Travel involves lots of preparation. Preparation is good. I on the other hand find myself leaning towards a more serendipitious way of travel. Just the basics and leave the rest to gut instinct, “intelligent travelling” & good karma. Our first overseas offering of a motorcycle tour to “exotic”, “dangerous” Cambodia required a lot of everything above and a large scoop of luck.
Motorcycles on any day is a good day and here we were on April 17th standing excitedly around 13 Honda XR250’s in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. I wasn’t sure who was more excited, our customers, us (team from indimotard) or the bikes. The excitement and anticipation contained overnight was waiting to be unleashed as we assembled for our morning start of our “Tomb Rider”, mechanic and support crew in tow.
My first impression of Cambodia left me comfortably perplexed. For one it seemed like the poor 52nd or 53rd (or whichever number) state of the United States of America. The ubiqitous acceptance of the US dollar even in the remotest parts of this country was unnerving at first and then comfortable. American (read large) automobiles Cadillacs, Land Cruisers, Hummers lined the street while pigs splayed across two wheelers seemed to oink at each other frequently. Looking into the history of Cambodia isn’t a pretty picture while the new Cambodia certainly posed for an interesting experience.
Leading a motorcycle tour always has its share of teething trouble and I was mentally prepared to pull the cltuch in at the first signs.. As we hit the first set of dirt trails off highway NR2 towards Kampot, the coastal town of Southern Cambodia it all felt natural, like we had all been riding together for the longest time. Here we were in the middle of “unknown” country with a bunch of “unknown” riders (at least in terms of their riding skills) with “unknown” dirt bikes and it didnt feel strange. The clouds of dust, the smell of burnt gas and the freedom on two wheels found us all “high” inside our helmets. Before we knew it, 270kms of Day 1 was done as we parked and took in the views of the Gulf of Thaliand from the Harpers Bazar rated Veranda Resort at Kep, Cambodia, our night halt for the next two days. An exotic lunch and the call to ride lead us through the mud trails around the resort with our expert motocross guide and owner of the Kukuluku Beach Cafe, Mr Fabrice. Discovery, skill, capability, the thrill of the ride, introspection and a flood of other thoughts must have been on everyones mind. Hidden Monasteries, modern pagoda clad temples and the King’s abandoned house made for interesting stop overs before we headed back to the resort as the sun went down.
More trail riding followed the next day. An AK47 and mid-riff revealing gaurd (no, not like bollywood) at the checkpost to Bokor Montain (French Casino ruins) was a failed attempt as the roads were closed and no amount of gesturing helped. 150 dirty clicks on the Honda’s odo for the day and an evening of rain sipping beer in the luxurious pool found us back in Phnom Penh on day 3 for a night halt.
The incessant traffic, 46 degrees and 350kms of blacktop to Siam Reap on NR5 wasnt the best of days. The brief stop over for fried tarantula’s, crickets was braved by all before we checked into Siam Reap, base camp to the ruins of 9th Century Angkor Wat temple ruin complex, Asia highest tourist destination. Our hope to ride around the Angkor Wat ruins was quickly vetoed by the “no motos” law. The sprawling Angkor Wat complex and its three main temples held our interest long after we headed back to the cozy Two Dragons Guest House. The Temple ruins, the sorrounding jungles, acacia trees and its roots firmly grapsing onto the temple walls left one wondering if nature was doing its bit of preservation, lest humankind wrestle history and turn it into ugly concrete.
My friend and ever resourceful traveller Joshua meanwhile had spent the afternoon, doing what he does best. Explore.Get Lost. Discover.Repeat. Our late afternoon venture on the “moto’s” traced Joshua’s rear wheel through sandy trails, wooden rickety bridges, 9th century stone bridges, de-mined tracts of land leading us into the most spectaclure of the temple ruins – Beng Maleay. The darkness, red tail lights of 7 “motos” and face of the temple in our headlight beams made for a breathtaking pause. Eerie with the sounds of silence we all basked in the glow of that moment.
Our departure from Siam Reap lead us to our charming luxurious resort at Battambang, a town that has changed hands multiple times between Thailand and Cambodia.
We had been on the road for 6 days and the unsaid sentiment of the tour coming to a close a day later was imminent on everyones mind. Not one to be let down, our night outs in Battambang, the touristy visit to “hostess bars” were all soaked up in the spirit of the ride. Returning our bikes on Phnom Penh and packing for the return were the only moments of despair on this tour.
Serendipity with a lot of preparation goes a long way!
indiMotard Adventures runs a professional motorcycle touring outfit here in India with a fleet of brand new Royal Enfield Classic 500s. With your food, stay, back up service and medical aid taken care of, all you have to do is show up with your helmet and you’re ready to rumble. While tours to Cambodia and Sri Lanka happen once a year, tours around India happen on a more regular basis. This summer they will be running three tours in and around the Himalayas starting July 18th. To find out more visit www.indimotard.com or call +91-9980829440