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Khmer Rouge and Scorpion Stings

11 June 2007 (Cambodia) by Kendon Glass

Khmer Rouge and Scorpion Stings

Photo: Tough going. Time for a pit stop

Nights on the strong man herbal wine with former members of the Khmer Rouge, scorpion stings, broken bicycle frames and machete bearing assailants in the muddy back streets of Poipet border town made Cambodia far from boring. Thailand is like a pack of baby wipes, all convenience, sterility and nice scents compared to Cambodia with its coarse leaves and twining roots, mud tears and snotty youths...

It was late in the day and I was making my way south of Along Veng in Cambodias north. It was in this part of rural Cambodia and the birth place of the infamous Pol Pot that I rather naively accepted an invitation of hospitality without taking the time to read the small print. It wasnt long till I was drafted into countless rounds of the Strong Man brew with the local contingent who it turns out where former foot soldiers of the notorious Khmer Rouge. Travelling through different cultures, its quite difficult for me to comprehend whats being discussed, so amusingly, it makes very little difference if I am talking with someone who is sober or inebriated. It actually turns out that this is an advantage in certain settings and on this occasion I would be spared the degenerative slide in conversation as the night rolled on. I simply had to be alert to group affirmations that were usually signaled by a change in intonation, occasionally feign a serious reflection and throw in a head nod here or there for good measure.

A week later, having held up royally from the original break it suffered in Iran, my bicycles frame fractured above the bottom bracket once more. Then during the night I woke up from my sleep to several scorpion stings, causing me to have short lived respiratory problems and the loss of use of my left arm for the greater part of a week. It was the above stated run-ins with the local wildlife that for now had made me fussier where I decided to roll out my mat for a little shut eye.  Once back on the road and stopping for lunch, I climbed a pyramid of large concrete pipes, reaching the apex I crawled in for a snooze.  I remember thinking to myself it would be a sheer bloody conspiracy if I rolled on a scorpion up here.  I was also safe in the knowledge that the dimensions of these particular pipes were not conducive to the local drinking games.

Then there was that relentless stretch of road, 200km of potholes and mud baths from Seam Reap to the border town of Poipet in Cambodias west.  Roads like this one are what set the notion of a cycling holiday apart from something that begins to resemble a battle of attrition.  It didnt help that Rusty had seen better days, she was throwing spokes like they were going out of fashion and in these conditions her gaping fracture above the bottom bracket was an ongoing sore point. Still there was a distinct feeling that we were on the downhill stretch to home. I knew that with time and a little bit of sweet talk that Rusty would see us over the line. This was a testing stretch but it would eventually come to an end like everything else. The grind was made all that easier knowing that what lay beyond was Thailands blazing tarmac minus the bone jarring potholes and the Tommy gun mud splatters from drive-by traffic, where through a major transformation in the roads surface a cyclist can literally grow wings.

Coming Soon | Confrontation with a Machete 

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Photo: Pig in Mud


Photo: The Road

Khmer Rouge and Scorpion Stings

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