Cambodia on dirtbikes – RIDE Expeditions Enduro Tour

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Cambodia on dirtbikes – RIDE Expeditions Enduro Tour

It’s a warm morning in Siem Reap and it’s ride day We hit up Pub Street (Siem Reap) for New Year’s Eve celebrations, visited the huge temples of Angkor and now we’re ready to ride some dirt bikes. Our journey will take us 900 kilometers down the Western side of Cambodia through the Cardamom Mountains from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville on the southern coast There’s five Aussie riders on this trip along with a Cambodian support crew from Ride Expeditions. Our tour leader Vut gave us a detailed rider briefing yesterday which I’ve forgotten most of already but I do remember to ride on the right-hand side of the road. This takes some getting used to as we make our way north to the temple region just outside of the city We ride through the grounds of a Buddhist pagoda and on towards an ancient man-made reservoir As we hit the dirt, the trails are dusty and hard packed. This gives us a chance to familiarize ourselves with the suspension and the available traction It’s dry season in January and while it’s one of the cooler months of the year the temperatures are still in the low 30s. The heat isn’t too bad when you’re moving along at speed but when you slow down or get amongst the trees you really feel the heat in all this gear We stopped in a small village and watched a family trap some fish while some future enduro riders are pretty interesting in our bikes. Darren grabs some ripper photos and we head back onto the trail We wave goodbye and ride off through the village. This would mark the first of many waves, high-fives and engine revs throughout this trip, greeting enthusiastic kids keen to see the big loud dirt bikes. You just can’t leave them hanging! As we get deeper into the countryside we start to see more walk behind tractors These two wheel beasts are all over Cambodia as labor shortages are increasing the need for mechanization While refueling I noticed this guy sitting behind a massive wooden desk barking orders and counting a huge wad of American dollars. If I ever become a manager I want to be this guy We’re back onto the highway for a short section and then we catch up with the support vehicle for lunch This section of road would become the busiest of our whole trip. It seemingly went on forever as we weaved our way through the traffic. We even pulled a few dodgy passes on the inside. It was low speed but a bit sketchy Great to finally get off the bitumen and now heading east towards Battembang

We take a break and we’re introduced to the ‘Beer Kitty’ and the ‘fine system’. Darren later asked Vut to explain how it works Vut: it’s fun for the riders, when they fall down, handlebars touch the ground, five bucks Darren: Five bucks and and what happens to the five dollars? Vut : yeah that money will go to the beer kitty, and pay for the beer The stakes have been raised. We ride through the leafy suburbs of Battambang, past rice laying out to dry and we idle through the aftermath of what looked like a ripper party We pull into our hotel and Vut goes to buy us some beer. Today was a 185 kilometer introduction to riding in Cambodia. Not too bad Our day two adventure begins with a bizarrely thick black coffee that just couldn’t be watered down and I find that Chris has written me a nice compliment we gear up and hit peak hour of Battambang I’m starting to really gel with the KLX and getting a good feel for riding in laid back Cambodian traffic, especially after yesterdays hectic roads. Today we are riding 220 kilometers from Battambang to Osoam We cross the river, eat some tasty street food from a vendor and then head back onto the trails On the transport to the next section, Matt does some cool tricks, Chris shows us his race pace, then we hit some boggy low-lying land and rice paddies. We backtracked a fair bit here and Vut later told us that the trail had changed a fair bit since wet season When taking a short break, we discover Chris’ bike has developed an oil leak Chris, why did this happen to you, and why do you deserve it? Chris: because I’m hard on the gear, and i’m the fastest one here by a country mile By patching the leak with some rubber bands and bush mechnics Chris’ bike is back up and running with the pipe to be welded up later in the day For now, he’ll continue being “the fastest one here” We pull into T-Town to fuel up and learn that Glenns bike has had an electrical problem and won’t start – Vut and Lux strip the bike down while we enjoy some tasty pork and rice for lunch, while Darren grabs a few photos Unable to fix the dead bike on the roadside, they make the decision to tow it along the next 50 kilometer stretch of rutted remote roads, until we can meet up again with the support vehicle See ya buddy, have a good time Matt does some sweet ‘doughies’ after 50 kilometers of sharp edge potholes,

sketchy ruts and river crossings, we finally arrived at the support vehicle Chris’ bike disappears to have the oil pipe bronze welded, and the spare bike comes off the trailer for Glenn. Without too much pause we’re off again These freshly graded roads were great fun but occasionally you’d come over the crest of a hill a little bit too quick and suddenly on top of a bridge, just hoping it holds together We head down to the lake to check out the scenery, then back up to the road and onwards Chris and I are sitting a cracking pace on some pretty smooth roads, with only the odd dodgy bridge or sudden nasty pothole to navigate After about 25 minutes strangely enough we still can’t catch up to the pack but we’re having a blast anyway so it doesn’t really matter As we see the next village in the distance Chris does a triumphant wheelie, and then our lead rider Vut overtakes us Wait What?! We retrace our steps and discover it was our Lead rider Vut back on the corner, not the sweep. We’d really been leading our own tour for the last half hour. We both kicked $10 in beer fines into the kitty : fair enough. The other boys soon arrived and we learned Glenn lost his muffler just a bit earlier on the road Our guesthouse serves up some amazing Khmer food including a delicious wild boar curry, and as is customary we drink some more beer. Day two really should have ended in disaster with various bike issues to overcome, a cow stampede, and a catastrophic failure in the corner man system. Despite these setbacks the support crew expertly held it together, kept us moving and got us to our destination in good time. Hats off to the crew for all their hard work on Day two Had a rough sleep due to a stupid rooster and a huge pack of howling dogs at around 2:00 a.m, but we set off for a decent breakfast at a local cafe while the lads perform routine bike maintenance and refueling We leave the village of Osoam traveling through banana plantations and pepper farms heading towards the “Tiger trail” Vut told us big cats are still rumored to live in this forest though poaching and habitat loss is mostly eliminated Indo- Chinese Tigers from much of Cambodia This trail is awesome Conditions are excellent so we’re moving along nicely, well until I became the first to bin it

Thanks Lux! Yep,five bucks mate Vut suggests since we’re a quick group we slow it down explore a little. For another hour we pushed our way through overgrown trails, dropping bikes and sweating like crazy from the humid rainforest “Five Dollars.” We finally decide to turn around before we get lost and hightail it out of there Through an old quarry we stop at a waterfall. It wasn’t flowing too hard in January after a dry spell but it was a nice spot for a break and a group photo We leave the quarry again we head for nice shady spot for lunch and to watch some cute animal bloodsport We finish lunch and we’re back into the forest again This section of trail is a bit faster but low hanging vines conspire to remove us from our bikes as we pushed through down into a river crossing Lux gets stuck on the rocks, so I help him out “Want a hand?” Sweep knee deep in water? I reckon that’s worth five bucks We exit the Tiger Trail onto a dusty red road. We ride this for a good half-hour and then onto some smooth concrete that went forever, leading us up to a recently built hydro-dam. China is investing heavily in infrastructure projects like this right across Cambodia. We find some shade and I decide to conduct an interview with the boys Glenn: “They must be tired.” I got nothing! Guess they were worn out from the Tiger Trail. Another 50 kilometers of windy Chinese concrete roads and we arrive on the outskirts of Koh Kong We pull into our hotel, have beers on the waterfront and then we’re off to a French restaurant for dinner. Another superb day on our trip and tommorow we rest Today is a rest day. Vut gives us the option to go on a fishing trip but after intense debate with Matt we weigh up the options and decide to visit a local beach. Starting with a late breakfast we wander around the streets of Koh Kong We visit a wet market and Darren grabs a few great pics of local merchants selling fresh food. Back to the hotel we pop on helmets, and we’re ready to ride dirt bikes We ride across the two kilometer long Koh Kong bridge and then head ten minutes towards the Thai Cambodian border. We stand in no man’s land and throw our helmets up for some reason, and then we’re back on our bikes for a short ride to the beach Beautiful shady spot on the water we enjoy a huge seafood lunch at the Crab Shack Unexpectedly, Vut leads our dirtbike convoy right out to the tip of a floating village It was an interesting mix of poor and wealthy houses here but they all had electricity and as always the kids were keen to see the visitors on the big bikes Leaving the floating village we head back through another Buddhist Pagoda, back across the bridge and through Koh Kong City We walk through the humid mangroves Darren tests has the structural integrity of the footbridge and then we climb a small tower that looks out across the sanctuary First sign of rain for the whole trip It poured quite heavily as we prepare for

a big day on the bikes Vut tells us this would be the toughest day of riding for the whole trip, and while I’m excited I’m a bit apprehensive of the sweaty humidity from all this rain We head half an hour east from Koh Kong, and cross the bridge at Tatai Another 45 minutes on and we must refuel as is the last chance we’ll get before we enter the jungle As Lux refuels our bikes, Chris attempts a clever stitch up for some beer money Back on the road we had a good half-hour southeast, and then drop down to a wide river crossing. This marks the start of the ‘Smugglers Trail’ Ten minutes in and we hit the most slippery shiny wet red clay It was crazy sketchy and the group contributed about twenty dollars in beer fines for dropping bikes It was nuts The Smuggler’s Trail was my favorite and the toughest we’ve ridden so far. Not because of

the terrain but the stifling humidity really wore you down. Having to duck under low-hanging trees and weird spikey vines burned a lot of energy and I don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much in my life A lot of the overhanging bamboo had been trimmed in a nice pointy spears as well so you had to watch out for that Chris even found a big poo We also passed some riders that seemed under equipped with little protective gear. I hope they got through okay We cross over a bridge and pull over to pay a toll guy. This bloke charges fifty cents for motorcycles to pass and 25 cents for bicycles. Vut said this business has made him pretty wealthy and to be fair his bridges were in excellent condition Accomodation this evening is the small eco-village of Chi Phat The guest house was clean and comfortable if not very rustic. The scoop shower was pretty interesting. We enjoy dinner and then Chris decides to hit the hay early Vut is having none of this and orders up some local rice wine Pretty soon one shot becomes ten Some German travelers hear us and join us for a few rounds We eventually run out of rice wine, so Chris decides to shot beer So much for an early night sleep There’s a few sore heads this morning as we make our way to breakfast Darren : What have we got boys? Matt : Apparently this is milk… for the coffee Matt : oh yeah Bid farwell to our German drinking buddy, and we head down to the river to catch a ferry It’s our last leg of the journey and we’ll be riding 160 kilometers from Chi Phat to Sihanoukville In this part of the country if you want to mark your property boundary, you dig a giant trench. It’s an effective deterrent and some of them were so deep they were unrideable. We got through most though Someone asked me why we decided to do a Cambodian tour. I think most dirt bike

riders are always up for a bit of adventure even, under the safety of a Western friendly tour operator. While this tour didn’t focus on Cambodia’s difficult past, and despite impressive reductions in poverty since 2004 Cambodia is still a very poor country But the people are super friendly, the culture is interesting, the food is great and the riding is just awesome And unsurprisingly if you end up travelling with a bunch of like-minded mates, you’re gonna have an amazing time It was a public holiday today so these waterfalls were packed with locals – very popular spot I’m not actually sure if we’re allowed to ride dirtbikes in all of these public spaces but no one seemed to care When in doubt, mono out Here we are – famous tourist beach town of Sihanoukville. We made it! 900 kilometers of Cambodia on bikes. What an incredible tour A big thanks to Matt, Glenn, Darren and Chris as as well as Vut and the RIDE Expeditions crew Bloody superb trip and I reckon I’ll be back soon