08-Aug-2004 -- About one month ago I found the confluence website while surfing the net. I somehow like the idea of the project even it sounds a bit silly. And luckily there are still a large number of unvisited confluences in Cambodia. Since I work for an organisation providing Rural Development Aid I already had the necessary equipment like a dirt bike, a GPS and a more or less reliable map.
So I set of one Saturday afternoon from Kampot towards the 11N 106E confluence in Svay Rieng Province. I drove all the way up to Phnom Penh and then towards east along the mighty Mekong on National Route 1. In Phnom Penh the heavy afternoon traffic slowed my average speed considerably down. National Route 1 does not really deserve this title for the first 50 kilometer. It rather is a bunch of potholes with the usual cows, pigs and dogs on the driveway. The insane Cambodian driving style of truck and cab drivers pushing bikes of the road adds the cream to that. Driving in Cambodia is like a video game - but a dangerous one. While traffic kept me busy I stopped from time to time and enjoyed the view towards south-west over the large Mekong delta with its Mountains behind. As the sun set I reached the Mekong ferry in Preaek Khsay Kah. I bought a ticket and waited with the other 1000 scooters for the ferry to arrive. First went the trucks and cars on the ferry than the small vehicles. I stayed behind and watched the chaos. There was no more space for about 200 scooters on the ferry. But all of them constantly tried to push on it. Finally the ferry went off leaving 100 scooters on my side. The next ferry would take us over and then we could board first. While I had to wait nature rewarded me with a beautiful huge rainbow over Mekong including a less welcome shower. In town I found a cheap hotel for the night. There is not much to do in this place so I went to bed early.
Next morning I packed and went of further along National Route 1 which was in a much better condition now. As I passed the market I recognised the antennas on its roof. On this 25 by 50 m building were about 100 antennas each 20 m high. A network might be cheaper, but the antenna salesman probably earned a fortune here. The road continues for another 100 kilometer until reaching the Vietnamese border. Left and right along the road line up paddy fields. The Khmer (Cambodians) were quite busy at this time of the year planting rice. 20 km short of the border I crossed the 106E meridian and stopped in a local bar in a town named Prey Angkonh. Since there were heavy dark clouds coming towards me I waited by an iced coffee and studied the map. The confluence point was just 4 kilometer south somewhere in the paddy fields. A minor road leads towards south. After the rain had passed I started the final approach. I found the road or better path and was happy to see the bridge crossing a river was intact. The previous rain had turned the path into a muddy and very slippery trek. It was difficult to stay on the trek not sliding left or right down the dam although I had a dirt bike with good tires. I passed a boy riding an ox the opposite direction. He clearly had the better and faster way of transportation for this trek. A look on the GPS told me that I was already at 11 North. Small wooden houses lined the trek. Behind them were the paddy fields with the magic point. I found a small path between two houses which continued on a half meter wide dam between the fields. Perfect access with the bike! I continued for another kilometre leading me as close as 200 meter. As I looked towards the confluence spot I could see farmers at work. I parked the bike and walked over the tiny narrow dams between the paddy fields. When I reached the farmers the GPS showed just 106.00000 E and 11.00016 N. A further 20 meter south was the spot. They welcomed me and asked where I was off to. I dared to explain them about degrees and confluences, but rather said I was taking pictures of the countryside. The farmers had planted fresh rice seedlings on the spot just an hour ago. I decided not to walk through the fresh field while stepping down the seedlings. I could have compensated them for the damage easily with a dollar. They probably earn less than that for a whole day hard work. But personally I would not like someone destroying my hard work for reasons I don’t understand. So we rather shared some of my cookies and their limes for breakfast. I took some pictures and leave the 11.00000 N on the GPS for the next visitor after the rice harvest. But actually it wasn’t me that visited 106E 11N first. It was one of them.
The way back to the national road was easier since the trek had dried a little. After a further 300 kilometer, crossing Mekong and surviving traffic in Phnom Penh I arrived well back home in Kampot.