This city wakes up early. Loud music coming from across the street at 6:00am, accompanied us as we left Stung Treng, heading for Chhaeb some 85 kms west. So much easier pedalling in the cool morning air. Our Khmer is pretty rubbish -ie not a word – but with some hand signals we are, at least, able to stock up with water for the day from the roadside stalls.
Happy to see a few water buffalo and a couple of egrets then horrified to see a parked up pick up and a chap with his gun sights trained on the egret. Linda screamed out “No”, but he didn’t even flinch. We didn’t want to wait to see the outcome. Beginning to understand why we see so little birdlife or, indeed, any wildlife.
So much “slash and burn” in this area as the forest is gradually being cleared to make way for other agriculture. Passed a few teak sided houses on wooden stilts. There is no electricity, just a car battery charged up elsewhere. Water is collected in huge storage jars. Many areas of the forest are smouldering and we passed through some areas of dense smoke where flames are eating up the dry scrubland. We were astonished to see swallows diving in and out of the smoke until we realised they were scooping up the insects coming out of the flames. At least some wildlife was reaping some benefit from all the destruction, if only for a day.
We reached Chhaeb by midday ready for alternative nutrition rather than more bananas and water. Didn’t ever see a guest house but managed to find a street stall which appeared to have food. Some more sign language and minutes later we were dished up with a bowl of, something. Without looking too closely, well we did, it was delicious. Savoury and meaty so long as you discarded some more obvious tubes and offal.
Feeling refreshed, ish, we decided to continue for the day and make for Preah Vihear, a further 55 kms. A long old day but relatively flat and not too hot, averaging mid 30’s. Found the only hotel in town deciding to treat ourselves. The princely cost of $12 but no electricity. Power did come on an hour or so later but we opted for the cold shower before dark. We were then very ready to try some more Cambodian beer and find some food.
No, we don’t like to see the cow trussed up on the back of a trailer, the ducks flapping upside down from a motorbike nor the squealing pig tied up by its legs slung from a pole off to slaughter but we still like to eat our meat. We are seeing the cogs and wheels of daily food production, hidden from us at home, wrapped up in its sterile Waitrose packaging. Had some surprisingly tasty fried vegetables with chicken and ginger and rice with beef. Two more days we reckon to Siem Reap and a rest. Can’t wait.