28-Jun-2004 -- After talking about the idea of finding confluence points in Cambodia, I figured it would be a great day trip down the river road to the confluence point of 11N and 105E. I have lived in Cambodia long enough to know this was a silly notion and yet, off I set on Sunday 29th June to the confluence of 11N and 105E.
I arrived home on Saturday night with a huge sliver of steel, about 10cms long skewering the back tyre of my motorbike.
On Sunday morning, the tyre was repaired by 9am I headed off down the somewhat disgusting riverside road through Da Kmaow to the south of Phnom Penh.
After around 45 minutes of this bad road I found I had taken the wrong route as I arrived at a nice sealed road.
I was surprised at just how badly my dirt bike handled this rather rocky but relatively flat road. Even on the sealed road, the bike was still giving me a really rough ride and so after checking the back tyre by kicking and jumping, I saw no movement in it at all. The repairman did tell me numerous times that he would fix it really well. It was to be one of his best repairs he kept telling me. I should have realised that he specialised in repairing tyres on motorcycle trailers, which are towed with up to 20 passengers on them. They need a lot of air pressure and I think he must have pumped my tyre to the same pressure. I let some air out about five times during the trip and it is probably still way over inflated.
After a stop for lunch, I found the 11th parallel, which was approximately 6.5kms from the confluence. I went out to an interesting looking pagoda which was in the right general direction and yet a long way from anything else, trees included. I figured if there was a road to this pagoda, then there would be a good chance there would also be a track leading on to a place close to the point of confluence.
A fascinating eight-sided pagoda, but no possible further access through the fields towards the fast becoming elusive point of confluence.
One month earlier it would have been no problem to reach the point of confluence from this pagoda. Now, however, the rain had started and there was a lot of ground water. The tracks were either totally under water, or so muddy as to be unusable. The senior monk told me of a road about 6-7kms back along the main road towards Phnom Penh. So, back I went to the main road. As I arrived at the bitumen road, my clutch cable broke. After approximately an hour, I managed to borrow some tools and change the cable.
After a quick trip to the nearby Vietnamese border I went back to the road/path the monks had told me about and I turned off along this small trail.
Off I went, not realising what was to come. This was literally just a winding track with a few people and their bicycles plus a surprising number of cows and a few shepherds. After following this track for about 5kms, I came across a bridge towering about 4 metres above the track with a lot of young locals sitting on the top.
I found out all the news of this track, although it didn’t sound real good.
First, was a small one metre wide bamboo bridge about 100m long going around the old cement bridge, followed by a few smaller ones of similar rickety bamboo construction. There was also one made into ramps leading up and down another somewhat forlorn cement bridge towering above the track and surrounding fields. There was also a river to cross by boat. Ahh, a river; another obstacle to overcome. I was on a 250cc motorbike as opposed to the far more common step-through scooters, which are in common use around this part of Asia. I was concerned about my ‘big’ bike on the small boat. That obstacle was still quite a way off as I still had to cross this 100m bamboo bridge right in front of me. I wasn’t confident enough to ride over these rickety bridges, so I walked over with no problems at all. I took a photo of the folk on top of the first bridge accompanied by a lot of laughing and waving.
There were many small bamboo crossings, all of which I walked the bike over and then I arrived at the very interesting bridge four metres high with its pair of one metre wide bamboo ramps. The idea of riding up and over was a little unnerving, so with the engine running to help raise the bike, I walked it up and took in the expansive view. A very impressive and a clear view of the whole area, including the point of confluence, just 6kms across the open flood plain.
The small boat was larger than the normal fishing boats used in many creek and river crossings and so I was able to easily cross this creek with my big bike. This 200m waterway is called a creek. A river in Cambodia is one such as the Mekong and its tributaries, which are around one kilometre wide!
While crossing the creek cum river I saw the remnants of a previous bridge. It was a two-part bridge crossing to some land, which was either an island or a peninsular. All that was left of this 250-metre two part bridge was three part remaining pylons. The bridge(s) was destroyed during the years of war.
Further along this track, a small scooter was moving along so easily and I was bouncing around, that I figured more air would have to be let out of my grossly over inflated back tyre.
After passing through many more cow herds and past their shepherds, we were soon at the village on the road leading to the nearest village to the magical ‘point’. This new road leading to Angkor Borei has only existed for two months and so it is still something very special.
It was now 4pm. I was very tempted to turn right and head back to Phnom Penh in the daylight and try again another time. The monsoon season will soon flood all the fields and allow easy access to any place, including the point of confluence, by boat.
As I had a hammock with me in case I was caught out in the middle of nowhere, it was on to the village and possibly, the point of confluence.
Arriving at the village, I was surprised to recognise the riverbank I had visited 8 years earlier with some friends when we went to see one of Cambodia’s oldest temples at Phnom Da. At the time we visited, the only access was via boat from Takeo, around 20kms away to the west.
Along the road from the village to the temple, I was pleased to see the GPS reading reduced to only 2.46kms to the point of confluence.
I arrived at the hill, Phnom Da, at the base of the 6th century temple and rushed up to take another quick look as my last sighting was 8 years ago.
With assistance from a man at the temple, he found a place for me to stay for the night. This was a newly built brick house, which was to become a guesthouse when they could raise enough money to finish it off. (Some beds and mattresses would also be a good idea.) I swatted mosquitos for a few hours with the family and then went to bed in a room that was close to the temperature of an oven. I tried opening the window, but the smell from the pigs kept just outside was just far too much to endure and I figured a bit of cooking must be what I needed.
I got up shortly after daylight and wandered around in a sleepy daze for a while and then walked over to the local market place for some breakfast noodles. After a filling breakfast, I walked to the creek (river) not so far from the market. I hired a fellow and his small run-about fibreglass boat and 15hp outboard. Although he wasn’t too sure about what he was in for, we set off along the main waterway on which it takes approximately 45 minutes to reach Viet Nam.
After a couple of false starts we managed to find a turn off from the main stream and headed along for about 1½kms and stopped at a point where there were three wooden fishing boats tied to the riverbank. Only 650 metres to go! Off I walked and was soon stopped at a real swampy patch of ground at 537m from the magical point. I doubled back and tried another route and this was looking better at only 472m, but with the swamp before me once again.
I didn’t like the idea of struggling through 500 metres of swamp. As I walked further, I was blocked by yet another small waterway. I went back and organised one of the ‘long-tail’ wooden boats to travel along this promising waterway. We were soon stuck in the reeds when trying to leave the main stream. A bit more motor power and a lot of pulling at the waterweeds, we were off in something close to the right direction along this new waterway. The water was quite shallow and the reeds and the rice paddy banks did cause us a few problems and we had to divert around the more difficult spots using polls and paddles. Even though the two boat drivers didn’t really understand just what this crazy game was all about, they were both right into the idea of getting this funny little telephone-like thing to display all the zeros. Before long we managed to arrive at the magical point of confluence. It was a lot of fun and we had a lot of laughs, even though the two boat drivers were certainly ready to head back to eat quite a while earlier. My ‘emergency’ packs of biscuits helped, but they were not as tasty as a good plate of rice.
So after a few (average quality) photos were taken, we headed back to the parking place for the wooden boats and then into the run-about back to Angkor Borei village.
After a promise to return with my friends in a couple of months to take the easy route by run-about straight to the point of confluence. A headed back to collect my bike and took a short visit to the ‘other’ mountain and then headed back to Phnom Penh over what the local folk call a good road.
The four hours to Phnom Penh was tough. I was tired, hungry and aching after these two days. Back home at 6pm followed by a welcome shower and a huge and an even more welcome dinner.