Sunday, December 23, 2007

It was supposed to be so easy...

I thought I'd like to get out of the malaria infested woods of Ratanakiri for Christmas and booked a minivan trip back to Phnom Penh. Ratanakiri is in the northeastern corner of Cambodia, and the journey should take 11 hours under normal conditions.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the driver starting off down the road before full capacity of the van had been pushed to the limit; my pleasure turned to pain when he began slowing down and desperately honking his horn for any possible fare holding passenger along the road. Before long, the van had been properly filled to Cambodian standards, and without any cargo in my footspace (it had been giant vats of honey on the trip in).

After a couple of hours we hit the paved road near Stung Treng - from there it's a straight shot on good roads all the way back to Phnom Penh! After an hour there was a noise and the driver lost control, but managed to bring the vehicle to a stop before plunging us into a ditch. After some consultation with the other passengers, I figured out what had happened: The suspension over the front left wheel had broken. The driver managed to do a pretty impressive impromptu repair job on it, and we all got back in and cruised at a leisurly 15 mph for another hour or two to the next city (Kratie. Never did see the dolphins...), where it was properly repaired.

To my surprise, we were soon back on a dirt road! I was sure the road was good and sealed all the way back to Phnom Penh! Ah, but this is a shortcut, I was informed. Have to make up for lost time, after all.

Total time of the trip: 14 hours. Could have been worse.

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