themselves members of the Khmer Rouge.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was opened on August 19, 1979 when Kampuchea People’s Tribunal began the prosecution of Cambodia’s leaders: Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, and Khiev Samphorn. On January 7, 1979 the government collected all the “evidence” such as photographs, films, prisoner confession archives, torture tools, shackles, and the corpses of fourteen victims. Today the evidence of the criminal regime is on display for Cambodian and International visitors as a reminder of what extreme communism can do to a country and its people.
The interrogation, torturing and killing took place in former school buildings: Tuol Sleng Primary school and Tuol Svay pre high school. Surrounding the compound are two rows of corrugated iron fencing covered in dense razor wire. Escape is impossible. The enclosure was made after Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge forced city dwellers to leave their homes and live in the remote countryside working in forced labor camps (basically like slavery and/or a prison without walls).
The four buildings of the high school have had their classrooms turned into small jails with tiny cells measuring just .8 x 2 meters each. The windows of the buildings were covered in a fishnet of barbed wire which prevented prisoners from committing suicide by jumping from the windows. I’m sure that a few prisoners had done this or else the prison wardens would not have taken the steps to prevent it.
Suicide proof windows
In 1977-1978 Building “A” was converted into a set of rooms 6 x 4 meters each, the windows were paneled with glass to minimize the sound levels of the prisoners screams heard outside the facility in times of torture (how loud would you scream if you were tied down and were having your nipples pulled off by pliers?). This building was used for detaining cadres who were accused of leading the uprising against Pol Pots “revolution”. Their cages were furnished with a bed which was bolted to the ground and an old ammunition canister. The prisoner was chained to the bed using a heavy steel rod and ankle shackle. The ammunition canister was used to dispose of their body waste; this waste was later collected in a large “dunk tank” and used as a torture device.
Again, the torture methods used were some of the most brutal I have ever heard of; far worse than those used in Nazi Germany. Here in Cambodia, bullets and knives were rarely used by the Khmer Rouge to kill people due to the scarcity and price of ammunition; instead they used hammers, jagged sugar palm fronds, medical experiments, pickaxes, machetes etc. Every death required close physical interaction between the victim and executioner.
Welcome to the Bed & Shackle Inn
Tortured to Death while chained to a bed.
Beat to death by steel rebar, blood covers the floor.
Young boy. Repeated blows to face using hammer
Buildings B, C and D were constructed so that the ground floor was divided into small cells by brick walls, the first floor and upper floors were used for large cells where many prisoners would have been crowded together. I imagine there would have been a putrid smell of excrement as in every tiny cell there was only a single ammunition can being used as a toilet.
chained to the floor and made to shit in an ammo can
The bodies of fourteen victims were discovered by the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea (UFNSK) on January 7, 1979. The corpses were carried out and buried in front of building A. These fourteen people were the last to have been tortured and killed by S-21 personnel at Tuol Sleng.
A wooden pole in the yard once used for physical education of students was turned into an interrogation and torture machine. The interrogator tied both hands of the prisoner behind their back and lifted the prisoner upside down. This action was repeated a number of times until the prisoner lost consciousness, then the interrogator dipped the prisoner’s head into a barrel of filthy water and excrement. This shocked the victims back into consciousness and the torturer would quickly resume their questioning.
Kang Keck Iew (also known as Dutch) was the chief of office S-21 at Tuol Sleng. He accumulated a large archive of details about every prisoner that passed through his prison including: their torture methods, photographs and thousands of pages of confessionals. These archives have led to the determination that over 20,000 people (including women and young children) were tortured then killed here at Tuol Sleng from 1975-1978. Out of these 20,000 there are only 7 known survivors.
Finally, on July 31st 2010 Dutch was put on trial and convicted of murder, torture and crimes against humanity. He was originally sentenced to 30 years imprisonment; then on February 2nd 2012 his sentence was extended to life imprisonment by the courts of Cambodia. In my opinion he should have been shackled to a bed; and then beaten to death with a dead-blow hammer.
Displays such as this Genocide museum are important because they preserve the evidence and remind us of the oppression, anguish, suffering and destruction caused by communism and the Khmer Rouge. Placing the inhumane crimes of the Khmer Rouge on public display plays a crucial role in preventing another Pol Pot from emerging in the lands of Cambodia or anywhere else on Earth.
Water Torture device
Paintings done by a former S-21 prisoner depicting the different methods of torture here at Tuol Sleng.
These paintings were done by Vann Nath, he was one of only seven survivors of the S-21 torture facility.
Flesh torn away using pliers
Breaking fingers with pliers while chained to a desk and beaten with a whip
The blindfolded victim in the back ground is being repeatedly hoisted into the air then allowed to fall to the ground until unconscious. The victim would then be revived by dunking his head in a large container of human excrement.
Small children would have been disposed of using forceful head trauma such as smashing on a wall, ground or tree. It is hard to believe that humans are capable of this degree of cruelty.. but we are. How could a man cause this amount of suffering and not be emotionally affected by it to the point where he would refuse to continue the abuse? Torture or be tortured (along with your family).
Faces of Tuol Sleng
Every prisoner was photographed and archived upon arrival, after torture and then finally; after their death. There are thousands of these images throughout the museum. The longer I stayed in the buildings, examining everything, taking pictures and looking at the archival photographs the deeper I was affected emotionally. At first it didn’t really bother me but after the second hour I was choking back both sorrow and anger. The place is heavy on the spirit. Once it has been felt it is impossible to forget. It is a deep feeling of helplessness and pity.
Mother with her newborn child
The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
- This place is fucking depressing
- There are bones sticking out of the ground
- Hand-grenades are not allowed in the museum
Outside of the facility there are clans of beggar children roaming around. They have their routine so well-rehearsed that they are able to make their eyes well up and cry on demand; pitiful, impressive and depressing but extremely annoying. I’m pretty sure Angelina Jolie has adopted two or three of these kids before in her quest to breast feed the planet.
After paying my fees to the gate keeper I notice that there is a “hush” cloud over the place. It is a respect thing, not exactly the kind of place where there are rainbows, fat black midgets riding majestic unicorns and eating Krystal burgers. Don’t run, yell, laugh, dream or do the cabbage-patch here; only crying is allowed here.
When people say “I visited the killing fields of Cambodia” this is the place they are talking about. However, every village and city in Cambodia had its own killing field. It’s not like the prisoners from the entire country were consolidated into one killing field. There were hundreds of killing fields across the country which resulted in executions totaling over 3 million people.
In 1988 the Genocide Center was built around this site as a memorial to the more than 20,000 people that were killed here; many of them sent here after being tortured at Tuol Sleng. A memorial Charnel (shiny tower structure) was built to house the skulls of some 8,000 people and to help their spirits rest in peace.
Scattered around the facility are 129 mass graves. Some have been exhumed and some have been left undisturbed. They are out in the open and can be walked on and around. I saw strips of clothing protruding from the earth as well as bone fragments scattered across the grounds. At various places in the facility there are displays behind glass that show piles of teeth, old clothing and other found objects that had belonged to the prisoners.
There is a grove of sugar palm trees near some of the graves. Because the Khmer Rouge did not want to waste their bullets or blades on execution they often used the readily available fronds of the sugar palm to slit the throats of prisoners. The lower fronds of the tree are serrated and razor sharp and were a better alternative to continuously re-sharpening sword and knife blades.
Two areas that were particularly disturbing were the Chankiri Tree or “the killing tree” and “the magic tree”. The killing tree was the place that young children were taken to be executed for their parent’s accused crimes against the Khmer Rouge. The children were killed as a preventative measure; the Khmer Rouge did not want the children to grow up then rise against the Khmer Rouge in retaliation for killing their parents.
The guards would laugh as they repeatedly smashed the children against the tree; if the guards did not laugh it could be seen as a display of sympathy towards the prisoners which would result in the guards themselves being executed. The children were often lined up single file and executed in front of each other. The scene was surely horrific and straight from hell. As the executions went on revolution songs blasted from crackling loudspeakers that were hung from the branches of “the magic tree” in order to conceal the screams, moans and cries of the executions from the new prisoners arriving by trucks.
As I walked around the facility I noticed that nearly every visitor was a foreigner, the only Cambodians I saw were employees. Maybe the Cambodians try to block this time period out of their minds and instead try to focus on present and future times. I caught myself asking: “why am I here?” and “why did I want to see this?”. To me these kinds of places are curiosities and history lessons. Sure, I “heard” about the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot and the Killing Fields as a teenager but these subjects were always spoken of in passing. My teachers never went into specific detail on the events, situations and decisions that led to such a brutally twisted period of time here in Cambodia.
the magic tree
hundreds of skulls
please do not bring hand grenades into the museum
I couldn’t help but think: “could something like this happen in the United States of America? “ Honestly I believe that it could; I see my country slowly but surely changing from the ideals it was built upon. How could the ultra-capitalistic country all of a sudden turn on itself and destroy the capitalist system that made it so successful and powerful?
In the USSR, Mao’s China and here in Cambodia the people gave all their power to the government; they put all of their faith in the government to take care of them. They believed the government would fix everything, make things better, and make them right. They believed that the government was looking out for the best interest of the people and finally they believed that the government was honest. All it took to light the fuse was a leader with a convincing voice; someone like Barrack Obama the lying, socialist faggot and sorry excuse for an American that is currently occupying the White House. Every time he signs his name to paper he is “hammer and sickling” our constitution. (As of this writing Barack Obama is banning the sale and ownership of high capacity firearms/ rifles. The second Amendment of the constitution of the United States of America gives the people the right to keep and bear arms. Barack Obama is taking away this freedom.)
The truth of the matter is that government is out for itself. It seeks to control the people by taking away their wealth, voice, power, guns and dreams by turning the people against each other (specifically by pitting the different income levels against one another). It lures in the weak, dumb and lazy by offering social welfare programs (free money!), “free insurance”, “subsidies”, “reform”, “equality”; “we will make things fair…. (by removing all incentive to try) ”.
America is moving towards socialism/communism simply because people will vote for a man who promises free money, free healthcare, free this, free that, free mother-fucking “Obama Phone”. What is not to like about it? “Why should I work when I can finger-pop the government asshole for money? The government will take care of me as long as I don’t work or try of fight back. “There are more incentives for a people to become communist rather than not to become communist and communist leaders exploit this to gain office and control the minds of the people.
These things happen slowly but they are happening. It seems like every year that goes by I see the people of the United States of America give up their freedoms, re-writing the constitution so that “we can’t do this anymore, we can’t own that anymore, we can’t say that anymore because it will hurt someone’s feelings”. Taxes are always going up, social welfare is on the rise, Barrack Obama’s policies and Constitutional changes have removed the incentives to create new business by making it nearly impossible to expand and turn a profit.
Without new business there are no new jobs: “why should I work harder than everyone else, to build a business and then have to give it all away to the government in the form of taxes so that they can redistribute my money to a bunch of fucking in-bred, knuckle dragging, retards living in the ghetto (which I pay for) who come to rob my business at gunpoint 4 or 5 times per year?”
Visiting Tuol Sleng and Choeng Ek has made me pull my head out of the sand and open my eyes a bit wider to what is going on around me here in my own country. Riding Cambodia was an experience that will stay with me to the grave. The people, places, time and journey were unforgettable. Cambodia has taken a piece of my soul and punched another notch in my belt of discovery.
A Fist Full of Cambodia
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You can contact me by phone or e-mail:205-two four nine-2914