Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 3

It's a good thing I am a nurse, I can get as much dirt in my wounds as I desire without any consequences!

We tried to climb this but after 4 steps we were stopped. Experienced temple travelers told me that I should of bribed them.... maybe next time. :)

The dirt and pain was well worth it to see many breath taking sights such as this Thai/Cambodian border temple.

Day 3
Early in the morning Michael and the Khmer stranger that welcomed us into his home set out together to find the road that leads to the town. There they would buy water and gas. After extended sleep I awaken to moms who are nursing their kids in front of me. Of course they weren’t “shy” and would “let it all hang out” even for a lengthy period after the feeding. After a few hours Michael and the man returned looking exhausted. Mike told me that the second moto ran out of gas and he had to push for the last 30 minutes while the man stared at him and smoking strange homemade cigarettes. Michael and I enjoy the bottled water and then ventured off to find the broke down bike that we left behind the day before. After an hour or so of getting lost, avoiding land mines and receiving more cuts on my bare feet we finally see my bike tipped over onto the ground. I am thrilled to find the moto because with it is my backpack containing my extra shoes and medical supplies used to wrap my sprains, wounds and cuts all throughout my limbs. By the grace of God the bike is able to start. On our way out we stopped by our new found Khmer friend’s house. They told us that the small town was about 2 hours away (which was a true estimation for once). Of course on the way out I fell off my bike and got stuck in the mud in front of the Khmer people who helped us. (Sorry Michael….lol)
The Hidden Temple
Like before we had to travel through many muddy trails so that we could reach the small town. Not having experience with mud biking before and now doing it 2 days straight I gained necessary “on the job training” that allowed me to survive. I was tired of falling in the mud so I was determined to do WHATEVER it took to maneuver the clutch, the brakes, the gas and my own feet position in relation to the mud beneath me in order to minimize my falling. About 30 minutes before reaching the town we come across “The Hidden Temple.” Not many tourist see this temple because of its remote location. In fact VERY few will EVER encounter this temple during the rainy season (we are part of that few).Grass and moss covered nearly the entire temple and it looked as if it hadn’t been visited in ages. The temple was beautiful and it was a visible sign of our determination and effort. However I was too exhausted to enjoy it much. We stayed for less than 10 minutes as we both desired to eat food, drink clean water and sit in chairs. We continue our path of mud and slowly the trail begins to become more developed until eventually it is like the dirt road we originally started on 3 days before.
In the small town
My world view for 50+ hours has been jungles, rice farms and mud with occasional interactions with forest people. Arriving into town I experienced some “reverse culture shock.” In the town we were able to sit at a restaurant table with a table cloth… A TABLE CLOTH! I haven’t seen anything resembling a table in what felt like ages! We told the cook to make us whatever they had, which was eggs, onions and rice. There was at least half an onion in each scrambled egg plate. Normally this wouldn’t be my “1st preference” in how I would eat my eggs but at this point I DIDN’T CARE. I savored every last onion and nearly licked the plate as I was enamored with satisfaction! A can of 7up seemed unreal like a magic potion of happiness, there was bottled water everywhere, and we even met Khmer people that spoke some English! We were in a whole different world. Being in this town gave us the opportunity to drive faster than the pace of an ox-cart( as we have been accustomed to). As we enjoyed this new change of pace we soon realized that our brakes, our clutch and a number of other things needed to be fixed. The town we were in didn’t have anyone that could work on our moto. We had decided that as quaint as this little spot was we can’t stay, we HAVE to keep moving.
Heading to the city
Though our motos were in poor shape we had no choice but to keep moving. Hearing about how dangerous and confusing the roads are ahead we decided to hire a guide to go with us on his own moto. The 3 of us encountered the same type of gruesome paths as before but now we had some one with us that had some experience in this world of mud. We had enough mud, dirt, swamp and feces to keep us more than occupied for well over 2 hours. Around this time I noticed that I was really starting to get the hang of mud biking. I am learning which mud sinks and which mud stinks. I am deciding with wisdom when my only choices of path are either-“ bad, worse or impossible.” This realization of skill gave me a boost of confidence but also a boost of pride. About an hour into this trail I had a lesson in humility that I won’t soon forget. About 20 seconds ahead of me I saw Michael stuck in pitch dark mud waving his hands and yelling “Stop! Stop!” I thought, “Silly Michael stuck in the mud, you should have driven faster, like ME.” So of course in my pride I speed up thinking that “I, Travis the great driver of the moto” can surely skip right past this insignificant black mud. And sure enough my bike stops, my back tire SINKS and I am stuck alongside Michael.
Pond of Pig Poop (you might want skip this paragraph if you have a weak stomach)
Plain and simple the black mud is a vast open area of pig feces, pig urine, pig vomit and possibly scant traces of dirt and mud. We are stuck 2 motos and 2 Americans. By the grace of God our guide had sense enough not to get stuck in the poo. This sewer swamp was vile. It was knee deep and about the area of an average American living room. The texture was like walking in 3 feet deep wedding cake (everyone knows what it’s like to step in wedding cake right?). It suctioned to our whole legs even worse than the crud we encountered the day before. Every time we took a step we would have to use all of our force to lift one leg. I almost lost my shoes as the poo of death nearly swallowed me alive. To get the bike out all 3 of us would get under one wheel of the moto and pull with all of our might and move it as far as we could. We were so determined to move it that often we would fall flat into the poo in hope of moving the bike a couple more feet. My thought process was “This is the worst experience imaginable but the only thing worse is STAYING IN THIS MESS!” Not wanting to stay stuck in feces we moved both moto’s (one at a time) out of the crud (even if that meant a face full of poo as we would “rev” the engine for momentum). At this point we had cuts and scratches all over us from our wilderness trek. As we wrestled our bikes out of this mess our open sores became the new home for mass quantities of bacteria (Praise the Lord for Amoxicillin).
River Break
We drove off, away from the poop pond while several Khmer pig farmers laughed at us as we were covered in their pig’s bowel movements. After many miles of riding with a coating of crud crusting onto our skin we approached a fresh (yet muddy) river! We immediately got off our bikes and washed up. I got on my stomach and opened my mouth and drank at least a couple liters of water to replenish myself. Unsanitary water never tasted so good! Immediately next to the river was our final major challenge. A HUGE uphill mud slide that would require a full speed elevated ride in slippery mud- and for once I made it without falling!
A Dirt Road!
The 2 hours of our journey after leaving the small town was difficult (yet funny in retrospect) but worth it to reach the dirt road right at sunset! Wow! No mud and water, only dirt, dust and gravel, something we haven’t had in days. The downside- we were still over an hour and half away from our final destination. We had our hearts set on a near city that had both a guest house (like a motel) and moto repair man. This guest house was complete with shower, clean water and a laundry service! 1.5 hours of riding this dirt road of opportunity was complicated since both bikes had brakes that were out, the clutches were loose and the gas is so hard to twist on the handle bars that it was forming blisters on our bacteria infested hands. Also my moto had broken head lights and because my helmet goggles were tinted I had to choose between-“ not seeing anything because of the tint and no head light” OR “not seeing anything because dirt, dust, pebbles and bugs are flying into my eye while still having no headlights.” I took a risk and chose the latter.
The Journey Ends (or is it the beginning?)
After 3 days of ridiculous mud swamp exploration where we dragged busted up dirt bikes through forests and mine fields (wondering, will we live to tell this story?) we found ourselves back in civilization. Officially off of our "Ancient Highway" we caught our breath and discussed which temples we wanted to visit next (ones that didn't require DAYS of mud trail travel to reach). We rested well in our $13 a night guesthouse for a few days, treated our wounds, had some laughs and then set out to pursue further adventure in this great nation of Cambodia!
Interested in more moto action...
Take a look at- Cambodian Driving Lessons (by yours truly)