Anth in Phnom Penh

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Part 6 (The Horror) The final chapter.

Vern Sai to Ban Lung
Journey: 4 hours by truck
Road Condition: treacherous

About 15 minutes down the road we came to a screeching halt. Two trucks were ahead and one of them was seriously bogged in the red, sticky mud. The sun was beating down. We sat in the sand waiting whilst ahead branches and sticks were collected. We watched with bated breath as the second truck attempted to make it across the perilous stretch of mud. The bridge of branches helped but it was not enough. The road was now completely blocked off by the two huge trucks, wheel deep in thick mire. Well accustomed to such a turn of events the truck drivers and their assistants did not despair. Further branches were cut down, blocks and rocks collected and with much revving and over-heating of the truck’s engine the second truck burst free. It could now pull the first truck out of the quagmire. The trucks would inch forward half a metre at a time, and a team of assistants would run alongside, shouting out instructions and quickly pushing rocks in front of the wheels at each inch of progress. This whole episode took over an hour and set the tune for our trip back.

we watch on with trepidation from the back of the sand truck.

The trucks traveled in a convoy of five and so at every difficult stretch of road we would stop, wait, provide assistance where necessary until all vehicles were through. The trucks were pushed completely beyond capacity and after ploughing through a stretch they would sit, steam gushing out of their hoods, black smoke belching from their sides. On several occasions, we witnessed a truck take a dip in the road at such an extreme angle it almost tipped over. From our vantage point high on the sand, we would look out for possible problem spots and then brace ourselves against the side of the truck as it battled to get through huge gashes of earth and sludge.

The sun was setting as we neared Ban Lung. I looked out but the sunset was obscured by the forest that hugged the edges of the road. I rested my head up against the side of the truck and ruefully thought how typical that was of my Ratanakiri experience. But then, as the truck continued on, it occurred to me how beautiful it was; the strong lines of the silhouetted trees with the soft pink and blue hues as a back drop.

Ban Lung to Phnom Penh
Journey: 40 minutes by plane

After a day of extreme relaxing in Ban Lung, our one true day of holiday. We fronted up at Ban Lung airport and took our 8th different form of transport for the trip. It was our shortest journey and we were in high spirits. The flight was comfortable, quick, and without event (apart from the huge clouds of white smoke that emanated from the air conditioning system).

We arrived in Phnom Penh airport at midday and triumphantly walked across the tarmac into the terminal to collect our luggage. Yay Phnom Penh! I was happy to be home.

Goodbye Ratanakiri!


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