05 Jan Cycling to Krong Preah Vihear, a sad encounter
It is still dark outside, when we first notice the chopping sound outside of our door. As the sun finally comes up, we quickly tear down our tents, fold up the bedding and head outside to cook water for coffee. Apparently the women of the house are already up for a long time. They are squatting in front of the building and are busy chopping a big pile of roots into bits and pieces. Without missing a beat, they wave at us, grab one root after the other and swiftly cut them up with their very sharp meat-clievers. There must be hundreds of them already chopped up in a big pile next to the zealous women.
We wave back and after a hot cup of coffee, we are eager to leave the rat house.
We have a long day of riding ahead of us to make it to next bigger town where we can hopefully find accommodations and food. The road leading there is fairly wide with some rolling hills. Traffic is pretty light, there are mostly scooters and tractors passing us. Only the insane minivan-taxis and pick-up-truck drivers are making us nervous. The minivans are usually packed up to the rim, overflowing with goods and people. Some have several scooters and huge bags of rice or what-have-you tied down to their back hatch. They have a tendency to blast down the road at high speeds. They have absolutely no clue what a brake pedal is used for and generally choose to hit their horn instead of the brakes. Everything and everybody better get out of their way very quickly, because even if they wanted to, they probably would not be able to stop their overloaded vehicle in time. They blast through villages, past children and livestock; they pass through blind corners and over hilltops. They seem to have a death wish on themselves or on everybody surrounding them; at a minimum they seem angry at the world.
As we ride through another small village we watch a mother, her two young children, their dog and her puppies walk down the road. Everybody is cheerful, we exchange our usual happy hellos and waves. Since Jessica is having more stomach issues today, we are trailing way behind Ron and Randy; she is taking up the tail section.
Suddenly, I hear another horn blaring behind us. Just as I hear a loud thump, I check my rear view mirror to see what is going on.
Another blue minivan is racing past Jessica while laying on his horn. Just as he is passing her I can hear the thump and see something tumbling from underneath the car. I turn around and see the family’s dog lying in the street…lifeless. While the minivan is blasting right by me, the young children are eager to reach their pet dog, while mom is trying to call them back. I see Jessica’s shocked face, as she keeps pedalling toward me, a hundred thoughts must be racing through her mind. I am sure one of them is: “that could have been me!” Shook up and with tears rolling down her cheeks she finally reached me. We try to make sense of the situation, but are unable to understand this kind of behaviour. All we can come up with is that it is a different world out here. It can be rough and cruel and for some fellow humans life is cheap.
The driver of the minivan never even attempted to slow down and did not seem to be the least bit bothered by the affair.
At this point we are trying to count our blessings, that no child or loved one got hurt. We feel for the little children who lost their pet and for the little puppies, but unfortunately, there is nothing more we can do.
It is a somber, quiet ride for several miles.
Today is without a doubt, one of the hardest days on the road for Jessica. Like a long day on the bike in the blistering heat and experiencing the mind boggling minivan incident are not enough, she also has to battle with ongoing bouts of diarrhea.
Unfortunately, for her there are not always bushes and trees available to hide behind, but we try to make the best of the situation.
After a long day in the saddle and many pit stops, we finally reach Krong Preah Vihear for the night.
Surprisingly, we find a very nice guesthouse with welcoming staff, warm showers, running water and fans for the same price our “rat-room” was the night before…At the end of the day all is good. It is the small things we are grateful for.