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Published: February 5th 2010
We had agreed that we would have an early start - 530 am to try and get some mileage in before the military convoys started and that essentially today was about upping the pace and pushing through to the finish. We left in the dark, playing dodge the dogs and marveling at the sunrise, hearing the birds and observing the country awakening. The surge of energy brought on by the realization that we would actually be able to finish today was getting us back to a reasonable pace and we soon, we saw ourselves running through active military camps complete with hundreds of soldiers doing drills, tanks and more stuff to make big booms.. In retrospect maybe that had more to do with our increased pace than the finish lol. We had agreed not to stop proper for breakfast and only eat some fruit and peanut butter an crackers that Mr. Slim was carrying along with our bottles. When we stopped him for eats, he surprised us with a treat of coconut milk waffles and deep fried coconut / banana balls... We had been pretty conservative with our diet up to that point, actively avoiding such delicacies as
chicken feet Khmer style and boiled in the shell baby chicks or deep fried grubs on a stick. But, Mr. Slim was starting to get this and had spotted a fellow sweet tooth kinda guy in Jeff and since his previous offering of banana sticky rice had been met with success he knew how to entice us. YUM!!! So while munching and walking, don't we notice freshly painted mine field signs with barb (or concertina) wired fencing and we stopped lollygagging and returned to a more productive pace.
In short order 20km is done and it's time for 'official' breakfast, as usual, fried rice and an egg. We split one serving, quickly devouring it and going for a refill of Gatorade. Time to press on, no time to waste. Passing one last set of tank like vehicles we head back out into the countryside. A pee stop begs the question, how far off the road can we safely stray? Answer: pee on the road. Enough said. We continue until we reach the UNESCO road that leads to Prasat Preah Vihear but we cannot take it. This one goes to the Thai border and for now, that way is closed....more
red road and posted mine signs we run along. Mr Paul eventually catches up to us after having made contact with his military friends who will meet us at the top. As he approaches, only Jeff notices the guy sitting on the roof of the Montero. To see Nat jump and the face she made when she looked up to see buddy peering down at her. Just priceless!
We continue on to where the old road meets the new road the Chinese are building and once again are dealing with bulldozers, truck and earth flattening equipment, which pays no mind or attention to us. As we said, dogs are more worthy of attention and two lycra clad barangs. As we near the town we spot a monk making his way towards us, on the opposite side of the road. We look at each other and quickly cross over, slowing and removing head coverings and glasses. We bowed, knelt low gave him an offering. Looking into our eyes he said 'good luck on your journey' and we parted ways. After a moment we stopped and looked at each other, asking if the other had goose bumps as well. A moment
neither of us will soon forget.
We finally reached the last village at the base of mountain Kor Muy, and were asked how long it might take us to get up the mountain as the heads of military, police and how ever many official factions would be meeting with us at the temple. Also, owing to the steep climb, they had to change-out the Montero for something with more power and whatever that thingy is that keeps it from rolling backwards if stuck on a slope... bodes well... Mr. Slim also declared he would abandon his motorcycle and climb with us to the summit wearing a pack. Its odd but after 5 and a half days on the run, Jeff suddenly wanted to press on and Nat, slow it down, not wanting the journey to be over so soon, it was after all only 10:30 a.m. So we decided to walk to the road that would take us up and then go for it. This is where all our previous mountain weekends spent speed hiking Mount Marcy in NY state would finally pay dividends. Can you imagine 5km of road at a 35 degree angle? After about a kilometer
Mr. Slim went ash grey, sat on a rock and declared himself done as Jeff and Nat made some quick decisions as to how long they willing to do CPR for. Thankfully, he chose to hail a moto down the mountain and go get his own, making a pact with his heart that he would not continue the climb if it would agree to continue beating.
Switchback to switchback we continued, finally reaching the military outpost just over the halfway point. Now truly in the thick of it we saw far more military hardware then we would have ever wanted to experience. As Mr Slim, adorned with his trusty moto caught up to us, we asked how old the AK47 and sub-machine gun toting soldiers were. None at that moment were more than 14yrs old. The border conflict has been going on for a long time and with more young generations carrying on the tradition, its not like to resolve any time soon. That said, every one of the soldiers we encountered was very friendly and did not convey ill feelings.
Finally cresting the hill we could see the lower part of the temple, our support team, and
a crowd of military gentlemen who would escort us for the first part of the ending of our adventure. We joined out team for round of pictures and then began the tour. Very much chaperoned, we were asked if we wanted to go down and see the 'border', a very quick response of 'No thank you' kept us ascending to the main temple. We did not want or intend to be a political show for any which side, our quest having been done in the spirit of providing water, yet trying to be sensitive to the fact that they were there honoring our finish.
Prasat Preah Vihear is an amazing and beautiful temple, perched on a escarpment overlooking the valley 3000 feet below. Unfortunately, the conflict and the presence of armed men and machine gun and rocket launching nests removes the usual spiritual aura that usually had accompanied us on our temple walks and taking somewhat from the experience. We enjoyed walking the grounds and taking time to sit on the cliff, contemplating what we had accomplished over the last five and a half days. Thirty-one kilometers done for the day and our journey from Angkor Wat to Prasat
Preah Vihear was over.
An amazing, inspiring and eye opening journey it has been and certainly we will continue to realize what we saw as time passes. The lessons we've learned are not likely to be fully understood just yet but we will continue to contemplate them as we spend the remaining time wandering southern Cambodia.
Thanks for all of your support, encouragement, and for coming along with us!
Nathalie and Jeff
PS we are already working on the next version of Running Cambodia!
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