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OK there were no mountains, but there was the attraction of a bike with sprung front forks and a sprung saddle frame .. oh and 18 gears.. all for 3 dollars. So the six of us volunteers, ably led by Sylvia, like me a short-termer, and John Pike
set off at 7 something on Sunday morning, abandoned our own bikes and took these mountain bikes for a spin. It didn’t take long to discover various faults (what do you expect for $3?) like my saddle could swivel 360 degrees, and often seemed to want to, the 18 gears turned out to be 2 gears, with 18 different numbers on the gearshift, due to a very slack cable.. oh and the back cable was a bit slack too.. and my knees kept threatening to hit my chest…. but apart from that it was a grand day out. Various members of the group did us proud, packing red wine, cheese, bread, cake, fruit salad… my job was to bring the salad, but unfortunately I left it in the fridge in my house.
Our trip involved a ferry across the Mekong (maybe a mile and half wide at that point)
then a cycle up the other side past some weaving houses where we stopped and had to buy some beautiful scarves for various women in our lives..the people running the business were ultra-friendly and the colours stunning.
We took another ferry to a large island in the river, passing close by the dredgers which are sending sand to fill in the lake in the north of PP, which much to the annoyance of environmentalists is being filled in to allow a new housing development.
We cycled to the northern tip of the island where we ate our picnic in some much needed shade as the temperature was up in the mid30s at least. On a future trip, I would certainly stop in the same place but bring some string and a hammock to sleep the next two hours. As it is we set off onto the other side of the island where there were few trees and with the midday sun bouncing over the red grit road, we got very hot. Eventually we found the ferry back to the mainland on the next island, after crossing a metal bridge. The final part of the bike ride was less memorable as we had to negotiate the Japanese Bridge .. but it was Sunday not rush hour so it wasn’t as bad as I’ve seen it.
We came down into the city and I couldn’t resist a quick photo of The Gate in the wall of the French Embassy, made famous in Francois Bizot’s extraordinary and lyrical account of his experience of the Khmer Rouge of the same name: The Gate .
Sylvia also took some great pictures she shared with us, but for some reason I can’t download them.. maybe I can do it later.
After a brisk cycle down Monivong Boulevard, we finished off with a coke or a beer to taste (mine was coke!) on John Pike’s rooftop balcony. Nice breeze and rehydration. Altogether a great Sunday out, good company, lots of encounters with the people of the country area just across the river, thousands of beautiful children shouting ‘hello’ and not too many kilometres (can’t even guess how many) and a little bit of sunburn.
The only blot for me was that I developed quite a bad toothache on the way round. The rutted roads didn’t help, despite the sprung saddleframe. Thank the Lord for Sylvia’s painkillers. Today the dentist broke the good news, while inspecting my jaw x-ray, that I have a root canal infection and will need a serious bout of treatment over the next 10 days or so. Apparently my own dentist at home did not seal the canal off properly when I had this work done about two years ago…. so I am hoping this young Cambodian dentist, Doctor Than Vuthy, will do a better job. He looks about 16 years old but I trust his judgement after he talked me through what the options are. I hope the tooth can be saved!! Since I was already looking at this being the busiest working week since I have been here, adding in a number of dental visits is not something I relish, but it has to be done. …. there can be few things worse than tooth/jaw pain.