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Archive for February 15th, 2013

A Drag Race on the High Seas

Posted by TravellingStrom on February 15, 2013

After a pancake breakfast I got my stuff together for a day tour in the country. The number of people going would decide the transport, either by TukTuk or minibus, as it turns out we used the minibus and all the seats. It was a mixed group, a few Aussies, some Brits, French, Dutch and of course we had a Cambodian driver and guide. It was going to be a full day, with a trip to Rabbit Island after lunch. First off we headed to the local salt farms, these use evaporative ponds to concentrate the sea salt. We have them near my home town at a place called Port Alma, the difference being, these salt farms here are hand harvested and are the subject of one of the statues in town.

There was nobody working today, well, not harvesting anyway. The guide was a bit hard to understand, his English was very good, better than my Khmer, but my ears could not tune him in, I bet the French had real trouble. Actually it was strange, because there were better speaking guides who looked after the bookings, but there you go, it turns out he was practising on us, like work experience or something 😉

We only stayed here 5 minutes before heading off to some caves along some extremely dusty roads, the red dust turned the greenery red as well as all the village dwellings and stalls along the way. That is not a pleasant way to live selling red dusted fruit and vegies, let alone the meat and fish!

When we got to the caves it seemed I had gotten my wires crossed, there were 350 steps up to a temple in a cave up top, but I had heard of the buildings in the lower caves and tried to find them by myself. I failed, but I also never had to do them steps either 😉

We then backtracked along the dusty potholed road to the main potholed road and I mean potholes, some of these are beauties! from the Kampot Survival Guide – The pothole was invented in Kampot and is still its greatest export. Initially devised for traffic control it’s popularity recently soared with Cambodia’s adoption of ‘free range golf’. A game where you hit a golf ball in any direction with the intent to end its travel in a pot hole! 🙂 The Kampot Survival Guide is a brilliant source of info mixed with wit, so anything in italics will be sourced from there. The group of French oldies were behind me which means behind the rear axle and they were the unsprung weight!!! Every time we hit a hole(every 2 seconds) they were groaning and crying out as they were launched from their sets with kidneys and bones going in different directions at the same time, it was hard enough for the rest of us, but that is the way the roads are here 😦 Just a few kms along the main ‘pothole’ towards the town of Kep we stopped at a traditional fishing village. This is where the size of the fish caught can be measured in mm’s, the holes in the nets were smaller than the drag nets we use back home!

These boats go out to the fishing grounds with only two people on board and the fish are dropped into the bilge. We headed off but not far as we had to stop at a shop, check out this next picture.

Yep, they did not have enough fuel. Number 4 on the complaints list. This is supposed to be a tour, so why was the fuel not purchased prior to the tour start? The aircon was pretty much useless, we were packed in like sardines and having to stop so soon after getting the bus cool and letting in the hot air was silly. Plus the windows were filthy, they could have been washed so we could see out even if they got dirty later! Anyway, rant over, we took another dirt road which was worse than the earlier one and ended up after an uncomfortable 15 minutes at a pepper farm. Cambodia has been harvesting pepper for around 1,000 years so they know a bit about it. When the French colonised the country, this region and its special, arguably worlds best, pepper was exported to Europe. They produce Black, White and Red pepper on the farm we visited. There seemed to be nobody around and we just wandered in.

Here is how you make black pepper. Take the green pepper corns and sun dry them, they then end up being those little black crinkled things that you put in a pepper grinder for cracked pepper.

This is how you make white pepper, when the green pepper ripens they turn yellow/red, they soak the yellow and red ones after hand picking them and the skin falls off, what is left is the white kernel. I have just squeezed the kernel out for the photo.

To make red pepper, you harvest the red ripe kernels and sun dry them, these are the hottest of all. White, Black and Red pepper corns, you can nearly smell the heat off the red photo 🙂

They have mango trees here as well as Durian, which is a very large spiky fruit you eat with your mouth, not your nose. It has a distinctly stinky odour, but it tastes great. This fruit is banned on some buses and planes and in some areas of the country. In fact I saw signs to that effect next to street sellers in Chiang Mai, Thailand but forgot to take photos then as well. The Durian trees were in the flower stage at the moment and the trees are so small!! I was amazed at how small compared to the size of the fruit, but then I noticed the flowers(and thus the fruit) are not in the canopy but along the main branches and near the trunk. The main roundabout in Kampot has a humongous Durian as its centre piece.

During the Pol Pot times these farms were abandoned and mostly died out, but a few poles survived and since 1996 this particular farm was resurrected and is back to full production. Another rant, there was no water available, everyone on the bus was dying of thirst, but none of the places we had been had water for sale? And the tour bus did not have any on board either 😦 Lucky for use we were heading for lunch in the small town of Kep. This is an old French colonial town and resorts were established here long ago, most have fallen into ruin and many old shells can be seen around town. The tour bus deposited us at the main beach front area and herded us inside a seaside restaurant, probably with kick back involved. I was amazed at the prices, we were not in an upmarket joint, just a shack really but they were selling basic food stuffs for $6-8 which is more than twice the normal price! I told the guide I was going to wander down to the market and get different food and there were many choices down there. Water was my main goal, or at least a cold drink. In the end, I chose fresh prawns for lunch and as I was trying to work out how to get them cooked, three of the other people on the tour met up with me and we ended up going shares in a Kilo, very cheap at $13 🙂

Dried prawns and other seafood like fish and squid

Fresh Durian

My lunch 🙂

My two drinks, I found a can of Sour Sop and the other was freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.

My lunch companions, Marty, Trent and Kat

Total cost for the prawns, cooking them and drinks was about $4.50 each, not a bad result and it was fun eating in the market 🙂 We met back at the bus at 1pm and headed to the dock where after a short wait we embarked the cover less open decked boat for the 40 minute run to Rabbit Island. The boat we were in had two motors but he only used the one. Half way across we were passed by the other boat, also with one motor, after some encouragement on my part the skipper fired up the second and we were soon in the lead again 🙂 That added some fun which you can hear in the movie 😆


We arrived on the island not long after, with two motors going we were flying 🙂 As soon as I was on the beach I headed off to the eastern end for the main goal of the day for me. Rabbit Island geocache 🙂 Yep, my bike was useless for this one and it looked like an interesting day trip to attempt to claim it. It was only 500m away up the track that circumnavigates the island. We had two hours here before meeting up at 4pm for the trip back, so plenty of time to find this and relax on the beach. It was a short walk, very hot though and finding the cache was easy. Unfortunatly, once again, a tropically located cache has been affected by its placement and the wet season. It was sitting on the ground, so obviously rain and mud has engulfed it and the log and contents were soaked. 😦

As you can see I have spread the cache contents on the rocks to dry, but after 5 minutes I thought, ‘bugger this for a joke’!! So I did the smart thing, packed it all up, then went and found a nice spot next to a bar and had a few beers while letting the stuff dry 🙂 I left it as long as I could but the logbook was still a tad damp before I signed it and repacked the cache, placing the log book in a separate plastic bag I found and then the whole cache in another. I walked back up and rather than leave it on the ground, placed a flat rock under it before re-hiding it ready for the next player 🙂 Then I went and found the rest of the group, near another bar and also partaking of cool ones. I had one beer with them but it was not long before we had to leave, I had judged the timing accurately 🙂 I passed a boat high and dry with the winch still set up, they used a block and tackle on a pole held behind two palm trees which was also anchored to the ground 🙂

The trip back was smooth and the bus ride back was bumpy and dusty but we got back OK around half 5 or so. After a very welcome shower I went down for a feed at the Rusty Keyhole and had quite a few coldies. There was still no sign of the Bundy Rum, so I tried some Bacardi Gold and another brew, it was OK and I was well shattered before I got to bed. So, the tour was a bit rough around the edges but it suited me for what I wanted to do. I guess I could have ridden to Kep myself and just grabbed a boat across and then back again, but some of the things I saw and learned about today were interesting. 🙂

Cheers from Krabpot Kampot

Posted in Around The World, Eurasia | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

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