I’ve been taking some time off from running lately, so have been out and about mountain biking instead. Not that Cambodia has many mountains to go biking on. But there’s a few guys that head out on their mountain bikes on the weekends to ride the flat dirt roads in and out of Phnom Penh.
One recent trip took us south out of Phnom Penh straight towards the killing fields. They estimate that close to 1.5 million Cambodians were murdered and buried here. I’ve not been inside yet, and not sure when, if ever, I will. I’ve already been to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in town that documented some of the Pol Pot era atrocities. And, though I’m glad I visited it, I’m not yet mentally prepared to see the rows of skulls that the killing fields has apparently put on display.
Instead, we rode further south, through villages full of suicidal kids, cows, and chickens that seemed to dart right in front of my tyre at the last moment. We eventually reached the river and the most rickety bridge that I’ve seen since Nepal. I daren’t look as my wheel crossed 12 inch gaps that lead straight down to the waters below.
Over the bridge was a village with one of the many temples or Buddist Wats dotted around the countryside. It always surprises me how the villages themselves can be dirt poor, with palm roofs and barren fields, but they still manage to scrub together enough money to invest in a gold adorned temple.
It was only 8.30 am, and already the South East Asian sun was beating down. One of the reasons I’m doing my biking is that I really struggle to run in this sort of heat. Biking fortunately has a built in air vent system as you ride along at 25 km/hr. Running simply doesn’t seem to generate that sort of air movement.
By the time we got back into town, traffic was buzzing despite it being a Saturday. The motor bikes and tuk-tuks and black Lexus four wheel drives were leaving very little room on the road for us mountain bikers. To top it all off, we weren’t allowed to break the traffic lights as cyclists are traditionally do around here. The Cambodian Red Cross was out in force at the stop sign, giving mega-phone instructions in Kymer telling us to wait until the light turned green. Jeff obeyed and we obediently followed, with Dirk practising one of his many track stands.
Fortunately, there looks like there’ll be some proper mountain biking in the coming months. A series of five races around Cambodia will start on 10 April with the first race in Phnom Baset, 22 May in Kep, 3 July in Phnom Penh, 21 August in Kirirom, and 23 October back in Phnom Baset. Looking forward to some proper single track without the Cambodian Red Cross telling me to take care and to wait for the green light!