|Little Red Rooster
The little red rooster saw his chance for freedom and took it. He hoped out of the minibus, scuttled under it, darted across the road and then realised his owner was in hot pursuit. The bird staggered into the air, but he was off balance and swung back in a semicircle to crash land beside the vehicle.
|Suddenly there were 22 of us in the minibus.
Those of us inside the minibus were laughing at the entertainment, but several people outside soon had the poor bird cornered and he was taken back into custody. His owner trussed him up and dangling him upside down, passed him in through a window to his wife. The owner clambered in through the same window and suddenly there were 22 of us squeezed into the minibus. (We've since heard of someone who found themselves in a minibus with 27 people on board - surely this must be some kind of record).
Unlike the rooster with its desire for freedom, we were happy to be cooped up inside even if it did mean we sat in rows of four sharing three seats, and our bikes were tied awkwardly onto the back. This was a way to cover some kilometres through a hot, dry, dusty and uninspiring landscape.
We arrived in Kratie (northern Cambodia) in less than two hours. To have cycled the route would have taken two days. Before long we had found somewhere to stay, showered and ordered our first beers. But the satisfaction of being at our destination - the last significant town before the border with Laos - was tempered with the feeling that somehow we were cheating. After all, this is meant to be a bike tour not a bus ride.
|On the road in southern Laos. Hardly any traffic, a good surface and flat.
Over the next couple of days we rested up, took a boat ride on the Mekong to spot rare Irrawaddy dolphins and cycled an island in the river. Then it was time to farewell Sam (Mike’s son) and our young Dutch cyclist friend, Femke - we were going our separate ways from here.
Judy and I climbed into another minibus, again 22 people were squeezed into it, and we set out for the border. The road was more of the same but worse - with lots of broken seal, potholes and road works, and the weather remained hot and humid. We were grateful not to be cycling but once again I was disappointed that we were taking the easy way out. At the border we reassembled our tandem and resumed cycling on a blissfully quiet, flat and fast road to Don Det, a relaxed backpacker haunt on a Mekong island.
|Angkor ruins at Wat Phu, Champasak, Laos.
From here we will head north onto the Bolaven Plateau where we should escape the humidity and high temperatures of the lowlands for a couple of days. But the feeling of cheating will persist with me, if not Judy. When people ask, ”where have you cycled from?” the answer won’t be straightforward.
Somehow it just doesn’t feel right.
Total Distance Cycled: 8,861 km
Bus Rides with Bike: Four
Distance by Bus: approximately 600 km
|"this is divine...."
Judy the Stoker contemplating a detour to the Bolaven Plateau, southern Laos: “Usually our side trips are navigation mistakes. It would be nice to do a planned one for a change.”
Judy the Stoker: “It’s pretty bad when you say ‘this is divine’ and you’re having a shower in one of the worst bathrooms you’ve been in in Asia.”
Judy the Stoker: “Mike, you don’t have to drink that beer all at once.”
Mike the Captain: “I must, the phone might ring. It’s a learned response after all those years in a tv newsroom.”
|Left: Cool. Right: not so cool.