The Time Traveller's Life
Trip Start Apr 12, 2010
95Trip End Apr 12, 2011
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Where I stayed
* 6 mini baguettes
* 2 dragon fruit
* 4 tomatoes
* 2 packs cheese
* 1 pack peanut snacks
* 3.25 litres of water
* 15 litres petrol (4 in jerry can)
* 1.5 litres of 2 stroke oil
* 2 crap maps
* 2 tarps
* total luggage load of about 120 kg (including pillion)
Our two bikers left the Angkorian town of Siem Reap very early the following day
Shortly after stocking up with bread, the two turned off the tarmac onto national road 66, which was the Angkorian highway. It was also a dirt track. By some strange chance they passed through a temporal warp and found themselves in Angkorian times, about 900BC. Everything they encountered was ancient; the people, the vehicles, the buildings and of course, the road.
It took our brave duo nearly three hours to reach the first temple. This was only about 30km. Not only was traditional navigation impossible without any idea of distance travelled, but road signs had not yet been invented. Rivers needed fording, soft sand needed crossing and riverine ruts needed negotiating. A brief bubble allowed them to view this temple in modern times; finding their currency accepted again and being able to read signs about land mine clearances. An hour later they pressed on but they were once again thrown back to the previous millennia.
The roads diverged and converged randomly, essentially all the same road, but the different paths avoided fallen trees or rutted embankments
Off-road motorbike handling not being Matt's forte, this proved quite a struggle. Guiding the front wheel on a path was the easy bit, the rear wheel rarely followed and slid into huge mud pools, kicking the bike sideways across the road. Nickiy would be on and off the bike every few minutes, either involuntarily or to lighten the load, push or scout the best route ahead. Regularly the rear wheel would spin and lag the eager pusher in mud. For hours and hours and hours they plugged away. Frank, the fearless and gladiatorial beast went down many times; bashing, bending and scraping himself and his riders. Every time he was pulled up again, he started without fuss. Matt was constantly drenched in sweat, not from sunshine but exertion.
By mid -afternoon the two weren't lost, but they were at a loss as to the location of the further temple. The road was still going in the rough compass direction required, so this was ok, but only a handful of people were seen the entire day. These people had oxen towing two-wheeled carts. Slow and steady and they were doing better than the modern combustion machine. Matt, the driver, was beginning to fade. He was weak from dehydration (the water had quickly vanished) and felt like he'd been in a gym (another post-Angkorian invention) for 12 hours solid.
Over another brow they rode to see, at the bottom of a steep hill, a huge lake which was the road. There was no way round and the exit was steep. The road-lake had an adjoining lake so the luggage was removed from the bike and Nickiy began some water filtration from the lake
As is standard this time of year, the wind soon picked up and the rains began, softly at first then with the normal light show. Some distance further on, with the bike fully loaded again, Frank just stopped. It was probably about 17:00. The temple could have been round the corner, offering some shelter at least. But the navigator couldn't know. Frank wouldn't start and darkness was approaching. Both the crew were desparately thirsty. It was time to stop for the day as everyone was tired.
Nickiy scouted forwards for 10 minutes and came back reporting water (of some turbidity). Frank was wheeled to the water and a location for the camp was sought. Camp choice was limited as straying any distance from the track could lead to land mine death. Trees were in short supply and sleeping too near the water would have been very damp. An area was decided upon for the night and on cue, the heavens truly opened and the trusty roof tarpaulin was spread out to collect the rainfall. Litres and litres of rainwater went into the bottle and down the throats of the parched duo. Ropes and bungees were arranged and a rather shabby apex tent was contstructed. A stick was placed at the river water line so rising water could be warily watched. The exhausted riders changed into dry clothes, ate their second baguette meal of the day and fell into some restless sleep. Fireflies buzzed in and out of the tent making LSD vapour trails
Dawn came very early and the two sweaty and entangled campers emerged to ponder their predicament. They were miles from anywhere, hadn't seen humans for hours and their transport was unservicable. Nonetheless, desparation was shooed from the camp and the hope of nearby temple and village was enough to focus on. Camp was packed up and moved across the river by hand. Washing lines were hung with soaked clothing and the tools were opened up for some doctors and nurses with Frank. Frank appeared to be sparkless and rudimentary inspection of the generator in the engine casing showed nothing obvious. The spare spark plug was fitted instead and everything was then reseated. There it was! A tiny spark, barely visible in the daylight. Frank was reassembled and soon started, ready for another day of heavy burden.
After their third baguette-based meal in 24 hours, the slightly happier twosome loaded the bike and headed further west. The road had not improved, and every day's rainfall made things ever so slightly worse. By 09:30 the touring troupe stumbled across a temple. There were no signs and at first they thought this was what they had been looking for. About to plow in like Lara Croft, they suddenly realised that it was unkempt and therefore likely to be surrounded by land mines. This wasn't the temple they were looking for!
After many more rickety bridges, swamps and seemingly impassable tracts of water, the duo finally spotted civilisation; some cows being herded. Very close to that was the damned temple. 5km square of magnificence which, being midday and dehydrated again the duo could not visit
After guzzling some drinks and purchasing another 8 litres of petrol, Nickiy and Matt went to head west. Or course the bike wouldn't move and the clutch needed adjusting. It had become so stiff after the mornings inspection that Matt's thumb was bleeding and his hands were blistered. The clutch was quickly fixed but the navigational decision to head west (thinking it would be the quickest way to tarmac) proved in error. Some kms down the track the duo met a man carrying a jerry can and smoking a comedy banana leaf spliff. He pointed to the puddle next to him, held his hand above his head, then pointed in the direction the two were riding. Water too deep ahead! Shit! They thanked the man and did a u-turn and returned to the village.
This time they went south and south and south to try and find the tarmac national road. This looked to be some 100km on dirt track and it was already afternoon. Of course this pressure wasn't enough as the daily monsoon came early. Lightning cracked directly above (the duo debated how best to avoid being struck) and the thunder deafened them. The road quickly became a river and Nickiy was almost permanently walking ahead, clearing dams, finding shallowest crossings and waiting to push at steep bits. The focus for the two was clear: make tarmac and town by nightfall. They didn't even notice how soaked they were or how hungry and thirsty they were.
After a couple of hours the road and the weather improved
In the distance Matt spotted car lights perpendicular to their own course. There it was: TARMAC! And a town! Just 5 yards from the dirt track junction with the road, Frank pulled under a shop canopy. The heavens opened again and darkness fell. The fools had made it, and not a moment too soon.
Nickiy located a hotel and the bags were emptied to dry. Frank had been nothing short of amazing; so strong and extremely capable in his very low first gear, even with mud caked road tyres. Dinner was ordered in the restaurant and Matt ate beef because, well, that was what came and anything seemed good. He could barely hold a fork his hands ached so much. It had been endurance riding for 2 days and the physical exertion took many days to subside.
Most of their journey was terrifying and subsequently the photos and footage was only taken during the dry and less-scary bits. There wasn't much energy for sightseeing!
* Pair of bike sandles - lost
* DEET spray bottle - lost
* Gear selector - bent
* Front pegs - bent
* Left wing mirror - smashed
* Pannier rack - bent upwards, later snapped
* Pannier rack jubilee clip - snapped
* Canon camera - zoom and rear buttons faulty
* Nickiy's big toenail - ripped off
* Matt's big toenails - stubbed and bleeding
* Nickiy's heel - perforated by inch-long thorn
* Matt's shins - deskinned and scratched
* Matt and Nickiy's calves - burnt on exhaust
* Matt and Nickiy's torsos - bitten all over by vicious dung flies
* Nickiy's arm - lashed raw
* Matt's hands - seized, blistered and bleeding