23-Aug-2003 -- The Confluence was visited on our bike tour between Hanoi and Phnom Penh on the 21st day of our trip, after attempting the Confluence 13N 106E.
On August 21, we started at 5 o'clock in the morning from the city of Kampong Chong in central Cambodia. Our goal was to ride all the way to Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh that day, which is a distance of 125 km by road. Our first stop was a town called Skon, 10 km northeast of the Confluence. Although we had such an early start, the heat caught us already in Skon after having cycled 46 km. Biking in the heat may be a pleasure in moderate climate-zones, but in Cambodia it's not only torturous, but is also dangerous because of dehydration or overheating. So, we take every opportunity for a water stop. In Skon, after we had enjoyed fresh pressed sugar cane, the lady offered us the town's special delicacy: Fresh roasted spiders. Not all of them had been roasted: She let one spider crawl on my arm.
After leaving Spidertown, we went 10 km further to the next place called Phaav. Here we were exhausted again, because the incredible heat of that day had worn us out. This was an extra hot and humid day on a hot area in the hot season, where even sitting in the shade is unpleasant. Guang didn't like the idea of confluence hunting during noon time. We agreed that she would stay in a cafe and I promised to be back from the confluence visit within two hours. The GPS showed a distance of 3 km and there were a lot of small roads around. I thought this was easy and headed off.
The first thing I noticed was that the distance to the Confluence was diminishing much slower than it should. Was the direction wrong? Suddenly it became clear: The GPS receiver was in mile-mode instead in km-mode, increasing the distance to 5 km. This gave me a little more time pressure, in particular, because the roads tended to end and I had to go back several times. The area has a lot of rice fields with scattered palm trees here and there. It is densely populated, which also goes along with a labyrinth of little tracks. Soon I found myself pushing my bike between rice paddies. For a long distances I even had to carry it. Later I realized I could have taken an easier way, since I suddenly reached a nice road again. Now it was another 1.5 km to go.
The road was on a nice huge dam but on the other side of it the area looked like a big swamp. Unfortunately the nutty GPS would tell me to go this way. Without thinking and neglecting the rules that I made up at 14N 106E, I went down into the swamp. The only excuse I have was the heat, simplifying all thoughts to "let's go direct". Of course I ran into trouble very soon: Even the trails between rice paddies were under water and very slippery. Imagine me carrying my bike in one hand, the GPS in the other, while down at my feet the sandals would stick in the mud. Sometimes they even came off and I had to search them under a layer of mud to find them. Please don't ask why I took the bike with me and why I didn't walk bare feet. I could not give an answer. Only after almost falling in the swamp I understood, that this was no way to get to the point.
I returned to the road and was already sure that this would be another incomplete visit. But then, riding along the road I noticed that it somehow curved into the right direction, almost encircling the Confluence at a distance of about 1.2 km. On the other side, the land was much dryer and I was also smarter to lock the bike and start walking. There were no trees and no shade. My excitement didn't let me notice how dehydrated I already was. Out there I met some little kids guarding the cattle and escaping from the sun in tiny bamboo shelters. Some of them thought I was lost and tried to help me to find a way out. I tried my best to explain were I was going and continued my trip. After another 20 minutes I reached the site.
The Confluence is right next to a dam in the middle of one field where cattle are grazing. Besides the dam, the area is flat as a pancake. In the distance about 15 km to the West one can see a mountain range. The risk of landmines is minimal due to the little well-worn tracks the locals are using.
The way back was, as always, much, much easier. Within 30 minutes I got back to Phaav at the main road, where Guang was waiting for me. She forgave me for being 30 minutes overdue (the trip took 2 h 30 min). When I tried to speak I had already trouble, because I was so dehydrated. After restoring my water balance we went on. Very soon a thunderstorm caught us in the middle of nowhere. After hiding at a bridge for half an hour, we choose to take a bus to Phnom Penh, where we got in at dusk.
Days later I noticed that of all Confluences in Cambodia, this one had been visited before. I hadn't read the story before visiting it, so there will be two uncorrelated stories for 14N 106E.
This story is finished at 13N 104E.