BANG!! Just after we braked the truck lurched forward. We had been hit from behind. The roads in Cambodia are awful to drive on as they are single lane with lots of traffic. The biggest problem is all the traffic is going at very different speeds. There are lots of tractors on the road doing 20kmph, then there are overloaded trucks doing 40kmph, then other vehicles like us doing 60kmph and then cars and pick ups whizzing along at 80kmph and above. You then add to this mix all the motorbikes and tuk tuks. It is a recipe for disaster as we were about to find out. No one wants to slow down and a lot of overtaking is on a wing and a prayer. We have lost count of the amount of vehicles we have seen been forced off the road due to people overtaking.
Having left Siem Reap after a lovely week we were heading along the road to the appropriately named Battambang. There was a tractor in front of me and as there was a car coming quickly on the other side, I braked to slow down as there was not room to pass. Unfortunately the driver of the delivery truck behind me did not see it this way, he saw me braking as an opportunity to pass me and in my mirror I could see him swing out to pass. Of course on swinging out, he immediately saw the car coming the other way so swung back in. The problem was he had not started to brake, so by the time he pulled in he could not avoid running into the back of us.
The bump did not feel that bad but when I pulled out to inspect the damage I could see the cab of his truck was wrecked. Fortunately no one was hurt. There was also damage to our truck and whilst it did not look that significant on the surface it was going to be a problem. Our rear light was smashed and the wheel carrier had been pushed into the camper body. More seriously the truck had pushed our rear window frame in cracking the box, it was amazing the window had not broke.
I was really annoyed but it was important to stay calm. First the police arrived, then the traffic police and finally the tourist police. They started marking things out and taking statements although they were not interested in my side of the story, they didn’t even want to see any of my documents. Despite it been pretty clear whose fault it was I could see this been turned into the fault of the foreigner. Supposedly I had not be indicating to overtake, which was true as I was not planning on overtaking as I would have hit an oncoming car. After two hours the next step was going to be to all drive back to town for a full report and then for the vehicles to be impounded for up to a month until it could be determined who was at fault. We did not want this to happen so I suggested to the owner of the truck company that we each deal with our own repairs. In the end I ended up paying him some money but nowhere near the cost of his repairs just to be on our way. It was a farce.
Fortunately in Battambang we were meeting Amy and Will who had driven to Cambodia from the UK in their Land Rover. It was good to meet some fellow Overlanders after so long and to have a good chat, a few drinks and forget about the accident.
Battambang is famous for its bamboo railway so we all caught a tuk tuk out to this unique railway. Each “bamboo train” consists of a wooden frame that rest on two bogies with an engine attached. It’s all pretty basic and was originally used to transport rice. We all climbed aboard to watch the sun set over the rice fields. It was a lot of fun and I am sure complied fully with health and safety regulations! As we were watching the sunset another “train” came along. No problem our driver just lifted the wooden platform and the bogies off the track to allow it to pass.
Continuing South East the next day we arrived at the small town of Kompong Chhang which rests on the banks of the Tonle Sap river. From here we were able to get a small boat out to see the floating villages. Whilst it felt a bit strange been paddled around people’s houses it was not a very touristy experience. It was early evening and people were going on with everyday life, cooking, relaxing in a hammock, kids playing and watching tv all suspended above the river.
When we returned we had hoped we might be able to camp in the car park but it was a hive of activity. With it been very wet at the moment we are reluctant to go off hard surfaces as we have seen numerous trucks bogged in the mud but it was too busy to spend the night there. Reluctantly we headed out, as it was getting dark we really needed to find somewhere quickly, the roads are bad enough in the light without driving in the dark. Fortunately less than a kilometre away, Gilly spotted a hotel with a large car park out the back. We pulled in thinking we could pay to camp in the car park. I asked the helpful lady how much and she said $7. I thought this was a bit expensive but realised she had misunderstood when she led me off to see a room. The room had two double beds, a bathroom with hot water a fan and fast wifi and was very clean. It didn’t seem worth trying to find out how much camping might be.
From there it was a long drive down to Otres Beach near Sihanoukville. We pulled into the dirt road by the beach to watch the sunset and decided it was a nice place to camp for the night. However we had been procrastinating long enough and really needed to repair the truck so the next day we checked into a hotel with good hard standing parking and a lovely swimming pool to try and get sorted.
Unfortunately we procrastinated too long and during a heavy rain storm we realised the back of the truck now leaked and our mattress was soaked. The hotel was very helpful in letting us dry everything in their laundry room and we managed to rig up a tarp to stop any more water getting in, we should have done this earlier. We needed a more permanent fix though.
I eventually found a Russian father and son who had a boat building business nearby. They came out to inspect the damage. They said they could do a professional repair but it would take some time and as our window frame is quite specific I was not sure about this. So in the end we agreed on a bodge job. I headed to their workshop where they sealed all the cracks with silicon. It does not look pretty but so far seems to be keeping the rain out and we have had quite a bit of rain to test it. We can no longer use the back window though so it will need to be professionally repaired when we finish the trip. The most fun was pulling the frame holding the spare wheel back out of the rear of the camper body. Initially we attached a tow rope to a tractor and I drove the truck forward. The only affect of this was to pull the tractor. Then we got another lorry that was parked outside and attached the tow rope to his tow bar. With both lorries performing a tug of war we pulled the rack straight.
The only thing I could not fix was the light. I have found a replacement but it is in Bangkok so now we need to work out a way to get it to us.
In between sorting out the truck we spent a pleasant week by the beach. After our colds and the accident we needed a bit of downtime to recharge and regroup for the rest of the journey. Once the truck was “fixed” we felt a lot better. In between the rain storms we enjoyed the wonderful pool as well as walks along the beach and eating out a lot. The 50 cent beers also helped.
On our last night at the beach we caught up with Will and Amy again. They had driven the other way around the Tonle Sap lake. It was a lovely evening sharing stories and it made a real change to have some adult company with similar interests. Time flew by and before we knew it, it was 11pm, certainly time to leave. The only problem was that it was absolutely throwing it down with rain. In amongst the puddles we found a wet tuk tuk driver who reluctantly agreed to ferry us back to our hotel. This time our negotiating position for bargaining the fare was not strong so we just paid the reasonable sum he asked.
Hopefully the rest at the beach has done us good and we are all set to continue the journey ahead as I don’t think the driving and the roads will be getting any better.