We woke up not very early in the morning, had breakfast in our favourite place in Ratanakiri, took the bikes to a fine tuning service and hit the road. The mother of our family had told us that there weren’t any guesthouses until a village placed one hundred and thirty kilometres away, so we spent half of the night unconsciously praying for the road to be in good conditions, so at least we had one possibility to reach it. We should have prayed the whole one…
The first kilometres gave us confidence: the asphalt was good and, although there were some uphill slopes, they weren’t very steep and, usually they were preceded by downhill slopes which gave us impulse to climb them up. The landscape was just stunning. There was a spectacular fan of colours, all kinds of browns and greens covering a wide range of contrasts which grew below a fantasy world of clouds floating on a gorgeous blue sky. This led us to comment on the beauty that surrounded us, in the pity that it was that many places in Cambodia are spoilt by the littering and also about how much we missed being surrounded by nice clean spaces and the sensation that we both had of the need of being away from dirt for a long while. We resolved that we would try to reach the village with the guesthouse because it was really hard to bear the rubbish world anymore and that way we might have a chance of spending the night in a clean place.
Suddenly, when we were crossing the midmorning time, the road turned into a bumpy path which contained all the bad features of a cycling route: dust, mud, bumps, holes, steep upslopes, a worrying lack of places to buy fresh water and a powerful sun causing a terrible heat without a single shade to hide from it; all together, it looked like someone had cursed us.
We tried to convince ourselves that it wouldn’t last forever… but it was just our wish. After several kilometres struggling, we stopped to have lunch in the only restaurant that we had seen in hours, in the middle of nowhere. We spent there like two hours waiting for the sun to lose strength and our bodies to recover from the non-stop really hard shaking we were suffering on the road (our hands and arms hurt madly from holding the bikes firmly among the bumps). If a posh gym tried to recreate the conditions we were living, they could name the class bikram cross spinning, but as usual, reality would overcome fiction (by far).
The afternoon and evening happened between short stops and long goes under the heat, and the night caught us on the way to the village where we could find our dreamt guesthouse, but, after one hour riding in the dark, having fulfilled one hundred thirty kilometres on the road of hell, we finally got to Ou Pong Moan and… guess what? The first people we asked, said they didn’t have a guesthouse in the village… We couldn’t believe it! We thought that maybe those people didn’t know it (it happens sometimes, they get shocked when they see a foreigner), so we headed to the market for a definite answer. It was a small market, placed in a crossroads, and we asked an old lady where the guesthouse was and… it was definite: there aren’t any guesthouses in there!!! Imagine our faces! The old lady, who saw them alive, said straight away that we could sleep with her there at her shop in the market. This great woman made an impact in us: she was offering us all she had and we couldn’t refuse it.
So, after three minutes there we were, having a shower on a pale in the middle of the market with the water that Ponly’s (our kind host) son brought us, and five minutes later, we were sat having a yummy pomelo and wondering where we were going to sleep, if it was going to be on top of the garbage hill on our right, or in the 1,5m x 1,8m table-bed with the four members of the family. Mosquitos bit our moved-by-love bodies while more and more people surrounded us listening to the story of our trip in our poor Khmer. At a certain moment, the son and his wife leave us and Ponly decides that she doesn’t trust the structure of her shop to bear our weight, so she hangs a couple of hammocks for her grandson and her and set us on the table-bed, where we finally laid and managed to sleep from time to time during a night full of entertainment for our senses: lights were on, what caused many clients’ visits (Ponly’s shop was open 24hours), and a festival of market noises and smells happened all around, topped with a magnificent storm that started passed midnight. Once more, we were living the contrast feast of this country and our emotions of gratitude for having found the most generous person in the world merged with the feelings of hate to every item that kept us away from having a proper sleep. After all the avoiding-sleeping stuff had shown up, we managed to have a rest and slept like babies until the morning lights. Certainly it wasn’t what we had planned for today, but that’s life, full of wonderful surprises if you approach it the right way.