Day 47 - Pang Sida National Park to north of Batdambang, Cambodia - Thurs 11 Apr
Awakening in NP; bees annoying, sound of hornbill wings, pretty butterflies, fresh
elephant poo and trashed branches show their presence overnight. Great sign on dirt road "Drive with security. Street worn out"
(but the corrugations were mild compared to Australia??)
Signed out of NP -so many
officers/sentries/rangers everywhere in their uniforms but never enough work for
all of them (bound to be lowly paid). Rewarded with sight of white squirrel as
drove out. Raining as we drive, farmers will be happy - good to wash off dust and mud
splatter from Ozzie too. Police checkpoint – Guy was first, looked through back of his vehicle. We came
up, officer said "ah, camping! Happy in Thailand!" smiled and waved
us through... hope all checkpoints are as easy as we approach border town.
Oh my, a blind man with a stick trying to make his way down the narrow streets
through crowded markets. Big celebrations at Wat in Sa Kaeo - signs of
festivities being set up. Wow – driving by not only a steakhouse, but
accompanying sign "cowboys welcome!"( How big is their cowboy clientele in
jungly Asia?) Border crossing was relatively painless and only took 1.5hrs (again details to
be posted elsewhere). Border town pandemonium, barrow runners everywhere with gi-normous loads for one poor person to manoeuvre. Goods and people being swapped
across borders, people hanging off backs of all sorts of transport (and to
babies) for dear life.
Cambodia is terrifying and we've only been in country half an hour. We thought
the drivers were erratic in Thailand - they absolutely have death wishes here.
Vehicles pull out to overtake, can clearly see oncoming truck bearing down on
them and still go (slowly cos they've lost revs!! ) Everybody has to give way.
Traffic is non-stop. Mostly scooters, bikes, carts and tractors. A pony cart or
two. Four on a bike - all off, the little one has to pee...
Some festivals over, some happening as we pass, some getting ready. Where, oh
where, is there enough space to pull over and camp??
Our mate Guy pulled over, concerned he doesn't have loud enough horn to alert people in
front of him of his presence (no one seems to have rear vision mirrors, nor do
they look before turning onto a road - in any direction!) Looking for campsites
BoyRob turned to look at rice mill, Guy to look at Wat - way in blocked;
factory - not enough room. We checked with people living in shanty next to
construction site on open cleared clay area, first said no, then chased us and
said OK "over there", we drove where we thought they pointed near the
only trees on site and pulled up waiting to see if anyone came to chase us off,
before opening up the vehicle. Not long after Guy joined us the woman came and
pointed closer to their shack so we moved and parked along ditch separating
from rest of town. A family sat on the other side watching, then one of the
kids broke away and ran along side us jumping from mound to mound. Gradually
more kids joined him and more families came out and we were surrounded by the
time we got out of the vehicles. We said hellos and smiled and showed them
kangaroo logos, ended up handing out stickers. Took photos and showed the
original lady through vehicle - she was immediately taken by toilet/shower and
ran out to tell other women. Eventually another one took up the invitation and
did exactly the same thing. I exclaimed over "all boys! only 1 girl"
surrounding us. I showed them my photo albums "number 1 boy, no 2 boy, no
3 boy, no 1 girl, no 2 girl... 5 children" lots of murmurs of approval.
Finally everyone departed and we could start preparing dinner.
Our reprieve was
short however and everyone came back en masse, but this time with girls!! GirlRob
had fun showing PowerPoint, the photos of the kids themselves and of videos of
the trip eg elephants, party boats, monkeys. Eventually we had to say "bye
bye" a few times so they'd go home! We were "entertained" for
hours by a local festival/ party playing the same music over and over
(including "Gangum Style"). A light rain fell and it was such a
pleasant evening without any insects that we could sit in the cabin, repack the
electronics (Garmin is not going to work here - no maps for Cambodia) check
Lonely Planet, map etc, edit the photos and write the blog.