27 Dec Cycling toward Siem Reap; new challenges
After another cold shower in the morning and desperately trying to get our toilet to flush with endless amounts of buckets of water, we finally pack up. Once downstairs, we boil up some water for coffee. The women and children working the street vendor cart in front of the guesthouse are curiously watching every move of ours. One of the girls even rides her bike over to stand only a few feet away and stares at us throughout the whole process.
As we leave the last couple houses of Poipet, we ride past another temple…our first Khmer Padoga. Without thinking twice, we turn to enter through the ancient looking gate. While Jessi and I wander off to look at all the different buildings and statues, Ron and Randy stay near the bikes. The temple seems different, besides a few beautiful murals it is definitely lacking all the bright colours and decorations. The statues are different as well. There are many more female statues, others depict man and women in warrior garb riding all kinds of different animals which almost seem like spirit guides. We find it very interesting and like the simplicity of the paint job.
While we checked out the temple, Ron and Randy have their very own entertainment. They are busy watching a monkey taking care of a kitten. The monkey carries the little kitten around by one leg like a little rag doll. Sometimes it carries it by its scruff. It cleans it and grooms it and checks it all over for little pests. Then the two of them just lay there on the roof and chill out. However, the monkey always seem to keep at least one hand on the tiny cat. One of the monks comes by and chats with Ron for a little while, before we continue our ride.
Again, Randy is eager to make it to the next big town. Unfortunately, Siem Reap is still a long ways away and we are not sure whether we’ll make it in one day, nor is half of the group in the mood to ride endless miles to rush there. We’d rather take our time and try to see whatever landscape and things there are to see in between. Sometimes it is a little bit difficult to please everybody on a ride like this. There are several different riders with several different riding styles and with just as many ideas on how bike touring is supposed to work. Options of riding fast and riding slow, as well as trying to find a ride to Siem Reap are thrown around. After about 30 miles of cycling and debating on the busy, dusty road, we come through a decent size town. There is a bus station where we end up trying our luck in finding a ride to Siem Reap. There are a few failures at first: the official bus is full and there is no way to strap all of our bikes and gear on the tiny car of the guy that is very eager to give us a ride. But eventually a minivan miracuously comes into the picture with a driver, who is willing to get us to Siem Reap.
It seems bike traveling always brings on some sort of challenge. Sometimes it’s the language barrier, sometimes it is the exhaustions from long days cycling to make it to the next place where food is sold. There are endless days of climbing mountains to long, boring, mind numbing, flat plains. At times the weather is challenging; we froze our butts off crossing Germany and Austria into Italy in the wintertime. Now we are sweating like crazy in the heat. There just always seems to be some sort of challenge to overcome; sometimes it is as little or as big as trusting the kindness of strangers. Besides the normal routine of trying to figure out where to eat and sleep, we are at this time confronted with stomach issues for days on end, the scolding heat, language barriers, and very unusual diets. Like that is not enough, there is also another new challenge: how to travel in a group with all these issues and how to travel in a group with different ideas of traveling.
Obviously, the two of us have accustomed to a lot of these challenges over the past 18 months and we like to think that we make a pretty good team. We pick each other up when one is down. We try to rationalize when we run into problems. We dream, plan, and compromise together. We have also grown accustomed to spending long hours in the saddle–some exciting, some boring. Also to us, our journey is our destination. Yet, we know, sometimes there is nothing to see or do along the way and we just have to pedal on to get somewhere. In order to do so, we have to ride long, mundane or hard miles to enjoy the next part of our adventure. Of course, we hope that some marvelous secret treasure will reveal itself along such a stretch of the journey. Sometimes it does and that is great and we have the most memorable moments spring up like that. Often times it does not and we just make the best of it. We try to find simple pleasure in greeting people, finding unusual plants, or birds, or what have you, we talk or listen to music.
It is maybe one of our biggest challenges to convey this type of traveling to other people.
Jessica got the hang of it pretty quickly, maybe riding with us from Romania to Germany a few years back has helped. She kind of knew what to expect. With the exception of constantly fighting stomach issues she is slowly finding her groove. Although she fights a few gremlins in her head when riding for a long day in the heat or having to climb long miles, she is getting stronger every day and keeps pedaling on without complaining. We still hate to see her suffer with this ongoing stomach issue though, and we are proud to see her overcome her own issues and that she keeps on keeping on.
Randy’s idea of bike touring still differs quite a bit from ours and in a way we can understand his issues. Unlike the rest of us, he is just on vacation and we understand that he’d like to see and experience as much as possible during this time. We on the other hand are not used to the rushing anymore. We usually try our best to avoid the busy tourist spots, we like the remote country and we like to meet the locals. Somehow, having a ‘schedule’ or ‘time-restrain’ have become foreign phrases to us during our long term travel.
Trying to make everybody happy and to meet their expectations during a ride like this is not always easy. With so many different ideas and different riding styles, tempers can be shorter than usual, at times verbal jabs may be thrown, and the bickering begins. Luckily, at the end of the day we all get along and try to figure out a smoother way to get through the next day.