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.


Amanda said...

OH WOW!!!!!! That looks like an incredible adventure! I wish they had things like that here....

Natalie said...

Your blog is absolutely facinating! I am loving the writing style and photography of your posts, and am working my way slowly backward through them. Happy blogging!

Shalini said...

Wow, that's such a great way to explore the countryside.