Nov
11
2010

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Slow Boat to Battambang: Part One

by Going Slowly

Tyler:

It's another 5AM morning, but we're not cycling to the temples for a change. Instead, we're sitting on the front step of our hotel, waiting. We could have easily ridden to our destination, the boat dock for our sailing to Battambang, but we never got a straight answer as to where it was. As well, they kept insisting they would pick us up in a bus, in spite of our repeated warnings about the size of our bikes.

So, here we sit, watching tuk-tuk drivers prepare for a day of tuk-tuking around, observing as tourists board big buses to Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City, and waiting for a bus of our own to take us to the port. Our stomachs sink like lead when our ride finally arrives, half an hour late.

The bus truck, driven by a crotchety older man, is already crammed full of tourists. There are so many people and huge backpacks stuffed into the bed of the pick-up, that we can scarcely see how we will be able to fit, let alone our massive bicycles.

We're greeted with some annoyed and disbelieving looks by our fellow passengers, and we can't help but think that if the truck were full of Cambodians, our reception would be a bit warmer. Clearly, this early hour is not helping inspire goodwill towards fellow travelers.

As we stare at the truck, mouths agape, muttering "You have got to be kidding…", we are totally at a loss as to what to do about this predicament. As we size up the situation, trying to conjure up some way our bicycles could fit on this vehicle, one of the passengers flashes us a smile, her eyes twinkling with amusement. There is little we can do but mirror her enthusiasm, shaking our heads with a laugh.


While we look on, a little dumbfounded, the driver steps out from behind the wheel, and comes around to help us. Without batting an eye, he opens the tailgate and tries to shove one of our bicycles on to it. With no time remaining to cycle to the port, we don't see any other option but to let this guy do his thing.

As the passengers look on in disbelief, we smile broadly but sheepishly as he perches one bike in front of the other, wheels just millimeters away from the edge. Relinquishing control, we're trusting in this Cambodian's expertise at packing vehicles with more stuff than the laws of physics should allow. So, I do my best to help with the task of lashing this whole mess together, using very thin nylon rope.

Strapping Bicycles to Pickup Truck

Tara:

After Tyler and the driver get both of our bikes precariously affixed to the tailgate, he squeezes into the bed of the truck with everyone else, intent on somehow holding the bikes steady. Settled, he smiles and quietly offers our tongue-in-cheek exclamation for ridiculous situations: "Adventure!" It's a tough crowd; save for the woman in the blue shirt with the twinkle in her eye, nobody looks amused.

Crossing my fingers, I hop in the front seat of the truck with the driver, and off we go!

If a wheel slips off the tailgate, our bikes are pretty much toast. Doing his best to keep everything we own from being destroyed, Tyler maintains a death grip on my bicycle for the duration of the bumpy ride, trying to prevent it from vibrating off the tailgate.

Driving through Siem Reap, Bikes Strapped to a Pickup

I don't know how he managed to snap the above picture in the process, using our autofocus-less wide angle lens, as we speed through the streets of Siem Reap.


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