Although we wanted to rest one more day in Kaoh Neah, the filth of the last guest house invited us to run away quickly and, despite being shattered, we accepted the invitation and at six o’clock we were on the road, cheerful and with the goal of sleeping in Lumphat.
Last night we heard a lot of rain outside and we wondered how this would affect the path. We had been told that a little bit of rain was good for the road because it made the ground harder and less dusty. We could see right away that it hadn’t rained just “a little bit” because the first puddles started to show up… the puddles changed into real mud fields we had to go on foot to pass them through. Leaking mud up to the waist, we managed to go over what seemed the worst part of the stage. Fortunately, the sun was doing his job and, besides cooking our brains, it dried the floor making it more and more passable.
It was almost eight in the morning when we saw there is a traffic jam far away: surprising, we had barely crossed anybody on the road. When we get close we see that they were queuing in front of the river. Our heads quickly interpret that the bridge is small and would pass one by one… we get closer and… there is no bridge! We could only see a small portion of it and it was the middle part, the rest was flooded! And, if the bridge was broken… what was the people waiting for?
A kind man explained us that, as we had been able to notice, last night it rained a lot and the damn (placed in Vietnam) had released too much water, flooding the ONLY way between Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri. He told us that he estimated that we would have to wait around six hours until the flow went back to normality and we could cross.
Everybody seemed pretty calmed. The wait began; some people took out mats and sat to have a rest, some slept, others took out picnics and chatted cheerfully, some started fishing by means of different devices. The children caught tadpoles and river shrimps (if they exist) with plastic buckets, other people swam, others bathed their children… we had some mangos for lunch that a very nice lady gave us; María had met her in one of our walks up and down the road to find out about what was going on.
Three hours later, the water had gone down a bit, so some men started to repair the bridge. In the river, with the trousers pulled up, they moved branches and trunks without a comprehensible order for us, but with apparent knowledge.
Two hours more and we could see the part that connected our shore to the bridge, they were just some rocks… we didn´t have it very clear before, but now we could see there was a real chance to cross, although it was very deep yet and the flow was very strong in the other side…
One more hour and the motorbikes began crossing. How? Loaded on the shoulders of young and not so young men who, for an affordable price, helped the bikers to pass the motorbike, the luggage and the family. There we went as well. We crossed with the water up to our hips. It was two in the afternoon… a bit desperate because of the time, the heat and because it didn’t seem that there were going to be any villages to refill properly, we hit the road again.
We pedalled and pedalled, no cars or minivans passed us for a while, they had to be waiting for the water to come down still.
Suddenly, Berta’s bike started to go very slow; she said she was tired, but she could also hear a small noise. Damn it! It was the rack again, it had lost a screw and it was touching the wheel. Laid down on the floor, full of mud and now, also of dust, sweating like little piggies, we took our Mc Gyver side out, we took the screw from another device and… it worked!
Hallelujah! We continued. No villages on sight, the list by Somnang was failing in this part of the way, two villages should have appeared… where were they?
A bit afterwards some cars began to pass us, we were exhausted. The conversation about minivan yes or minivan no arose in the hypothetical case that one shows up… One appeared… minivan yes! We stop it. Ups, it was a family, but, well, they wanted to take us. They aasked us for a fortune, we bargained, it was still very expensive, but, watching the possibility of the night catching us in the middle of nowhere, we accepted; we agreed that they would take us to Banlung, not to Lumphat, as we had learnt during the waiting that there aren’t any guest houses there.
When we reach the crossroads outside the forest and the road splits to Stung Tren or Banlung, the family dropped us there… excuse me??? There were still twelve kilometres left!!! This happened to us for riding on anyone’s car… minivan drivers are thieves, but at least they have word. Huge anger. What lack of professionalism!
We sat at a coffee and we had a soup which was the only available thing… hot and spicy, just what we felt like having right now.
It was hard to say which one were bigger, the slopes or the few desires to climb them up. Very pissed off we did the twelve kilometres in the longest hour we have pedalled until now.
We reached Banlung, looked for the cleanest guest house and slept watching cable TV… Shrek 3 in English was on… ohhhhh… perfect.