Tyler is standing behind me, next to the conductor, holding our bikes upright – I'm scrunched on the platform in front of them, trying to maneuver myself off the broken slats and onto some of the strong-looking wooden beams beside me. With so little space to move around, this just isn't possible. Thankfully, our makeshift locomotive is sturdier than it looks.
As we chug slowly along the track, I also secretly hope that the bridges are more stable than they appear.
After twenty minutes of rolling along, about as fast as we would on our bicycles, a collection of bright orange specks appear in the distance. They grow in size as we approach, and eventually I can make them out. They're novice monks, and they are hailing us! While everyone scoots even closer together to make room, our wooden platform slows to a crawl.
The boys climb aboard, and I wonder where they've come from. How did they get out here? What are they doing? Where are they going? Which sparsely populated village do they come from?
While we're chugging through neon green fields of rice paddies, and passing the sun-faded stilted homes that have become iconic of the Cambodian landscape for me, I spot a few people toiling in the sun and a child or two riding bikes along the train tracks. Apart from these sightings, the land is mostly open and empty and quiet.
In the distance, I can see what looks to be another bamboo train headed right for us. Nobody seems particularly concerned, and neither car is traveling fast enough to get me worried, either. In response, the conductor calmly cuts our engine, and we drift slowly forwards, surveying the situation.
Supposedly, the more heavily loaded bamboo train car gets the right of way, while the lighter of the two must completely dismantle their platform, and carry everything off the track, allowing the other to pass.
I feel pretty sure that with a dozen people and two loaded touring bikes, we'll be the ones who get to sit on our laurels and watch. However, as the other group slowly draws nearer, I realize just how wrong I am. Wood pile beats touring bikes!