Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Something unimaginable

The beautiful south coast of Samoa.

I woke this morning to the news of a tsunami, triggered by an 8.3 earthquake, in Samoa. My heart leapt, hands began to shake and tears blurred vision as I pushed the on button on the computer.

As some of you know Samoa was our first expat posting and one we all found very hard to leave. We still have friends we keep regular contact with on the islands, our email address remains 'gone2samoa' and I still think of its aqua blue seas, picturesque bent palms and smiling people on a daily basis. Googling news websites offered only patchy information so I wrote messages on peoples facebook pages in the hope at least someone would still have access. As the day has gone by I am slowly hearing from people and piecing news together thanks to the internet. As news sites and the BBC get pictures and reports the death toll rises. Stories of survival and heroic acts remind me of Aceh January 2004. It has been 5 and a half years and fishermen still refuse to go into the water, people are still in recovery- will Samoa be the same.

The well established tsunami warning system apparently triggered as it was supposed to but the earthquake was too close. The wave energy, created by the strong tremor, travels at several hundred kilometers an hour. Four huge waves reached the shore in minutes. Samoan villages sit right on the water with often only a paved road and a string of palm trees between fales and the sea, many people just could not get away in time.

On the two islands of Samoa, Savai'i and Upolu, 140 people have been convirmed dead, up to 15000 people have been made homeless and 50 villages along the south and south east coasts have been reduced to rubble.

Beach fales on the south coast of Samoa

The pier at Sinalei

(photo from

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A story about a googol

In 1996, in Room 360 of the Gates CS Building at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who were sharing their work space with other graduates, began calling their brand new search engine 'BackRub' inspired by the way it used the webs 'back links'. A year later when 'BackRub' was actually starting to look like something effective and sophisticated enough to share with the general public, a brainstorming session was called and 'googolplex' was suggested. A 'googol' is the name given to 10 to the power of 100. A 'googolplex' is 10 to the power of 'googol' or 1o to the power of in brackets 10 to the power of 100.

Are you still with me?

Mathmatician Edward Kasner's nine-year-old nephew Milton Sirotta suggested the term 'googolplex' to describe the number '1 followed by as many zeros as you can write until you get too tired to write any more'. His father, being a mathmatician and therefore prone to specifics, proposed the more formal definition. Milton's picture of a number so big it you run out of energy before you finish writing it- and so big there is not enough physical space in the universe to actually write it- is exactly what Page and Brin, the inventors of 'Google' (Larry Page wasn't the best speller) were looking for.

Google - a search engine big enough to be able to index an amount of data so big it makes you tired just thinking about it.

On September the 15th 1997 the name '' became a registered domain name.

Do you Google?

Friday, September 25, 2009

The hard questions

I love this. The reactions are just priceless...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The view from Phnom Chisor

We were in the car and out of town on National Highway No 2 before 8am on Sunday morning. It was P'chum Ben and a long holiday weekend so traffic was relatively light and it was a quick 45 minutes before we turned off onto a dirt road that headed straight towards a looming 'phnom' (hill) between rice paddys. We bumped laboriously along the road slowing to pass riel notes to sets of small children who raced from under the shade of trees to dump hoe lots of dirt into ruts and puddles to 'smooth' our way.

The bottom of the 500 or so steps to the temple on the top of Chisor is marked by platformed shacks stocked with bottles of water, cans of syrupy soft drink, a variety of barbequed titbits and -bizzarely I thought- chewing gum. Most of the evidence of the gum scattered around the path and through the surrounding trees was the distinctive green Wrigglys wrapper and it's silver backed lining and not the chewed part. Do Cambodians swallow the actual gum?

Like Odong the top of the Phnom is reached by climbing about 500 steps under the dappled shade of the hills trees. Less touristy than Odong, the climb up Chisor could be made without the constant chatter of Cambodia's youngest members of the workforce as they padded up beside you 'guiding' for 'one dollar'. There were, however, a few kids at odd intervals who stuck out their little hands and said simply, 'sumoney' - which I would have gladly given had they picked up some of the rubbish that carpeted the forest floor. We handed a dollar instead to a blind man sitting cross legged and chanting under a canopy about halfway up the steps.

Arrival at the top of Phnom Chisor came without fanfare, the steps just stopped on a flat stretch, the view obscured by trees. This was not, it seemed, quite the top. To the left, on a knoll, was a small wat with story painted walls. We took our shoes off and walked around the veranda drinking in the breeze and finally a view but still couldn't see Phnom Chisor's ancient temple.

'Look more stairs', I nudged.

We backtracked the few steps to the top of the original climb and, after paying our $2USD each, collected a 'Visitting ticket for foreigner'.

'Takeo tourism office would like to thank you the customer your support for the maintaining PHNOM CHISO site and take care for sanitation environment'.

The stairs to the left of the ticket seller led to another little sanctuary, a stupa and a flat cleared area with a large ceremonial pool filled with green opaque water(in the foreground of the picture above), a small shrine containing a concrete boy and his cow, a gold painted statue a typically Khmer style roof protecting it from the hot sun and a small round empty pool containing two entwined concrete hooded naga (just seen in the far right of the photo). It has been pretty difficult to find out anything about these particular structures.

Here is the boy and his cow, Prasat Preah Ko Preah Kaew, who were according to one legend the off spring of a woman who gave birth to them after she fell out of a mango tree presumably in the area.

The many shrines or spirit houses, called Neak Ta, that you see around temple compounds, in fields and in villages, are not strictly a part of Buddhism but rather animist beliefs that have become so intwined with Cambodian Buddhist beliefs the result often resembles a new kind of Buddhism. The rituals and practises surrounding P'chum Ben, for example, are not all Buddhist but take place in the grounds of the wat under the guidance of the monks.

This Neak Ta was within the crumbling ancient temple walls of Phnom Chisor's 11th century temple. The shrines of Neak Ta contain at least one statue- the words 'neak ta' mean an old man- as well as other objects that represent land, water and spirit elements such as incense. Some even have carved bits of one of Cambodia's many ancient temple ruins. People visit these places with a mixture of fear and reverence to make offerings to ask for protection and good luck.

Originally known as Sun Mountain, Suryadri, (or Suryagiri) Phnom Chisor was used in the eleventh century by Suryavarman I to build Prasat Boran to house one of four sacred linga he installed at temples on the boundaries of his kingdom. Constructed of pitted but eternally durable laterite, bricks and the more readily carvable sandstone for lintels the temple stands on the eastern most side of the 'mountain'.

It's partially ruined walls dotted with large square windows and gopuras surround a two and a half meter wide gallery which houses a variety of sanctuaries and parts of now decayed structures.

The inside like many of the other structures on Phnom Chisor were decorated for P'chum Ben with gold paper and fabric banners and pendants.

Sadly the inner courtyard smelled like a public toilet in a rarely used railway station and watching where one placed their foot was all too necessary. The reason for the 'sanitation' message on the ticket was immediately and consistently evident although I doubt it was the 'foreigners' who were responsible for the desecration of a still sacred site.

The double east wall has a gopura (gate or doorway) and two gate houses leading out onto a gloriously unobscurred view across the green (it's the rainy season) plains of Cambodia and onwards to the boarder with Vietnam.

At the bottom of the steep steps is a sacred pool, Tonl Om and two other temples. The closer and more wrecked Sen Thmol and even further to the east, Sen Ravang.

During rituals held here nine hundred years ago the King his brahmans and entourage would approach Prasat Boran, on top of the phnom, using these much more precipitous steps rather than the more gentle approach taken by most of todays visitors facing west- the direction of Angkor Wat.

Phnom Chisor was teemimg with people, mostly local Khmer, thanks to the holiday but it is also a modern Buddhist compound complete with monks quarters and a school classroom. We bought some 'vi', pronounced 'vee' (the Samoan name- I can never remember what the Cambodian word for them is), like a hard green pear, which the woman skined and scored to make easier to eat and strolled around the rest of the compound.

Past a doorway neatly laid with shoes of the faithful who were being blessed in quiet rhythmic tones inside...

... and the monks quarters.

A reclining new Buddha watched over by a nun in white and a gold painted Buddha sitting on a naga in the middle of a lotus pond.

We made our way back down the steps to the car in the now much hotter midday sun thankful we had made the early morning start.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Peace One Day

In 1999 during a Womad concert English filmmaker Jeremy Gilley came up with the idea of declaring one day a year free of conflict. He wondered if he could create a movement big enough to actually result in an annual day of global truce, 24 hours of worldwide ceasefire. Beginning with students and peace activists he began to circulate the idea. Then he added NGOs, government representatives, heads of state, and United Nations officials, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, Secretary General of the League of Arab States Amre Moussa, Peace Laureate and former Israeli President Shimon Peres, former Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace Laureate Oscar Arias Sanchez, Nelson Mandela and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. He filmed all of his travels and meetings and made a documentary film called, appropriately, 'Peace One Day'.It took perseverance and determination but by September 2001 he had the commitment of the United Nations who duly passed a resolution to make September 21st the Day of Peace. There have been huge concerts in different places around the world since then including one at Albert Hall in 2004.

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata! What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, people, people!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


We have taken literally hundreds of photos since we began our expat adventure. Since we arrived in Asia our happy snaps have often included someone making the 'v- sign'. Many took the art of embellishing their portraits with gesture very seriously creating other 'cute' enhancements with their fingers and hands.
There is the heart made with the thumbs and pointer fingers of both hands and placed just under the chin or the larger version using whole arms and disconcertingly reminisent of the 'M' in 'YMCA'. There is the frame for the face again using thumb and first fingers of both hands making the right angled corners of a square with your face in the middle or the backs of both hands in a V shape under the chin.
I asked a Korean friend why they do this in photos and she said it was because they (Koreans) found it hard to just pose and smile for photos. Making a sign, like the 'v- sign' made them feel less stiff and self conscious and gave them something to do which actually makes sense I thought.
Then I found this and I just had to share...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wellington on a good day

It's true you can't live here by chance, You have to do and be, Not simply watch or even describe. This is the city of action, The world headquarters of the verb-Lauris Edmond

The Wellington waterfront has developed into something Wellingtonians should and are proud of after all they have had a say in its planning and development and hopefully it stays that way. You can walk all the way from the Kumutoto district near the Wellington Railway Station to Oriental Bay and around the corner to the Bays beyond on footpaths. A really keen walker, runner or biker can get all the way to Seatoun on an almost uninterrupted path.

-The picturesque boat houses Oriental Bay

This area is often quite busy whatever the season especially during lunch hour when just as many elect to don running shoes or cycling pants as do a perch on a comfy seat in one of Wellington's many cafes. It has developed quite a lot in the years since we have been global nomads. In fact the area has been almost constantly developing since Wellington was not much more than pegged lots. Way back in 1840 the first sizable reclamations began, starting with an extension below Willis Street.

There was an extra 70 acres of land on Wellington's foreshore by the end of the 1870s although most of it was still privately owned. With the formation of the Wellington Harbour Board just before the turn of the century and reclamations for railway by the City Council, land on the waterfront became public. It is possible to trace the original shoreline using the 14 plaques the Historic Places Trust has placed from Pipitea Point, along Lambton Quay, Mercer Street, Lower Cuba Street, Wakefield Street and finally to Oriental Parade.

A walk along todays waterfront takes you past eateries, museums, pieces of visual and written art and landscaping with intention.

Then out of the tunnel and Wellington burst like a bomb. It opened like a flower was lit up like a room, explained itself exactly, became the capital... - Maurice Gee

From Chaffers Marina to Frank Kitts Park, there are a series of concrete plaques inscribed with quotations from New Zealand writers, who have all lived in Wellington at some time. Writers such as Katherine Mansfield, Bill Manhire, Robin Hyde, Maurice Gee, Patricia Grace and Bruce Mason.

This town of ours kind of flattened across the creasesof an imaginary map a touch of the parchment surrealism here no wonder the lights are wavering all over the place tonight not a straight town at all- Fiona Kidman

The quotations recognise and celebrate the significance our windy city has had in their lives. There is a map which you can get free from libraries, book shops, and information centres, that shows you where the extracts are or you can simply walk and happen upon or even sit on the passages. Of the fifteen citations three are on seats. I love the idea of sitting first and then finding the bench you are on has been gifted with more meaning than just a spot to watch the world go by. You can't help but be inspired by the poetic illustrations of the city, the heart and the r-e-s-p-e-c-t with which it is gifted by some of it's most elloquent.

Then with the coming of darkness the bay opened up beneath us, a shell splashed with beads of light...- Marilyn Duckworth

Walking along the waterfront takes you past sculpture with both function and form, traditional and contemporary. This is called 'Solace in the wind' and is on loan for a year. It is the work of Max Patte, a senior sculptor at Weta Workshop, who visited this very spot on the waterfront when he first arrived in Wellington to lessen his homesickness and loneliness. It's about surrendering to the elements. The man leans into the wind, palms and chest open and quietly rusts in yellow and orange striations painted by the conditions.

This is a much older and more conventional kind of sculpture. I remember when Kupe- the first to reach New Zealand and return home about a thousand years ago- his wife Hine and the tohunga (priest) stood in the dark foyer of the Central Railway Station a morning amid a mix of Wellington's school uniforms and grey corporate suits. The great navigators gaze is now more appropriately fixed across the harbour, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, towards Matiu, Makaro and Mokopuna Islands that he named after his daughters (or nieces depending on which version you have been told). The tinest, Mokopuna, means simply, grandchild.

The City to Sea Bridge connects Civic Square and the Financial district with the waterfront. On the 'city' side is the Central Library, The City Gallery (which was closed for renovation) and the Michael Fowler Centre. Suspended 14 metres above the square in the centre is a huge silver sphere, 3 1/2 metres in diameter. Created by Neil Dawson, the sphere uses the Silver Fern, an internationally recognisable New Zealand icon, as a link to Athfields Nikau Palms. Strung up by barely visible wires it appears to hang in the sky like the moon, its delicate fronds picking up light and shadow to give it form without dominating the space.

The Bridge itself is alluded to rather than seen from the square. Marked by a split pyramid, 'Te Aho a Maui', Maui's line, symbolising the mountains tumbling down to the sea, is Para Machitt's 'How we got here', metal birds and stars hanging in the heavens just as they did when the Maori used them to steer their way across the Pacific towards this land.

The timber sculptured bridge, which crosses busy Jervois Quay, is Machitt's design too. It's wedge shape represents the prow of a waka pointing out to the sea. The wood ages and changes with time, absorbs the noise and fumes from the road beneath and provides a transition between the glass and mortar of the city's buildings and the tidal ebb and flow of the sea before it.

The Boatshed on the sea side of the Bridge, an Historic Places Trust building, was originally built as a boat-house for the Wellington Naval Artillery Volunteers in 1894. It became the first ambulance station of the Wellington Free Ambulance in 1927 who adapted it to house four cars, a casualty room, as well as the superintendants private accommodation up stairs. When they moved out in 1931 the Wellington Rowing Club took it over as their club house and storage for their boats. They have remained there ever since. Sometime during the winter months of 1986 it was where a class full of freezing cold Queen Margaret school girls learned to roll our canoes while keeping a close eye on the cat sized water rats that lived in the murky depths.

Further around on Oriental Bay, scene of stolen sunny afternoons that should have been spent in the classroom, is 'Tail of the Whale' by Colin Webster-Watson. For Wellington, in it's place at the bottom of the North Island, is, according to legend, the tale of the great whale, Te Ikaroa a Maui, that formed Aotearoa.

The Wellington waterfront is a living, breathing, functioning part of the city. Open to Wellington's notoriously windy squalls but also, on a good day, irresistibly bathed in glorious Wellington sunshine.

I couldn't resist this shot- I think it sums up Wellington perfectly.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Absolutely positively ...nothing to hide...

We flew into New Zealand at the end of June on a relatively comfortable (as comfortable as one can be on a night flight in 'cattle class') Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore. With a fleet that averages only 6 and a half years old flying Singapore Airlines always feels as if you are in a new plane. As always the staff were professional and gracious in a reserved kind of way.

Then we flew from Auckland to Wellington on a domestic Air New Zealand flight and instantly knew we were home. Grins a mile wide and friendly banter warmed the cabin.
'Lollies, vege chips or biscuits?'

Once everyone was seated the ceiling mounted video screens flickered raising negligable interest from a cabin full of people 'engrossed' in their papers or airline mags. For those of us who are frequent flyers on various global airlines the resulting safety message offers a retoric so generic and uninspiring it goes unnoticed blending into the humm of warming engines, the tones of seat belts being adjusted and overhead lockers being clicked shut. Although I have been aware of its content for years now I had never actually 'counted the seats to your nearest exit'. There is also a kind of superstition that exists in the same way as we avoid mentioning the rain if we have a day biking or temple hopping planned, or pointing out that the Australia Network hasn't yet lost coverage during an All Blacks game, or marvelling that the electricity has stayed on all weekend on a sunday night.
'Kia Ora, we'd like to welcome you aboard our boeing 737-300.'
Hang on a minute isn't she...?
'Shortly we'll be winging our way to your next port of call.'
She is!
'But before we lift off we'd like to give you what we call, the bare essentials of safety aboard this flight.'
So is he. They are wearing nothing but....body paint!
Yep, by this stage there was almost 100% rapt attention. Eyes were glued to the little screens suspended above our seats. For the first time in a very long time I watched the whole video and, yes, even counted the seats to my nearest exit and I saw quite a few ahead of me do the same.

Your turn now

See what I mean. If you google 'air nz safety video' you get pages of blog posts featuring 'The bare essentials'. People are talking and more importantly they are watching. Good on you Air New Zealand!

Heres the blooper vid too

As an aside, on Monday the 7th September Samoa - where we began our expat travels- became the first country in 40 years to switch the side of the road they drive despite months of protest. The prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, had made the call to encourage some of the 170,000 expatriate Samoans living in Australasia to buy and ship used cars back to relatives in the islands. A two day holiday was declared to lessen the amount of cars on the road and a three day ban on liquor sales to encourage sober driving. Samoans aren't known for their adherence to the road rules nor for their quick reactions behind the wheel. I am still surprised I made it through 2 and a half years with out someone plowing into me although there was many a time a found myself facing a speeding car or bus racing toward me - on my side of Cross Island Road and quick evasive action was required. Many Samoans are unstandably scared at what the results might be but the prime minister has remained staunch. The change will be made.

• Some 34 per cent of the world’s population drive on the left-hand side of the road, including many former British colonies, such as Australia, India and South Africa

• Napoleon spread the French custom of driving on the right with his series of conquests in the early 1800s, while Russia forced Finland to switch in 1858

• Hitler decreed right-hand driving in Austria after annexing the country in 1938. Mussolini also converted Italy by decree in 1924

• In Lunenburg County, Canada, 1923 was known as the “year of the free beef”: when driving switched from left to right, the oxen that could not learn the new rules were simply eaten.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Number 9

Like many mathematicians then and since Pythagoras noted 9's many properties both numerical and mystical.

A trick many kids have picked up on is, that the sum of the two digits resulting from nine multiplied by any other single digit number will equal nine- 9x3=27, and 2+7=9.

Today, September 9, 2009, is the 252nd day of the year and 2+5+2 equals 9.
3X9 = 27 and 7+2=9.

Multiply nine by any two, three or four-digit number and the sums of those will also break down to nine- 9x62 = 558; 5+5+8=18; 1+8=9.

(from Leo Reynolds on Flickr)

The day, today, 09-09-09, falls on a Wednesday and both Wednesday and September have 9 letters.

Numerologists believe mystical significance is attached to the number 9. They associate it with compassion, forgiveness and success and since many believe you can't have success without a certain amount of arrogance and self righteousness-those too.

The number 9 has religious significance too.

According to the Abjad system of adding up the number values in a word to give a single digit number the word Baha' relates to 9. 9 is also associated with unity and completeness (due to it being the largest single digit number) shown in their use of the enneagram, the 9 pointed star and in the architecture of the Bahai temples.

Heres the temple at Tiapapata, Apia, Samoa not far up the road from where we used to live.

The nine points on the star also represent 'the nine great world religions'. Sometimes the star can be seen with a symbol of each of those religions at each of the nine points- Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, and Sikhism.

Hinduism, too, believes 9 to represent completeness. Buddhists see the sky divided into nine celestial levels and many important rituals are performed by nine monks. In Islam there are nine spheres in the universe. Ramadan is in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. There are nine choirs of angels in the Christian Angelic Heirarchy and Saint Paul enumerates nine 'fruits of the Spirit'- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are nine nodes of the bamboo for the Taoists.

Nine, for the Chinese, is a lucky number because it sounds like the word for 'longlasting'. As an odd number it is 'yang' representing strength and masculinity. The magic Chinese dragon, associated with power has nine forms described as 'attributes' - the head of a camel, eyes of a demon, ears of a cow, horns of a stag, neck of a snake and belly of a clam. The soles of its feet are a tigers, claws are that of an eagles and it has the scales of a carp.

The Northern Dipper or Ursa Major, has played an important role in official and religious life due to it's apotropaic powers. The Northern Dipper is made up of 9 stars and like its name suggests lies in the north, the Origin, the beginning and end , both Yin and Yang. Jiu Zhou, a poetic name, refers to the fact the nine states that make up Chinese territory are beyond measure. The highest heavens were referred to as the ninth heaven or the ninth spring, the afterlife. As the number nine is linked to the Supreme power of the Emperor, doors, windows, stairs and fixtures in the palace or monastery were often in multiples of 9 or totalled a number containing nine. All the entrances in the Forbidden, for example, except for one have nine rows of nine knobs. The East Flowery Gate has nine rows with eight knobs. Eight being an even number and therefore 'ying' because it was the gate the funeral processions of the three Qing emperors passed through.

As a symbol of extremity, 9 in Chinese culture can also be seen as a warning of change or transformation.

Celebrating his birthday today is Indonesia's president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who turns the big 6 -oh.


Apple Corp chose 09-09-09 to release the entire Beatles studio album collection digitally remastered.

I was going to post Revolution 9 by the Beatles but as intriguing as it is it doesn't make for very relaxing listening so Ive posted 'I am the walrus' instead which I love.

Not everyone considers nine an auspicious number. The Japanese steer clear of the number 9 because it sounds similar to the Japanese word for 'pain' or 'distress'.

Turn triple nine upside down and you get 666 the number of 'the beast' or satan.

09-09-09 is the last time we see repeating single digit dates for almost a century.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Vicious Cycle Tour

We met before 8 on Sunday morning at Vicious cycles on St 130, a block from Riverside. Seventeen of us, four guides and 2 tourists who had seen a lively assortment of helmet clutching adventurers and asked to join in the ramble. We found our alloted bikes, seats and handle bars already tailored to our heights (we'd given earlier)and each loaded with a bottle of water all that was left to do was a final spin down the road to reaquaint our thighs and bums with the intimacies of biking- because a one hour spin class a week is NOT the same as four hours in the saddle- and we were off.

We loaded the bikes one by one onto the ferry, via the wobbly board, to the Chruoy Changvar peninsular on the other side of the Tonle Sap.

Once off loaded we headed off on Tonle Sap road back towards the Japanese Bridge led by Marie clad in Grasshopper just-in case-we-lose-her green.

We stopped at a gardenia scented Chinese pagoda on the banks of the Tonle Sap.

Then on to another ferry to one of the 'Silk Islands' in the Mekong. The lead up to P'Chum Ben has started so the family aat the house we stopped at weren't silk weaving but one of the girls agreed to give us a quick demonstration anyway.

Marie said the house was 35 years old. 'Older than me!' she grinned.

We cycled along hard packed dirt roads for a few kilometers before turning onto a farm track. Since the rainy season has well and truely begun the going was very muddy in places requiring detours through banana, papaya and mango plantations.

We had seven kids aged between 7 and 14 so it wasn't long before we stopped again- this time for some banana and sticky rice parcels and fruit.

While we were eating a farmer arrived with his cattle. The cows in Cambodia are Brahman, so named as they are the sacred cow of India. Perfect examples of survival of the fittest, Brahman cattle evolved in the unforgiving climates of India. Cattle had to be able to walk long distances to find good grazing and water and they had to be able to continue their reproductive cycles in temperatures well above 100oF. Natural selection allowed only he hardiest animals to thrive.

These wise looking animals have very distinctive physical characteristics. Large, upward curving horns, a hump over the shoulder and neck, large pendulous ears and excess skin around the throat and underbelly. This increased surface area of skin is specifically adapted to keep them cool in hot harsh climates. Under their loose skin heavy muscles twitch strongly giving them the ability to shake off insects and as added protection they secrete an oily substance thought to serve as an insect deterrent.

They are pretty docile although, as some of our group found out later on, a bit skittish when passed by 21 sweaty, muddy helmet clad cyclists and their chunky bikes all in a puffing, chatty row.

The day was kind- not too hot by Cambodian standards and the scenery was a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh life.

By lunchtime we had reached the ferry 'terminal', an open wooden hut complete with pool table-occupied by some local boys- plenty of cold drinks, relatively clean squat toilets and plastic chairs with which to park our saddle sore behinds. We snacked and talked until our chartered boat arrived to take us back to the Riverside.