Cambodia Bicycle Tour 2018

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January 16th 2018
Published: January 16th 2018
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Day 5 Battambang
Maybe 40km of cycling and 90km on water. 28 degrees with blue sky.

Another great day dawns with a 6 o’clock alarm which shook me to the core after the best sleep so far. A breakfast of Cambodian soup and fresh fruit set me up for the day. Bags packed in 2 minutes - well they were never unpacked on the first place - and we were off for a 15 km run alongside the river to the boat slipway to traverse the Tonle Sap lake. The bikes were strapped to the canopy of the pontoon type boat and off we went at a great rate of knots with a massive bow wave being created. On our way out of the river we passed the first of many floating villages, which moves around with the seasons, and several narrow boats propelled along with an engine at the end of a long shaft and going so fast I thought we were stopped. Once our into the lake many of us sat up on the roof in the warm air enjoying the view and watching fishermen in their little boats throwing their nets over the side. After 45 minutes we entered the Sangker River through a narrow channel which the opened out to expose another floating village of 10,000 people. Boats were passing us loaded with fish which were still wriggling about and many people were on the floating decks gutting fish and above were circling birds of prey waiting for their meal. Young children waving and shouting at these strange looking people standing on a passing boat. Mo school toda then- Monday? Several more villages were encounters along the way all having the same lifestyle. No BMW’s or Audi’s in the drive with electricity and gas on line. Very different. Around midday my camera battery went flat and I replaced it with full one. However, it refused to work whatever I did with it. I only drew a line at the hammer treatment. What a time to fail just three days in to a two week tour. I let it rest and it began to take photos again but would not respond to any other buttons or dials, but at least I can keep recording this amazing place. As we journeyed further up the river we found the houses were getting into much poorer condition and saw young children naked working and playing on the muddy, slimy, bank which would have had us down with diphtheria or cholera if we went near. We called for some pineapple at a floating store and some went the toilet which just dropped into the already brown river. I tried some pineapple with chilli - big mistake - I had to have my mouth relined afterwards. The riverside litter also increased, which even spread into the fields which they were ploughing with rotovator type tractors ready to plant maize or beans to be ready before the rainy season when the fields would be submerged. Wherever they are dropping into the river the fish must line it since there are fisher men and women everywhere using all methods. Chinese cantilever nets, drag nets across the river impeding our way, tubular nets and what look like lobster pots set in the river bank. We saw several boats with the deck full of grey fish 4 to 6 inches long being taken for processing in Battambang. More of this later. Eventually we arrived at a rickety ramp on the river bank, after driving the boat up onto the bank, and pushed our bikes up to
the road ready to follow our guide to a small unit on the roadside which makes thin rice sheets for Spring Roll cases. Next was a visit to another small unit slicing small bananas by hand to make dried banana wafers, which were obviously quite tasty. The grand finale was a visit to a fish processing plant. When we pulled up at the gates of a posh building I thought that we were at the hotel but there was a terrible smell and we all thought that a disaster was calling. Chaani then went on to say that we were at a fish processing plant and what we could smell was barrels of fish intestines ready for animal feed. The rest was not much better with Catfish laid out to dry and fish mixed to a pulp in a barrel with stones on top for the juice to be squeezed out. The juice then went for flavouring in food and more fish was made into a paste for cooking. Lastly a lady was sat there squashing the eggs out of fish for roe. I used to like fish sauce and roe until now.
It was getting late at around 5pm so we made a dash for the hotel before darkness at 6pm. The Classic Hotel is a posh affair with hardwood carved wood panelling and first class rooms and amenities,including an outdoor pool. It is a pity we are not staying more than one night. Battambang is brightly lit by neon signs by the river with many street traders selling food of all descriptions. We went to a restaurant selling western type food of burgers and enchiladas etc. We were in revolt and said we wanted Cambodian so they came out with another menu which was more to our liking. We cane to Cambodia to eat as they do, especially since it is good food with no excess of carbos. Revolt over and Channi had a burger of his own choosing and we had traditional Cambodian fare. We got to bed at ten past ten and I was just nodding off when I remembered that I had left my Bike Club jacket in the restaurant. I immediately got out of bed and dashed back to find it. When I got here at 10.45 it was all locked up so I walked back wondering how I was going to retrieve it since It may be closed when we start at 8am. Back to bed at 11.10 and to leave that problem for later. zzz, zzz, Zzz.
Overall day conclusion. Excellent with loads of variety and a great insight into river life. Full marks.

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