Despite this blog being called “Running over Mountains and Around the World”, I’ve been a bit lax lately in fulfilling its mandate. I’ve been doing hardly any running. And I’ve been up very few mountains recently. Instead, I’ve been spending my time doing loads of biking in different forms.
In October I cycled down to Kep on the Cambodian coast. 160 kilometres of very flat, pristine road travelled on my road bike. Now I’m not a fan of road biking at all. I rank it as the most uncomfortable form of transportation known to mankind. But I figured it was better than taking the bus all the way down to this beach-front destination. The roads themselves are perfect for those who are of the road-biking kind – wide road verges, lovely hot weather, and plenty of pit-stops along the way for water, coca-cola or coconut juice, whatever your favourite tipple. And it’s safe, the verge keeping you far from any near misses you might have the trucks, buses and motorbikes that speed along the highway.
Most weekends I now try to get a 120 kilometre road bike spin in, mostly along National Route 1. This is the road that heads straight to the ferry and on towards the Vietnamese border. It’s a lovely old ride down, with the northerly wind from China speeding you on your way. It’s the slog back against the wind that makes me always curse the monotony of Cambodia’s Christmas wind patterns.
By November, the flood water had finally receded over the best mountain bike trails. So we rode out south to the Killing Fields and did a spin around the rice fields there. One Sunday we headed up to Phnom Basset, a hillock 30 kilometres north of Phnom Penh renowned for his steep and rocky descents. Unfortunately I’ve been off a mountain bike for so long (since September) that I found I had lost my nerve. Instead we played a bit on the easier slopes before taking a leisurely cycle home.
On my last day off work, I headed to Silk Island, a sand barge in the middle of the Mekong River. However, even in early December, the flood waters had still yet to recede. So instead of riding the mountain bike race trail that runs the centre of the island, I did a tour of the island’s edges, through the villages where people live in a very traditional Khmer way.
Overall, there’s lots of easy relaxing biking to be done around Cambodia. The weather’s always sunny, the routes are always flat, and chances of getting run over by other road users are surprisingly low. This was proved on one cycle out, when I met a Danish man biking to Phnom Penh. He’d just come from Vietnam and was cycling around South East Asia for the month. When I asked him where he lived, he replied nowhere. “I work in the tourism sector”, he said. “And on my time off, I cycle around. I don’t see the need to pay 1000 USD a month in rent when I never stay in one place”. He told me how Cambodia is really the next big tourist destination, following in the steps of Thailand. And for touring cyclists in particular, he might just be right.