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Published: October 9th 2008
Norry ride from Battambang to Pursat
Flying feet first through the Cambodian countryside on railway tracks, inches above the ground...well there's nothing quite like it.
We set off from Battambang just before 8am. Our goal today was to travel the 100 or so kilometres to Pursat on a norry. A norry is a bamboo train basically consisting of a frame made up of strips of bamboo, two steel wheel axels, and a 2 stroke fanbelt driven motor. Strictly speaking, they are illegal in Cambodia, and there is talk that the government may take measures to eradicate the use of these trains.
As well as myself and Chris, there was also a crew of three aboard. You might be asking yourself why does it take three people to drive a bamboo train? Well the problem occurs when you come across another norry traveling the other way. You need to pick up the bamboo frame and take the axels off the tracks to allow the other norry through. It is generally the practice that the norry with the least amount of people and/or stuff on it will disassemble and allow the other one through. There are no heated arguments or anything like that. In fact the other norry will offer to help if needed.
We passed through quite a number of small farming communities. Sometimes we'd
You can see a farmer has used a norry to transport vegetables to a settlement to sell. Unfortunately we have to dismantle our norry to get past.
come across a norry just parked there selling vegetables to the local residents. It seems that some of the farmers use the norries to transport their produce to the local market areas. Once there, the norry becomes their store.
Most tourists it seems, pay for a short norry ride from Battambang and go for about 30 minutes, then turn around again. I'm pretty sure (cause from what the locals were telling us and I can't see any reference on the Internet to anyone else doing it) that we were the first to travel all the way from Battambang to Pursat on a norry. So I'm guessing a lot of the locals we ran into hadn't seen a westerner before in real life. Therefore Chris became the object of great curiosity and amusement wherever we went. People would come up and examine him, looking at I'm not sure what. Others would just look and smile while some would literally stare in amazement, needing to take a second look just to make sure they weren't seeing things.
From Chris' GPS, we saw that the top speed of the norry was about 37km/hour and the average speed was about 20km/hour. So
the entire trip which was just over 100km, took about 5 hours in duration. I actually found the entire trip to be thoroughly enjoyable if not a little bumpy. The track itself is not in the best condition with parts of the track warped and gaps in between some sections. There are also the additional problems with having to avoid the odd branch smacking into your head and having insects use your face as a windscreen. Despite the negatives, it's a great experience to see the Cambodian countryside sitting inches above the ground with the wind rushing through your hair.
Once we arrived at the Pursat railway station we caught a tuk-tuk into town. We negotiated with the driver and hired him until tomorrow morning. We got him to take us to a hotel and ended up staying at the Phnom Pech Hotel for USD$15/night. Not a bad hotel and on par with most of the places we had stayed at throughout Cambodia. After we arranged our bus tickets back to Phnom Penh (USD$5) and had some lunch, we went out to Kompong Luong which is about 40km from Pursat. This is a floating village where its inhabitants are
There were several small communities that we came across during the trip.
predominantly vietnamese. Just before the village along a dusty track are a number of people living beside the road. Our tuk-tuk created some excitement from the local kids as it made its way down the road.
We hired a boat for an hour and had a look around the town. It was pretty extensive with two petrol stations, a church, shops, restaurants, and pig pens. People here were pretty friendly too. People would wave as we went by, one girl even jumped on board for a while to say g'day.
On the drive back I kept falling asleep. Not usually a problem exempt I kept leaning my head out the window onto oncoming traffic. Chris had to pull me back in a couple of times, but luckily I survived with head intact.
We had dinner around the corner of the hotel. Not the best I must say. They also only had three kinds of drinks, stout, some lychee drink, and something else. All of them warm as well. There wasn't any nightlife to speak of. Our tuk-tuk driver took us to a beer garden type place. Among other things he told us that police officers only make
Chris, the centre of attention
Chris drew stares throughout the trip. I'm sure some of these small communities have never seen a westerner come through their town on a norry before.
around $30/month and high ranking police make $50/month. To become an officer you need to basically know someone and you need to pay your way in. To put it into perspective, to send a child to school costs $10/month plus money for books. After a few more beers we headed back to the hotel. It was back to Phnom Penh the following morning.
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