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Confrontation with a Machete

08 July 2007 (Cambodia) by Kendon Glass


Photo: Confrontation with a Machete

It is well after dark and the dim back streets of Poipet have long been deserted. The lay of intermittent streetlamps drop an inferior yellow light that barely holds a stick up to the failing moon.  Beaten down shanties line the muddy backwaters where the slick dark surface clings to the sole like an epoxy resin grasping onto your every step.  Mud flicks up indiscriminately as Paul and I jump the regular slop troughs running ankle deep across the road. Through a half opened door a faulty TV transmits a subtle red glow across our path, aiding for a section as we negotiate the way forward. Distracted by what lay underfoot neither of us is aware that we are being closely followed.   

I found the surrounding silence of the border town slum peculiar to the hustle and bustle of the Asia I had grown accustomed to. Competing for thousands of kilometres with unruly traffic made this back street ambience strangely inviting.  Then with only half a kilometre left to the main road, I turned around to a gentle tap on my right shoulder.  There, standing arms distance from me was a masked young man, tall and sinewy, holding an impressively large machete blade that reached down the length of his side. If there was any doubt in my mind what this meant the situation was soon clarified with the stranger pointing to a carelessly exposed bulge in my hip pocket that comprised a month of bucks and my passport.

Asserting his position the masked attacker alters his stance and confronts me by lifting the long blade far above his head. In an istant everything becomes extremely alive and time no longer exists. The three parties are motionless, observing each other, waiting, waiting, to see what unfolds.  The edgy silence is broken with a series of terror-struck hollers. There is little hope of a response at this time of night but my travelling partner persists with his loud cries into the dark indifference. Paul and I are now quite far apart and the assailant shuffles uncomfortably to take in the whole scene. Then as stealthily as he had arrived the masked man stepped back slowly, slinking off into the murk. I carefully eyed this apparition of the night as it fell away into the shadows from which it had come.

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Photo: Fording a flooded road in Cambodia

Confrontation with a Machete

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