Pottering along more deliciously flat delta country little changed as we enter Cambodia.
The only thing that started to degrade were the road surfaces. The further away from the border more cracks began to appear, then potholes and soon just odds and ends of tarmac, enough to slow you down to almost standstill.
The next sentence is not one i use lightly.
At some stages in this third-world, recently war-torn country the road surfaces would become worse that we experienced in the United States of America.
Exactly. That bad.
We kept a strong pace as the target remained to reach Phnom Penh in a day, only because there was visa-based admin to achieve which could leave us stranded for a while. This would mean hitting over 200 km which is always a severe experience and never goes to the straightforwardness of the plan in your head. Sure enough daylight left and night fell when we were still 50 km short, and to add insult any sign of tarmac decided to leave with it.
Nighttime cycling in all countries requires focussed concentration on the immediate objects that your lights can find, providing enough time to react sufficiently. But in Asia that is just the beginning. When the lights dies, the road comes alive. It is breathstoppingly terrifying and hugely enjoyable.
Lorries scream passed you from front and behind, straight down the centre of the road, horns blazing, sometimes lights flashing wildly, normally lights broken. Unlit bicycles, dogs, chickens, cats, pigs, cows and mopeds appear out of the gloom straight toward you on your side of the road. For reasons unexplained nightfall becomes a suitable time to pull a cart or herd goats into the unlit carpet of blackness. Whilst families gather by the roadside and light fires, not to sit beside or cook dinner, just to burn stuff and watch the smoke plume into the road and add an extra barrier of uncertainty for the tarmac adrenaline junkies. Throw in a road surface with more holes that a hedgehogs t-shirt and you have a cyclists theme park.
Sure enough the Pho Soup lunch of 8 hours previous had long faded and we all started to feel rubbish. Slumping into a small roadside family shop we panned the walls for anything edible. After wolfing down hundreds of coffee wafers under the curious eyes of many family and friends, we jumped back on and kept going.
Suddenly i was approached by a moped with two young boys who started up conversation as i tried to appear cool whilst furiously concentrating on staying alive. They were both studying English and wanted a chat. We trailed each other for about 30 mins which helped the time fly by as i learnt both about the standards of education in Cambodia, and how to multitask.
We finally reached Phnom Penh city at 10pm and exhausted ordered as much food as the chef was willing to cook before climbing the stairs to bed.
The following morning we set of in search of the Burmese embassy which took some time to track down as both humans and technology pointed in all sorts of directions.…