At the entrance of Cambodia on July 26, we had only a blurry picture of our bike route in the country and of the shape that would take this part of the trip. The ugly border of Poipet passed, we reach Sisophon on a dusty road and then Svay Chek further north. The landscapes are arid, almost desert, it is far from the cliché of shimmering rice fields during the monsoon season. There, like an oasis, stands proudly the Farm OrganiKH and its hectare of permacultural greenery, held by a Franco-Cambodian couple Olivier and Darin for already 6 years.
We put our bags there for a nice week of volunteering, punctuated by the collection of butterfly flowers each morning, weeding, transplanting, watering plants such as lemongrass or roselle during the day, other various tasks (compost, construction of brick plots of land, etc.) and evenings in the large and atypical common room. We meet beautiful people (3 French agrology students in internship here for several weeks, 2 Anglo-Saxon HelpX volunteers and a slew of Scouts), enjoy Darin’s exquisite mets and a healthy and pleasant setting to recharge, meditate and “work.”
On August 3rd we head back to the big town of Siem Reap, a few kilometres from Angkor. In a (sporty!) day of bike-visits, we tour the thousand-year-old temples, banners of the past power of the Khmers, slalom between drops and tourists and especially appreciate the anarchic vegetation that sublimates architectural ruins. Unesco obliges, the place is expensive and very busy (at least Angkor Wat) but still worth it.
The urban comfort of Siem Reap is a trap that we want to avoid, so we are moving back to the east quite quickly, on the “rive” north of Lake Tonle Sap that we will unfortunately not see given the exceptional drought. We reach Kampong Thom after 150km. From there, we make the decision not to go down to the capital Phnom Phen and to spend more time in the North. So we’re on our way to Kratié, the sky is pouring a few capricious rains and the rice fields are starting to look great, the heart of the country seems more irrigated than the North East. The proximity of the houses also allows us to glimpse the local life, quiet and rural, between dogs, chickens, pigs and oxen. “Hello! Suo sadai!” are chanted as we pass by the countless children.
It’s heartwarming, we try to answer every time and cross children gazes.
On August 8th we arrive on the banks of the majestic Mekong. Between him and us, we will have to learn to live together for more than a month until Yunnan in China! We explore on foot the small island of Koh Trong, mainly populated by grapefruit, and then head back to Laos, 250km from Kratie.
Attracted by the banks of the river, we take the road not carossable thinking to arrive slowly but surely to Stung Treng, 150km further. But our GPS and our Maps.me maps play us a trick and we end up getting lost in the dense and wet weather… cycling the muddy terrain quickly becomes terrific.
Fortunately we turn back before night and manage to explain our “dismay” to the teacher of the nearest village who offers us to stay overnight in his home. He also tells us the way forward the next day. We accept and end up neither one nor two to share a chicken rice (freshly killed …) with our host, his wife, his parents, children and all the local pet shop. It’s great to live the daily life of a Khmer family for an evening!
The next day we finally reach Stung Treng after multiple river crossings and some showers…
Finally, on August 12, we connect the remaining 62km to the Laos border. Ready for 4000 islands!