After a very peaceful sleep we awoke early to get the most out of the day. Listening to the jungle birds singing in the distance made up for the bothersome alarm clock that woke me from my deep slumber. We made our way over to the outside dining area to be greeted by hot coffee, scrambled egg and a fresh baguette with butter and jam. This may seem like an insignificant breakfast for all of you currently living in the West. But trust me, after two months of rice and vegetables for breakfast, this was five star dining. All that was missing was a couple of nice crispy bacon slices, but you can’t have it all!!
At 8am we boarded the boat back to land in order to get the bikes and head out for our day trip. Driving back in the direction we had come the day before, we turned off the road. The road we were now on was not paved and was littered with potholes up to three feet in diameter. These monstrous potholes were caused but the giant dump trucks that were building a new Chinese hydro-electric dam. This did not make for a comfortable ride on the back of the bike. My arms, back and ass were already suffering from the 6 hours excursion the day before. It is a constant battle to keep your balance on the back of a big bike heading downhill and bouncing over potholes. Sometimes a sudden break or bounce of a pothole would cause my head to fly forward and clash helmets with Lukas.
As we drove on the morning fog started to descend upon the tree tops that surrounded the red dirt road. This made for a surreal sight and the road ahead vanished into the dense fog. None the less we continued on, until we were stopped by a bridge that was being repaired. So instead of going over this river, we now had to go through the river. The river was small so this was not a problem; the only issue was the muddy make shift road down to the river. We took a small break here before we crossed the river and watched several cars, motos and trucks struggle to make it up the muddy embankment. Somehow they all managed to succeed, all be it with a lot of revving, exhaust fumes and a push from the three of us. After crossing the river with no problems we continued on, but we would have to cross this river again on the way back!
The road now was pleasant and comfortable after crossing the river. We were now really in rural Cambodia. We zipped past small wooden houses and young children waved and shouted ‘HELLO’ as we passed by. Along the road we found a small sign with picture of a waterfall and various different animals on it. We presumed that this was where the secluded waterfall that Thomas had been telling us about. We could not ask anyone if it was the right place or not because in rural Cambodia nobody speaks English, and our Khmer was not good enough. Anyway we followed the small path into the overgrown forest, winding around trees and bushes to a small clearing where we couldn’t proceed any further by bike. From here we could undoubtedly hear the sound of rushing water and we made our way by foot down a steep hill towards the water. As we emerged from the clearing we found the most scenic, stunning and secluded waterfall I have ever seen in my life. The fast moving river made its way over rocks and through the green jungle to plummet over a 30 foot drop into a vast pool of clean fresh water. We were the only people there in exception to two local children that were astonished to see three white people going swimming in this plunge pool. Unfortunately for us the pool wasn’t deep enough for us to jump into from the top of the waterfall, so a cool leisurely swim would have to suffice.
This is one of the main reasons why I love Cambodia. This waterfall was so beautiful but it was not a tourist attraction, if this had been Thailand its natural beauty would have been spoiled by development, backpackers and beer cans! Cambodia is around 20 years behind Thailand in terms of tourism development which means that some of its natural beauty is still untouched. However this is changing, you can understand the need for this development from an economic point of view, but at the same time it is Cambodia’s natural areas that suffer.
After the waterfall we made our way back to the road and continued onto the nearest town in search of some much needed food. We found a nice small village that was buzzing with activity and small shops. Here we found a small restaurant where there was a family sitting down drinking coffee. To say the least they were quite surprised to see us walking and sitting down ready to eat. Communicating only through hand gestures we ordered rice with vegetables and some kind of meat. To be perfectly honest I couldn’t tell you if this ‘meat’ it was pork, chicken, beef or even dog, but it was well seasoned and tasted awesome!
After an appetizing lunch we were ready to ride on again to the last town on the map before the road vanished into the jungle abyss. As we entered into the town we came to a Y junction and we weren’t sure which road to take. At a shop we found a couple of local men drinking beer and eating some food, we showed them a map and asked them about the road ahead. Before they gave us an answer they insisted on us joining them for some beer and rice wine mixed with an energy drink. After a few beers they told us that there was nothing more to see or do on the road ahead and there was no point of continuing on. This was the point in our adventure that we have listened and turned around, but of course we didn’t and curiosity got the better of us.
The road became smaller, bumpier, and more enclosed by bamboo trees, after leaving the last village we did not see another person for the next 2 hours. Our next obstacle was a handmade wooden bridge that stood above a ten foot drop into a gorge. If one of the bikes were to fall in here there was no chance of us getting it out and it would made for a difficult job of explaining the loss of a bike to the rental company. We dismounted from the bikes and walked them across extremely slowly and carefully one by one. This took a bit of time but in the end it was no problem. Another few 100 metres down the path we came across another bridge, but this one was much more unstable and had a higher drop. Again with exceptional care we crossed the bridge bike by bike. When we came across a third and even more unstable bridge we knew that we could not cross it with the bikes. Undeterred we continued on by foot, all the time checking the path for snakes and spiders that may cause us harm. After 40 or so minutes of hiking through the jungle we came to a stunning lake that contained the bamboo ferry that Thomas had been telling us about. It was here that we realised that we could not continue on any further. We chilled by the lake for a while and then decided to make our way back to the bikes.
Making our way back up the hill an animal track mark on the path caught my attention and caused me to go back to inspect it. The print was at least 9-10cm across and was not on the path when we walked it first. Not knowing what kind of animal may be lurking in the dense jungle around us we started moving quite quickly. Julius then mentioned that there were still wild tigers living in in the jungle that surrounded us. This immediately caused paranoia to set in! Again further along the path we discovered more of the same track marks on the path, and these were most defiantly not there when we passed the area previously. This is was the point that the paranoia, panic and fear of the unknown were all mixed together our heads to concoct a cocktail of utter terror!! To put it plainly we were scared shitless, and started running as fast as we possibly could, looking back every so often to see if there was anything following us. At one stage we actually stopped to pick up rocks to throw at whatever may have been behind us. Thinking of it now, I have no idea why I was looking back, I don’t know what I would have done if there was anything chasing us. When we eventually got to the bikes we started them with a huge roar of the engine to scare anything away. We took on out of the jungle as fast as our heart rate, only to realise that we had to get back across the two dodgy wooden bridges again. With Julius leading the way we saw him stop ahead of us, turn and shout something back to us and then he took off like a bat out of hell! It was only afterwards that we found out that an extremely dangerous 3-4 metre black cobra had crossed the path just ahead of him.
It took us around an hour and a half to get to the lake area that had the bamboo ferry, and no joke, on the way back out on the bikes it took us no more than 5 minutes. We stopped at the shop we had been before for a drink and to sit down. We each held out our hands to see how much we were shaking. Not one of us could keep our hand out straight with all the adrenaline that was in our system. After a few minutes we all calmed down and we started to make out way back before nightfall.
We refuelled in the village where we had the suspicious food and continued on our journey back home with no problems until we got to the bridge that was being restored. Making our way down the muddy embankment to the river the bike began to lose control and the back tire began to slip out from underneath us and before we know it we were on the ground. Luckily we both managed to stop our legs from being trapped and pinned under the bike. There was no damage done to us or the bike, but at the same time it gave us a bit of a fright. The rest of the way back was no problem and we headed into the city of Koh Kong for a much needed beer on the Riverside!!
After this we made our way back to Neptune Bungalows for diner. We were treated to a delicious German style snitzle and homemade french-fries! This was the most meat I have had for dinner in two months of being in Cambodia, and it really hit the spot! Dinner was of course accompanied by probably too many beers next to the campfire. Plans for the next day were discussed and a deep sleep ensued.