4/20/11 - 4/21/11
With our focus set on Vietnam, we started our journey towards the border. Travelling from country to country by bus is usually, to be blunt, a really big pain in the ass. Anything we can do to make our eventual border crossing easier, we will usually add into our itinerary. Between Kampot and the border of Vietnam is a small town on the water called Kep. We decided to spend one night there, and to catch a bus the next morning to Vietnam.
At this point our group had expanded to 7 people. The usual 5 people, consisting of myself, the three Brits (Tim, Eddy, James), the Canadian (Sam), and another two that decided to join us from Kampot (Chris and Sarah) After arriving, and quickly settling on an itinerary for the day(Pepper plantation, caves, and dinner) we began to sort out our transportation around town. This isn’t the type of city where tour buses exist, and honestly, I hate tour buses anyways.
The Brits and Sarah split a Tuk-Tuk, while the rest of us decided to rent motorcycles. I had never ridden a motorcycle before, but I had been seeing old women and children riding them around, and fancy myself to be quite a quick learner, how hard could it be? After learning the complex workings of the bike, such as how to turn it on, and where the brakes were, we were off.
We definitely made the right choice with the motorbikes. It’s a great feeling to be able to go wherever you want to go and not be restricted by someone else’s itinerary. After about 20 minutes of riding we hit our first landmark, a giant statue of a white horse. It was marked on our crude map by the hostel as “white house.” Veering to the right, we would start down the dirt road leading to the pepper plantation.
Of course, they had Durian.
After leaving the plantation, we began the second leg of our journey to the caves. Kep is a very small town, but don’t think that means the roads aren’t hectic. Road laws pretty much consist of the following rules:
1. Don’t crash into anyone.
2. Honk, a lot, unless it would actually make sense to.
3. There is no “right” side of the road to drive on. Drive wherever there are no other people.
4. If someone isn’t going fast enough, abruptly pass them on the other side of the road, even if there’s a car barreling down on you.
At one point in our journey, a car was passing a motorbike coming the other direction. I moved over as far as I could to the right of the road, giving the car room to squeeze between us. At that moment, another motorbike came up from behind me, and went between myself and the oncoming car. Apparently this spooked me, because I went from about 50 km/hr to zero in an instant, as my bike and I went crashing to the ground.
The next thing I remember, I was scrambling off the pavement to get off the road, and checking myself to see if I was ok. Arms? Check. Legs? Check. Back? Check. Head and Chest? Check and check. Chris, a medic in the Canadian Army, was quickly over to me, checking for himself what I was hazily trying to confirm. Sam, who was up ahead of me, had seen over his shoulder the aftermath of what had happened, and also quickly came back to my aid. The townspeople were slowly trickling over as well. They don’t see very many white people, and they rarely see a white person who had just crashed a motorcycle.
Attracting a Crowd
Getting fixed back up
After making sure everything major inside of the motorcycle and myself were still intact, we did the only thing we could do: Rode on. Sam jumped on my bike so that I could take the automatic bike, a slightly easier ride. We hoped to run into our other friends at the caves, so that I could climb in the Tuk Tuk, and one of them could take the bike. Although I was still able to ride, I was certainly quite skittish.
After riding around for about 30 more minutes, we still couldn’t find the entrance for the caves. The townspeople did what they usually do when we point at a map and ask for directions, they bewilderedly stare at the map for a few moments, rotate it a few times in a nonsensical manner, then point randomly in one direction. We decided to head back, although I was not very excited about the prospect of an hour ride after just crashing.
Shortly after making the decision to head home, we heard some excited beeping behind us. It was the Tuk Tuk, with the Brits and Sarah. After a frenzied recollection of the day’s events, Eddy relieved me of my motorbike duty, and in my new chariot home I had the luxury of a driver, and a third wheel.
The new wheels
I am extremely lucky that nothing serious happened to me during the crash. I could have easily broken my leg, or an arm, or something more serious. My one year trip could have quickly turned into a 3 month trip. Sarah happened to be a nurse (pretty good timing to have a crash, traveling with an Army Medic and a nurse). Her diagnosis? Probably a pulled back muscle, and possibly a cracked rib to go along with the scrapes on my right side.
It has been about 3 weeks since the crash (I know I know, I’m a little behind here), and the effects are slowly fading. The big scrape is now just a big pink blotch on my side. My back is almost healed (although the heavy diet of buses in Vietnam isn’t helping), the suspected rib is still quite tender, but it is getting better every day. Long story short, I dodged a serious bullet, and am so grateful that I not only was able to walk away, but that I had such good friends to help take care of me and ease the initial shock.
Small speed bump, but in the end I am left but nothing but a little soreness and a good story. “Did I tell you about the time I crashed a motorcycle while riding through Cambodia?” Yeah, no big deal.
So grateful to be able to say this: the show must go on. Next stop, Vietnam.