‘Wats’ in Cambodia? Day 133: ‘I Wanna Go Fast!’

Today, I made plans to set out for a grand moto adventure further north to Kampong Trach, apparently famous for its limestone caves. Upon hearing of my plans, a German guy named Niko asked if he could join me. We went in search of the sandwich shop (I know I have problems) but nothing stood in sight as if it were all in my mind, a piece of my elaborate imagination. From there, we rode to the market following an Irish guy leading the way. The Irish bloke led us down the wrong way of a one way street, which resulted in a cop signaling us over. We each paid a $2 receipt-less fee, which probably would have been brushed off since we just barely entered the road but if $2 each was enough to help pay for this cop’s cups of coffee for the week then so be it. After some cheap noodles and fried eggs, Niko lost track of his keys to the motorbike which further delayed the day as he needed a new one made for $2. Finally at last, we began the long, long trip to Kampong Trach. Once we got out of Kampot, I was going fast without abandon (safe but with all the reckless satisfaction) because the feeling of the wind smacking you in the face while rippling your cheeks and trying to pull back your wind tunnel of a shirt into a full fledged cape simply cannot be beaten. You can picture more freeing pursuits then that. I was ready to go E.T. moto-style and launch myself into the sky soaring with the oncoming wind. For another movie reference, I felt like the young Ricky Bobby from Talledega Nights shouting repeatedly ‘I wanna go fast! I wanna go fast!’ as he peeled with his freshly hijacked car. After passing the many familiar palm and coconut trees as well as the dusty villages and shops that lined the road, we arrived at the caves and spiked hills near the town without somehow managing to get lost. Sure enough, a group of boys followed the two of us around with flashlights (sorry, torches as the non-American world calls them) trying to slyly get hired as guides. The group was comical since only one of them knew enough English to act as a guide while the others repeated exactly what he said like an echo without delay to show that they were contributing as well. The caves were nice to explore but not so much when we had a bunch of Cambodian boys tagging along when we would have preferred to brush them off. The way nature has carved the inside of the caves amazed me even though I had seen many others before. The randomness of nature is what makes a place like this special when you struggle most of all to come across a conclusion as for how this could be formed. We dug into the cave trying to find tunnels that actually went some distance but ended up finding too many dead ends. Once we set out to the top of the hills, the boys went their own way not willing to rock climb to the top. The limestone rock was beyond sharp but jagged enough to form some grip upon which to launch ourselves precariously upwards to the top. The top didn’t have much of a platform but I found a way to teeter more or less on the edge of the earth to get the viewpoint I wanted. Wow, oh wow, just when you think nature has done it all. The series of mountains or hills (depending on how you want to look at it) rise out of the nowhere from the now dead and dry dusty plains into these gushing green spectacles of rock with what can only be best described as shards of limestone rock jaggedly emerging from between the trees to get the best view. It looked like a porcupine but with the sharpest and thinnest of rocks poking out. As I balanced atop a couple of these rocks since neither had a flat enough surface to balance upon solely on its own, I took in the full view and panorama rotating my body so as not to miss anything. After returning to the ground below, we rode to Kep so that Niko could have his first taste of their crabs. At this new restaurant, we ran into an American named Erik who was sitting by himself and so I asked if he would like to join. Erik ended up being a cool guy having started his travels in Africa working on an environmental project for a few months. While those dealt with the task of cracking open limited bang for your buck crabs, I went the easy route with fried fish in a creamy orange sauce (with Kampot green pepper of course) luscious enough to get soaked up into the awaiting bed of rice. Since we had already seen the Kep Beach we went in search of a beach more remote and possibly more exotic but little did we know how true that would be. The three of us rode east in the direction of the Vietnamese-Cambodian border to what we hoped to be Angkoul Beach. We passed and even stopped at the salt fields that I had been itching to see. While walking around and through the fields, we examined how these fields operate as some continued working the fields. The salt fields over here are humongous stretching further than you might guess with smaller sectioned off squares in which a pool of salty water sat. In these pools, the workers laboriously etched the fields with rake to separate the dirt from the salt and expose the prized export. I would love to know how many kilograms they produce in a day and I am sure the figures would be staggering. After mounding enough of the salt and letting it somewhat dry under the ready sun, they scoop it up with bamboo scoops into baskets to be hauled off to their depot stations. I hope they don’t have to work the fields in the middle of the day because even in the afternoon it feels like torture. My eyes burned just by standing around them for a short while as it absorbed the little moisture I had left to spare. We kept riding on seeing a few signs to the beach listing seven and four kilometers away but before long we reached a large arch that we found out was the border crossing into Vietnam (a little earlier than I had planned to cross the border into Vietnam for my journey). Since this was not a highly trafficked border crossing as far as Westerners are concerned, locals passed through with ease (we were the sole white people around). Without confronting the law (or lack thereof), we turned back and eventually found the turn off to Angkoul Beach (its promiscuity was well founded). The road was choppy and could barely be called a road but rather a raised path of mounded dirt and rocks. Eventually we made it to this “beach” (raising those air quotes quite high and emphatically). It had sand; I can give it that much but too trashy too waste time on. The only worthwhile part about coming all the way over here were the kids that excitedly welcomed us. They posed for pictures even when we weren’t raising our cameras but when we did they dashed towards us ambushing us from every which way to get a look at the pictures and flip through all the photos I had taken previously. Since they don’t usually get Westerners to come out here, they revel in our appearance and especially the new technology. After saying goodbye to the kids as much as they tried to keep us there I definitely to show off their supermodel poses, we cruised away trying to avoid the potential rainfall that we surely would run across. Back in Kampot dry as can be (not counting sweat because that would be asking for too much), we had a couple beers at the Magic Sponge before Erik and I went into town for some soup. Being likeminded people, we broke down the concept of Americans rarely traveling abroad and how we both feel a bit out of place with friends that don’t see eye to eye in this respect. At some point I really need to visit some of the people I have met though traveling maybe while on another trip as well. My friend for the day but who knows maybe for much longer Erik went back to his guesthouse and I went to sleep because today was a busy one and I needed as much rest as I could muster. 

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