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Old 01-02-2014, 10:17 PM   #556
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I'll check out waypoints at some later stage.... but I have to say, I've agreed to not even mention the names of the nearest villages for some of the stuff that's coming up. The anthropologist who provided some locations said that only preliminary investigations have been done, for example on a 15th century burial site, and would we please not say where it is.

Now, as for getting a BMW... maaate.... I've got two, and let me assure you, I don't want either one of them up here.

Seriously, the downsizing from the Super Enduro to the 525 EXC was the best thing I've done with respect to riding in Asia. I don't like it on the highways, but the highways aren't the real Asia... yet. I dropped from a 185kg bike to a 113kg bike. I dropped from 30+kg of luggage to 10-20kg (depending on what I'm doing and where) and I'll be looking at some more minimalisation later on.

The only troubles I've had with the bikes, btw, seems to be with mostly American stuff bolted to them after they left the factory. Those ProMotoBillet and Trailtech sidestands are crap. Maybe OK for dayrides.... but sheesh.... never again.

OK... back to our ride

First up, a decent shot of Harri the Finn and Justin (Team ftb)



We took a look around the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge, including Pol Pot's house and his grave (and yes, I pissed on it - murderous bastard that he was). First stop was the house of Pol Pot's enforcer, Ta Mok




There's a lake around the house - constructed to improve security.





Pol Pot's mobile radio station van is there





along with some less savoury relics




This is Pol Pot's main grave site.... his ashes are at three locations, but this is regarded as the main one. Not hard to find, but be careful if you visit... there's still some support for him and you might get your knob shot off if you make a song and dance about pissing on it.





After that, we set off to find the remains of his house. My GPS showed us as being in Thailand at one stage and there was some good hard single track riding... followed by a blast down the highway to Banteay Meanchey ... dodging cows and cars. I was still damn sore from my crash, so found that a bit tough. A look at the GPS later showed we'd crossed the border 14 times in the one day.... without scoring a single stamp in the passport.

We had some trouble locating his house (remains of it)... we had a waypoint, but ended up some wrong tracks.

In places, the tracks were good...





Lots of dodgy bridges too




... and at times it got technical..... the sort of stuff that makes you appreciate a 113 kg bike.... rather than a 240 kg one with 4' wide panniers It was a very heavily mined area and not a lot has been cleared. The town we were in (Anlong Venh) had a 3 km wide belt of mines around it. Even riding up to his house, Justin slammed the brakes on... there was an 8' deep gun pit near the end of the track.



Some soldiers followed us in and we had some good banter with them. One of them was as blind as a badger and was amazed when he tried Justin's bifocal goggles on.... and could see.





The house must've been very luxurious, going on the size of the floor area and looking at the remains of the tiles, etc. It had several underground bunkers too



Hmmm






We hightailed it from there, had lunch - but passed on the Bird's Nest Drink with White Fungus




Nice shot of Justin's bike on the edge of the escarpment



..... and then we made it a quick blast to Banteay Meanchey... just on dusk. We were OK, but Justin's bike ended up with a badly leaking fork seal on his almost new bike. It didn't do his brake pads much good.... but a quick was with petrol did the trick



I've got spare fork seals with me but they weren't needed. It turned out to be a turned seal lip from the huge hit he took on the highway... and he fixed it with one of my feeler gauges. I really don't know how he survived it. I was about 50 metres behind him and he didn't see some pipes across the highway, enclosed in a metal box, around the same size overall as four bricks stacked together... two high, two wide. He hit it at 110 kph.... and got airborne and a bit sideways. His back wheel about 18" to 24" clear of the road. Phew.
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Old 01-03-2014, 04:50 PM   #557
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So here's that highway belt into Banteay Meanchey



Nothing overly interesting for near on 200 km, but plenty of these



Almost certainly a relocated village... moved to make way for forestry or something similar. I couldn't help thinking how dissimilar they are to real village life, where the houses and people are close together. These are spread out and it must be difficult for the people to adapt



Our guesthouse was quite new and very comfortable... without being expensive. No complaints from them about Justin dropping oil on the forecourt either.



You've got to love it when the restaurant has some oral on offer



Breakfast choices were pretty limited... bread rolls and coffee.... with me picking the sesame seeds that I'm allergic to out of the bread




Justin headed over into the market to try and get us some sticky rice as emergency food, as we intended to do some jungle riding today. He could only score ordinary rice, but as it was to turn out, we were thankful for that



We followed the highway for a while before striking north. Some interesting logs along the way

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Old 01-03-2014, 04:55 PM   #558
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Belting along a Cambodian highway reminded me of the development road on Cape York



... and then the tracks, after we struck north, looking to find a particular village



It didn't take long and we were into the ruts



The locals weren't very tall.... and we were stopping whenever we saw one to ask directions, but weren't having much luck with progress north



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Old 01-03-2014, 05:12 PM   #559
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Not exactly superhighway stuff... and given we were finding lots of dead ends, we headed back to the main road



Along the way, I scored my second puncture in two days.



A quick check, at a farmhouse, showed it was the valve. Somehow, somewhere, I'd lost a cap and the valve was full of mud. A bit of a wash, some pumping and we were on our way.



We topped off fuel and water



It didn't take long to find a decent looking logging track and we struck off into the jungle again. I had an off into some mud.... I'd watched Justin go down a drop... decided it was dryer to the side, but it wasn't as it turned out and the front end was gone.... with me. No photos of that one... but Harry helped restore order.

Then I was bogged



I had to push out of that one



It looks easy in hindsight

Occasionally, we'd find a branch in the trail and invariably it'd lead us to some little farm plot like this.



Home, sweet home



The guy there set us straight.... but we went wrong... he'd told us to go back and turn right... didn't tell us second right.... so he ran through the jungle to cut us off and get us on the right track. Saw the tail end of a large snake in that section too...

It opened out in places



and got interesting in others





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Old 01-03-2014, 05:39 PM   #560
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Yes Justin.... its a bit muddy



Lunch... and was that rice appreciated? Absolutely




Justin binned the bike not long after lunch, trying to clear a fallen tree. Our longer legs got us through.

Some of the water was deep, but we found ways around.... eventually




Aha... signs of civilisation



Not long after that, we broke out of the jungle into a village with some woodworking going on





Probably the product of illegal logging



A few of the guys were pissed as newts and I shared a shot with them (palm alcohol)



We raided the shop for beer and water....

[IMG][/IMG]

.... and given the time of day, looped south along the trails that got us back to the highway in time to make Stung Treng just on dark.... about two hours late for our mate's night vision problems.

Along the way..... belting along the bumpy dirt highway, I lost my Wolfman fender pack.... and tyre levers and a spare front tube. Justin had asked me how many I'd lost just the day before. Bolt it on with big washers, he'd said. Harri saw it come off and stopped to look for it, but its somewhere in a ditch and hiding. Did I mention that the roads here are rough?

The ferry across the Mekong was chokkers... but the view was good.






We ended up staying in the same hotel I stayed at last year... and ate at the guesthouse nearby






Incidentally, Justin has fitted his new bike with the same setup I have on my Super Enduro.... Highwaydirtbikes handguards and mirrors. Brilliant gear... and it has springloaded mirrors that I've clipped far too many things with. Justin doesn't do things by half measures though

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Old 01-03-2014, 05:55 PM   #561
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Here's a short clip of the bridge leading into that village in my previous post



I knocked my head on a low branch just after that.... and an hour or so later, as we were leaving the village, I realised my video camera was missing.... so, back down the track to the bridge and there it was, on the track.
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Old 01-05-2014, 08:14 PM   #562
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This ride is in some fairly remote territory. The nearest help, I understand, is the Siem Reap helicopter... and its a long way away and as I understand it, they want US$4,500 for a pickup.... cash please. At and beyond Stung Treng, we are now east of the Mekong. We were deep in the jungle before then and it was tough. Justin had a couple of big crashes and I had that smaller one I mentioned too. The front wheel literally disappeared from under me in the mud... and I went down instantly... with the bike on my leg again.

It was a very tough day but very rewarding. I picked up loaded bikes half a dozen times, dragged them out of the mud, over logs, etc and had another flat tyre. Only had two bread rolls and a couple of handfuls of plain rice until dinner too.... but more than made up for it at dinner.

Harry's bike boiled at one stage.... so we filtered some muddy water for it. My fan was running hard... and the battery couldn't take it... so it was back to kick starting, which is damn hard on my bike and I'm extremely lucky to be riding with two incredible guys. I don't want to risk doing it with my knee... so they've been doing it for me. My knee braces might make it possible... but its just too big a risk out here. We have to solve the battery problem. I really can't tolerate a situation like this... having to rely on help to start the bike.

First up though, breakfast



Then its time to think about the bike





Geez... that gut has to go. The result of not enough movement for too many months with the busted knee.

We decide to try and find a battery.... the fourth of the trip.

As it turns out, we don't score another one until we get to Banlung, which is a relatively simple run on the bitumen today



We checked into the lodge run by a Finnish friend of Harri's and then rode a couple of km to the volcanic lake







Gotta love drying fish eh?



Back into town to try and solve the battery issue. Its pretty obvious that its either the regulator or the stator.... both are Trailtech items btw, not the standard KTM gear.

This is the most we could get, revving hard.



The problem, of course, is that in the rough stuff, with the occasional stall, or fall... and the fan running hard.... and no high revs, its producing a lot less and its not recharging the battery and the slightest hiccup means kickstarting. A long road run, with some revs, and things are fine.

We find the supposed wiring guru in Banlung and he's into it



He stuffs around for a while... not wanting to use my multimeter but judging things by how strong a spark he gets when shorting wires out. I'm not overly happy with that technique... but I haven't got too many options out here. He claims success, after fitting a new, cheap Chinese regulator.

I'm having another problem too. My local NAB bank in Oz convinced me to use their Mastercard travel card. Wrong move in Cambodia. In Siem Reap, I had to go to about four ATMs before I got one I could get cash from. Its worse out in the remoter towns. I can't get cash. I've got my emergency reserve.... and that's what I'm using. Visa folks... Visa. They work.
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Old 01-05-2014, 11:06 PM   #563
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Fantastic update Ian! Thanks for committing fingers to keyboard for us.

What's the story behind the Honda stickers on the Husaberg
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Old 01-17-2014, 03:01 AM   #564
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Honda stickers? Its a long story. Strange things happen in Asia. He calls it his Hondaberg.... and he likes it.

So, from Banlung, we are headed to Sen Monorom via the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary. There's two ways... the new road, or, the Death Highway. No choice really.

The road out of Banlung shows the rape of the land



We'd been talking to a Kiwi bulldozer driver in the cafe in Stung Treng. He told us he was an environmentalist, because they grow things on the land he clears. Yeah... right.

The first few dozen kilometres is on new road



Quite dusty, but very smooth. I had a near thing with a woman who stepped out onto the road when I was looking to overtake a truck. The dust behind the truck was intense... and it was damn hard to get past. She just stepped off the edge of the road without looking.... but I missed her.

I got a nice shower getting past this guy



Justin had to chase me here. There was an intersection and I was trying to see which way the guys had gone. I couldn't understand why they'd gone... so I got stuck into it to catch them. They'd actually pulled into a petrol station to top up and I was too busy looking for their dust to see them. It took Justin about 3 km to catch me. This little farm truck is a common sight there... powered by a single cylinder iron buffalo diesel engine... belt drive.



The load on the truck is effectively kitchen stoves... small ceramic buckets that they cook in with charcoal

Fueled to the brim, we headed to the start of the Death Highway... across the river. The new bridge isn't far from finished, but its still the old way for a few months



We timed it well and just had to wait for these guys to unload





Just looking back at this... we probably should have had our packs and boots off. He had to bail the whole way across



Didn't worry us.... we were on the trail



Justin knew where to go



The track up the bank would be fun in the wet



As is often the case in Asia, the track wasn't straightforward. There were plenty of choices at times, so when we met someone (not that often), we'd stop and check the local knowledge. Love this guy's bike



Check out his high tension lead to the sparkplug - a bit of flex and a bamboo peg to keep it off the cylinder



He enjoyed the "chat"



It was interesting to run across some Rangers in the wildlife refuge. Armed too. Not sure if he was real or pretend... as he wouldn't stop to talk



I'm not sure what he's got in the parcel - it looks like birds



This fresh, but apparently dead, Banded Krait was about 50 metres past them, just on the other side of a creek. A big one too... about 5' to 6' long



Justin was just ahead of us, but when I asked him, he hadn't seen it. Its possible he killed it. I wouldn't want to get bitten by one of them, out there.

The track was quite sandy at times



Less so at others





We had a chuckle when we met a couple of guys going the other way and I asked him what he was carrying in his jacket



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Old 01-17-2014, 04:12 AM   #565
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We stopped for fuel and lunch in Kaoh Nehk, a farming and forestry town... and it was appreciated.



Even more important... we topped up the water supplies too



It was good to get fuel from a pump too



I get the impression they don't do road safety inspections



Justin was having trouble with his Kriega bags. One had ended up in the wheel



Its a strange setup with those bags. I couldn't use them... with that damn stupid buckle that sits in the middle of the seat.

We headed out of town and got turned back at an illegal roadblock. Loggers. No guns on display, but they would have been there. Harri has had guns drawn on him at such roadblocks in the past. Nothing for it, but find another way. Fortunately, there's some choices there and we didn't lose too much time.

The track south got a bit smaller and more remote





Just around this next spot, we lost the trail and had a bit of fun going backwards and forwards looking for a track that doesn't seem to exist now.

This spot was "interesting". I fell off exactly where that ray of sun is shining.



I'll put it down to tiredness and being slack.... we'd had a local, on one of those small bikes, catch up to us every time we stopped for a photo, drink, rest, etc. Justin took off and Harri and I decided we'd let the local go, rather than blow dust all over him again. I was following him and at this spot, if I hadn't been, I'd have taken a different line. I lost it in the marbles and went down like a bag of shit. Harri had to lift the bike off my trapped ankle.

I should have drained the carb before starting it... but didn't - that damn "tired" thing again. We'd been running hot and slow... and the battery didn't have much left. It crapped itself and Harri was kind enough to start the bike for me. Believe me, I wasn't too happy with having to rely on someone to do that.

We caught up with Justin and spent some time figuring out the track. As it turned out, we came across a new mine in the jungle



Harri was happy to get some fuel... he's got the smallest tank, but he had to pay about 3 times normal price to get it.



We asked directions... got some which in hindsight didn't mean much and headed off. We'd just crossed this creek and stopped to see if we agreed on the path... and Harri's bike boiled... and mine was running the fan hard... and it was getting dark. With one guy with serious night vision problems, that was it. We camped. There.

A few bikes came through from the mine, with guys heading to town. We had various stories that there was a village 1km away and on up. It was a lot further than that the next day, and we made the right decision to stop.

Harri ended up with by far the best campsite for the night. A couple of bits of bamboo, one of them bent over... and there it was



Justin had some super lightweight sleeping pad... which failed.



Me? I had a groundsheet and a bivvy bag.



Harri took pity on me and gave me his second tin of tuna. No fire. No chinwagging... sleep. I woke up about 2 hours later, soaked through. I'd done the bivvy bag up too far and its a sweatbox. I only used it because I was expecting condensation, but we didn't get any.

I would have liked a sleeping mat... but these are the compromises we make. I used my spare clothes instead.

Look at that clean campsite.... you'd never know we'd been



Next morning, we found the small village and drank it out of Red Bull, in the absence of coffee



We bought most of their fuel too





I used to be a good shot with one of these as a kid.... but these guys use them to feed themselves



I dunno what Justin's doing here.... but it looks interesting



Everyone's happy





Ahh....





The locals are almost always keen to communicate



Food was welcome... even if it was 2 minute noodles. We were there a long time after they'd had their breakfast.



Seems we were the highlight of their day







Heading from there, into Sen Monorom, we came across this guy... doing damn near the same speed as us on the rough track



There were some interesting suspension bridges too.



I followed Justin onto the first one... about 15 metres behind him... and was having major problems with the sway.... I was all over the place. Harri was in worse trouble behind... he was plotting what to do as he fell, as he was certain he was going to. One at a time from then on, on suspension bridges.



We were back on logging trails, with lots of ruts



Here's some timber coming out, food, gas and supplies going in





This guy, with petrol in his lap, gas and other supplies, reckoned he was carrying 200 kg. Not long after we saw him, we had to climb a damn steep, rocky hill. Must be fun coming down it loaded like this





Those timber trucks really chew it up. This is about a 6 to 8 foot deep gully



It reminded me of the fun in the mud in Laos a year back



Harri, looking a tad dusty, in Sen Monorom



We met a Swiss guy on an 800 BMW in town. He'd come down the good road. I don't think he'd have got through the old road with these panniers



The joys of knee braces.



That's deeper than it looks
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Old 01-17-2014, 06:43 PM   #566
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I just took a look at my GPS tracks for the two days from Banlung to Sen Monorom. The route was planned as 293 km, but we did 262 km.

Day 1, we were on the bikes for 10 hours 23 minutes, moving for 6 hours 9 minutes of that and 191 kilometres made good. Moving average was 31 kph with a top of 104 during the early bitumen / good tar run to the start of the Death Highway. Altitude varied between 81 and 331 metres above sea level

Day 2 was 70.5 kilometres at a moving average of 23 kph (max was 73 kph). We were on the track for 5 and a half hours, just over 3 hours of it moving. Altitude varied from 185 to 721 metres above sea level.
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Old 01-19-2014, 04:15 AM   #567
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Sen Monorom was interesting. We caught up with some other bike groups at a guest house restaurant although we were staying at a place further down the main road. Justin and Harri did a day ride out to the Vietnam border, a waterfall and an interesting rock mountaintop. I stayed in town to try and sort out the bike.

I'd like to have seen this one... and the guys were back early, and if it hadn't been for the battery issue, I'd have loved to see it. I'll make do with Justin's photo for now



I tried all around town without success to score a new battery, having not been able to start the bike in the morning. The local World Wildlife Fund (WWF) guy helped me out and got me a couple of decent batteries shipped in from Phnom Penh after I couldn't source the right size locally. We had a few beers with him and a BBC documentary producer too. Some interesting stuff coming. We fed some thoughts into it. Their man on the ground here was keen to hear where we'd been and what we'd seen - he'd tried some of it and not made it. They won't use our footage (or the WWF guy's).... "if the presenter didn't see it, it doesn't go in". They haven't got a hope in hell of getting a presenter near the interesting stuff. The producer rang a car to go back to her hotel, FFS.

Interesting that of 7 of us around the table, only 2 (Poms) were from the same country. We had Poms (2), Israel, Australia, Finland, America and Germany represented.

I also had a good discussion there with a guy whose wife is Director of a major NGO dealing with trafficked kids. They are working with 400 of them, mostly in PP. Not housing them in orphanages, but working to rebuild bodies and minds.... helping them to normality. The bit that's worth relating. The traffickers are ALL locals. The customers are, in the main, locals. There are some foreigners, but its the local market driving the trade.

I've had plenty of discussions on the wildlife / logging issues too. We've got some ideas on that one. The view on the ground is that the tigers are stuffed. Big time. We had one guy, a Khmer, pipe up and mention one he'd seen one six months ago. They stopped... watched each other. The tiger got up and wandered away. The local villagers said it had two young.

While we had the time, we grabbed some oil and all did a change on all the bikes. "Someone" stuffed it up a bit when it turned out his plastic bags both had holes



Yeah, I cleaned it up.

I told the other guys that I was heading for Phnom Penh to get the bike fixed. The part of the Cardamoms we are aiming for is tough. Harry's tried it 7 times, made if 5. Once in 3 days. Early in the season and its debatable if we can get through. We heard over dinner that a group of 7 riders had just failed. Time will tell. They headed out the same way as me, but turned off onto the dirt after a few dozen km, heading towards Kratie

I did the 374 km bitumen belt to Phnom Penh... with one front wheel blow out on the way. We'd planned to avoid it, but I didn't have a choice. The Trailtech stator had given up the ghost.

I grabbed this snap of the gardener as I was leaving. The day before, he'd seen me trying, and failing, to get the bike up a ramp so that I could bump start it. He grabbed his crutch, hobbled over and pushed me up the ramp.



I'm somewhat humbled. Push started by a one-legged guy.

The bitumen was a real change after the Death Highway



I was keeping my speed down. I'd hit 127 km/h on the first day with my new rear knobby (a Thai-made IRC that I'd paid $75 for in Siem Reap.... they are about $60 in Thailand). I'd thrown a lot of the central knobs, including four in a row. Talking to the guys, they said that 120 km/h is the magic speed for these tyres. Hit that and the knobs start to leave.



The border wasn't far away



These guys like their monuments



The closer you get to PP, the worse the drivers get, but this is pretty much par for the course in Cambodia



Did I say the road was good?



Its always interesting





I actually saw this guy as I blew past, at double his speed, stopped for him to catch up, and ended up with a crappy shot. When I first saw him, he was holding the chook head to wind.... and it was sitting calmly. He turned it side on here. It looked great, tucked down, head into the wind



I'm pretty sure this basket guy was just a motorbike.... no trailer under there.



Nah, these guys aren't pulling in because I'm coming along.... they don't give a stuff about bikes.... they are pulling OUT to overtake the truck and each other. This isn't a bad one.... the bad ones don't leave room or time for photos. I'm doing 100 kph or thereabouts (more or less) here.



Yep, always interesting





Ducks





I think he could have fitted a few more in, up front



Crossing the Mekong, yet again... this time at Kampong Cham



Again, it got worse, the closer to Phnom Penh and the last section is nasty. It's really a shithole. I had a blowout about 50km out... but the bad stuff starts about 60km out. The blowout, from a pothole, was just in front of a tyre place... so I paid a couple of bucks to sit back and watch, rather than do it myself.





The road was under construction in Oct. 2012 when I came in (and went out) that way. It hasn't changed. Its probably the most challenging road ride going. It is effectively 3 roads side by side... all operating independently of each other. Its absolute anarchy.

At one stage, I was in the centre and had trucks blowing past me, going the other way, on both sides. I was doing about triple the speed of the traffic... which wasn't an issue... I'd have gone faster had I not been worried about another blowout. I had a spare tube... but no tyre irons, after my Wolfman pack failed and fell off the bike on the rough dirt road into Stung Treng.

Anyhow... the road is mostly dirt, potholed, with new bridges everywhere. There's vehicles swerving all over it.... all the time. The dust is so thick in places, you can't see. I've never seen a better place for fighter jock training. It's all about threat assessment.... 100% of the time. I passed some presumably Westerners on an outfit (sidecar rig) heading the other way. As interested in these things as I am, I can't tell you anything about it, other than it was white and slow... it wasn't a threat, so I didn't waste time looking.



These are the good bits... the bad bits don't leave time for photos



I suppose there's worse places to be broken down than Phnom Penh? I could go back to the Fire Bar if I get lonely. I called in, after getting the bike checked into a bike shop and grabbing a shower, for the early part of the evening and rang the bell (a $55 shout)... and that got me an instant 5-girl massage at the bar. The rest of the girls couldn't squeeze in. I even got a kiss and a hug from the butch bar manager. We're mates now.... I was originally introduced to her as "she a boy"... in other words, a butch lesbian. At least there's one woman in the world who doesn't hate me

Yes, this is a bar with women of negotiable affection.... but remember, they make their basic living by having a drink with customers.... and the owner is a friend of a friend. I called in for a drink. I'd like to actually get their stories.... and may do so at some stage. I've got no concern if they've made a conscious decision, as adults, to enter the business, but if there's anything more sinister, I'd like to see it nailed. There's certainly nothing nasty here, and the lady who owns the bar has a great attitude.



I headed out for a quiet dinner, by myself, watching the river traffic on the Mekong from the Foreign Correspondent's Club. Haven't been to it since my first trip to PP.

Down-river traffic flying by. Up-river, barely moving.
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Old 01-19-2014, 07:34 PM   #568
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I see that Justin has posted a video of us on the Death Highway, over in his Kriega review thread. Its got a few swear words in it, as he discovers the extra holes in his luggage... but it gives a good idea of the tracks



and here's a shorter one I shot a bit earlier, closer to Lampung. Me taking it easy


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Old 01-19-2014, 08:01 PM   #569
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Some pretty simple creek crossings on the Death Highway



... and earlier on, the ride out from Pol Pot's house to where we scored lunch - an un-edited 18+ minutes, but a pretty fair indication of what the tracks are like

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Old 01-21-2014, 03:37 PM   #570
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The bike mechanic was telling me that he thinks he's nailed the problem. They were trying to source an OEM regulator. The two I've got are dead. I'd been to the KTM dealer in Phnom Penh a year earlier, trying to source a sprocket, but they didn't have spares in stock at that stage... and I think they are still pretty limited. In the end, we ended up with something that wasn't KTM...

It turned out that my stator was buggered (shh... its the American one - Trailtech again). It took the bike shop a day and a half to work that out. They said they'll rewind it on Sunday. I'm having my doubts. We've gone from a Friday fix, to a Saturday and now Sunday. This may end up making Chinese manufacturing quality look like a Rolls Royce.

At least there's an ATM near the bike shop that's feeding me money.... after a disastrous run around the outer cities, and me having to use all my emergency funds. I spent some time getting multiple-hour massages and sitting back at the cafe near the bike shop.... waiting. A few beggars came past and I fed them.

The waitress kept telling me she liked my approach with the beggars.... "you very smart". She loved it with one guy. I offered to feed him rather that give money.... as always... and he grabbed a drink and a chicken/rice meal. I'd made it clear he couldn't have takeaway. I'm not into feeding people's habits - be they drug or alcohol.... so, I'll feed them food and that's it. These folks will get the meal as takeaway and then go sell it.

Anyhow, Old Mate decided he'd out-smart me. Drank the softdrink and ate the rice and pretended to be full. Asked for a bag. I told the waitress "no.... he has to eat it here or he doesn't get it".... and I got the "you very smart" again, with a smile. In the end, I picked up one of the chicken pieces and ate it myself. He kept trying.... so I ate it all. Silly prick.... and no.... he didn't have starving kids at home. The beggars with kids have them with them....

Like this



I was having a quiet omelette on the banks of the 'kong, at my favourite coffee shop in Phnom Penh. Its called Deja vu (the coffee shop name)

This pregnant beggar came past with a swarm of kids... looking for money. I asked if she was hungry... yep. So I'm feeding her and the naked one.

It took 15 minutes to hit me.... I'm pretty sure this is the same woman.... and kid... that I fed last year. Last year the kid was listless, very sick. Good to see that he's up and running wild now. Turns out that the mother has 4 kids and another well on the way.

Deja vu indeed. I ran into her again later.... in her bedroom



The kids were off, running rampant - but they were under good supervision



I'd gotten to the stage though where I'd decided I had to get out of this town. It depresses me. Parts of it, I love.... but I find myself down every day. I'm thinking its the poverty - including mine. I fed 9 for breakfast that morning. It seems to get up the noses of some, when you sit a group of beggars down next to a table of tourists who'd rather look the other way and who just ignore the beggars.




The staff were onside though. I even scored a discount, to bring my breakfast bill under $50. The kids were well behaved....



I stopped the Coke trend after this shot... fruit juices only, thanks





You have to love it though, when you find high street shops.... selling coffins



Given I was already a bit flat and had been told it'd be another day for the bike repair... I really don't know why I went here



Yeah. The Killing Fields. I'd not planned to go there, but I found myself in the vicinity in a round-about way and in a sense, felt I should. I'll come back to it, but the reason I was out there was, I'd rung Mr Mao. He was the tuk tuk driver we'd had in 2010 and who'd picked me up when I flew in this trip. I rang to see if he was busy... no... so I gave him a few days work, while my bike was being fixed.

Along the way, I shouted him his first (and second) ever massage. About half a day's pay for him.... so he's not likely to make a habit of it. He asked me if I'd like to meet his family.... and off we went.

Along the way, Mao stopped and grabbed me a sugarcane juice. I think he was feeling guilty because it was a long, dusty trip out to his place



This is Mao, his wife and the two eldest boys are theirs. The others are relatives (sister-in-law) living in the other house on the block



I don't think the young girl had ever seen a Barang before... she was terrified of me... and it took some serious work to win her over. The boys were boys. A boy was dispatched, on bicycle.... and beer was procured. Lots of games to play then.... including shoot the Barang with toy pistols






The kitchen. You have to love it when the kitchen bench does double duty... as a safe house for the poultry



Typical water supply... from the roof



Palm tree doubling as a bathroom cabinet



The view from the kitchen



Heading back towards town, we passed a few trucks with loads of women in the back



Mao told me they were the workers from local factories. Many of them garment manufacturers. On Sundays, they get to go on an outing. There's been strikes and other troubles with these workers lately, with a push on to double their $90 monthly pay.

Had to chuckle when I saw this lady getting onto the bike





When we got to the main road, for some silly reason, I knew we were near the Killing Fields... and I decided to take that second look.

It hasn't changed. You still walk on paths with human bones coming to the surface everywhere





The ditches in this shot are all mass graves that have been dug up.





At least it was nice to see something positive there. The guy coming down the palm has been collecting sap from the flowers... for making home brew booze.

The place though, is sobering





They didn't waste money on the executions... many buried alive. Others hit over the head with an axe or similar.



I needed cheering up after that... and after a ride (in the tuk tuk) through horrendous traffic back into town, we had a massage and took our two masseuses out to dinner. Lovely ladies



The wandering minstrel was good too

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