Adventures in and around Kampot
Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
54Trip End May 05, 2011
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I got an overnight bus to Kampot which left at half past midnight and I was told it was a direct bus and would arrive at 9am. Needless to say, everyone was kicked off at Pnomh Penh at 5am and I waited three hours until my connecting bus. We did see a nice sunrise from the bus station, and there was food on offer - all meat unfortunately. I did eye up the pastries but ä fellow traveller told me that the peculiar looking thing filled with a brown hairy looking substance was "turkey floss" - shredded, sugared turkey - which made me lose my appetite somewhat. The bus itself was ok but absolutely freezing as the a/c was permanently on turbo
I finally arrived in Kampot at about 1.30pm and fell into the first guesthouse I wanted to check (I'd found it online). I was extremely relieved to hear they had a spare bed, what's more it was in a 3bed dorm and therefore only $4 a night! I ran into the shower, changed and put all my clothes into the laundry before ordering a large lunch. The guy working there was an American called Patrick who'd only been there a week. He had a day off the following day and was going to rent a moto to do some local sightseeing, and when he invited me along I thought it sounded fun. Naturally I was far too scared to rent a moto myself but I sat on the back and gradually loosened up throughout the day! (A lot of the roads here are potholed dirt tracks so it was pretty terrifying to start with!)
Our first stop was some caves. To get there we had to park up next to a cliff underneath which several people (men women and children) were bashing rocks into smaller pieces. It was literally Courbet's '"The Stone Breakers" [http://streamsandforests.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/the-stone-breakers/] The caves themselves were quite impressive - would make for a great game of hide and seek but we'd have been there all day if we'd have attempted that
I have suprisingly few photos of the lake considering it was such a picture perfect idyll, but that's because I spent most of the time in the water soaking up the atmosphere. The lake was much bigger than I'd expected - in fact it was an irrigation dam which had been created through forced labour under the Khmer Rouge. Despite its dubious history it was absolutely beautiful, helped by the fact that it was totally deserted. Apparently it's more popular at weekends, and there were bungalows and little stores dotted around, but we didn't see a soul when we first arrived. After a while a group of boys in school uniform set up camp right next to our hut, and ordered some lunch. We got chatting to them (only one of them seemed brave enough to try out his English) and managed to communicate a bit. They offered us watered down whisky and a rather spicy prawn stir fry, then we had to pose for hundreds of photos!
Drying off, we went back to the guesthouse to escape the midday sun and get some proper lunch, then in the afternoon we found some more caves which are supposed to look like elephants, but it was rather tenuous. We tried to find some salt fields but had no idea what we were actually looking for so instead we just enjoyed the ride through a Muslim fishing village, waving to groups of (mostly) children yelling "hellowhatisyourname" after us. On a quiet stretch of road Patrick decided this was the perfect opportunity for me to practise riding the bike myself... I wobbled a hundred metres or so along the road, putting not only myself but everyone else on the road in mortal danger, before deciding I'd had my fun and it was a lot harder than it looks
Riding around we ended up finding some other intriguing structure: a long set of concrete steps up a hill. With much curiosity, we began our ascent. After a little way the steps became more and more overgrown, and many of them had collapsed in the middle, revealing a drop of about a metre, and forcing us to stick to the edges which were supported by brick. The steps ran alongside a sort of gutter which was filled with rubble. The climb was never-ending - every time you thought you'd reached the top, another flight of steps would reveal itself. I stopped frequently, ostensibly to take photos and drink water but really to catch my breath and try to prevent my knees from giving way. Patrick on the other hand flew up, god knows how he did it in flip flops! At one point there was a large slab of concrete blocking the whole path which was pretty difficult to climb: it must have been the roof of the former building which had fallen down. Even on reaching the top it was impossible to work out what the structure had been but we had succeeded unintentionally in scaling a mountain and the views were spectacular, especially in the late afternoon sun
The following day I was pretty tired from the previous day's hike, so I hung around Kampot, having breakfast at a cafe run by deaf and disabled people. I sat next to a French girl who's been volunteering there and we were able to communicate quite well with the children in sign language. The sign for 'french' is to make the ''ok'' sign with your fingers while the sign for ''english'' is to hold you hand to your chin as if you have a beard! Later I met an interesting woman from New York who's been travelling for a year, and we both booked a tour to Bokor Mountain for the following day.