Welcome to the second and final episode of our mini-series “Motorbiking Kampot”. Last time you found out about our trip to Bokor Mountain National Park and that at the end of the day we headed back down the mountain excited, already planning our next motorbiking adventure.
Well, let’s pick things up there again, shall we? Getting off the mountain and to the outskirts of town had been a doddle and we were coasting, keeping an eye on our speed and others around us. But they say road accidents are always caused by other people don’t they, and, true to their word, some asshole came shooting out from a junction in front of Em when she had the right of way. Em had to brake suddenly and had a bit of a fall, cutting her knee and leg quite badly. Not the best end to a great day, but you have to be thankful in these type of situations it wasn’t worse! It also served as a useful warning that you should always drive sensibly, wear a helmet and wear long protective clothing when motorbiking, as those will get torn first before your skin does!
Anyway, Em didn’t feel like any motorbiking after that incident and so we gave her motorbike back the next day (luckily the bike was fine and so we didn’t have to risk any disproportionate fine for repairs). Being the selfish big shit that I am, I kept mine – although I did spend the morning driving to town and collecting medical supplies for Em and making sure she was comfortable. Then I was off into the countryside.
First stop, The Secret Lake. An ugly beginning, dug by the forced and hungry hands of Khmer Rouge labourers, the Secret Lake is now a beautiful watery oasis in the midst of miles of farm land to one side and mountains on the other.
To get there I drove east out of town for about 10km towards Kep and went across a large bridge. About 400m on the left after the bridge, I took a smaller road and went straight on. I sped over bumpy, dusty paths, with kids screaming “hello, hello” at me, looking for the lake. There were no sign posts though and so I asked a local after driving for a few kilometres. Some pointing and hand signals later I gathered that I should keep going and then turn left at some unknown point. So I did that. I soon came to a bridge over a little river (it’s the only bridge you will come across after heading down the country road – so it should be easy to find if you are going to the lake). Just before the bridge, on the left, there is a lane and, at the end of that, a steep hill. On instinct, I took a scoot to the top of the hill and there stretched out before me like a glistening sheet of beaded glass was the Secret Lake.
I took a drive around the lake, stopped now and again to take photos of the stunning scenery and got lost down some winding lanes. I met a local on a motorbike who stopped to laugh at me – in a nice way, I think. After some bemusing attempts at communicating with each other, he doffed his hat and rode on, constantly creaking his neck round to get another look at me as he drove away. I made my way back to the top of the little hill where I started, got off the bike and climbed up some steps up to the top of a bigger hill. The exotic countryside stretched hazily in the heat way way into the distance. So I just sat there at the top of the steps for a half hour, staring, drinking water and taking the occasional picture.
Next up on my loose agenda was Phnom Sor, or The White Mountain. Only 9km north of Kampot, the top of Phnom Sor apparently offers great views of the town and surrounding countryside. I say apparently because I spent ages trying to find the mountain (I had no map or directions to it – I recommend you get both from your hostel/hotel before setting off!) and when I did, I couldn’t find the steps to climb it! I rode through little villages dotted all around its base, but couldn’t figure out where to start the ascent. After about an hour I found a little path that looked promising. As I pulled up on my bike, two wild looking dogs ran out of the darkness of the tree-lined path and howled at me. I didn’t want to get a bite for invading their turf and I had had enough of the White Mountain by that stage, so I made my getaway back towards town.
Phnom Sor didn’t look like much from the ground, especially through a camera lens – here are a couple of wildlife shots I took near the mountain for your viewing pleasure instead…
I couldn’t see much life about the village at the time, it was about 4pm, maybe the residents were all having a sleep before heading out on the boats at dusk. So I turned back, went into town and crossed the old bridge and drove south again towards the salt fields. You have to cross a bridge to get there and soon after the bridge the road goes a bit mental, so be sure of your bike’s and your back’s durability before attempting the ride!
Once you get to the salt fields the bone shattering drive becomes worth it, as the miles and miles of stark, shiny fields all serving just one purpose are quite beautiful, in a North Korean kind of way. After a walking around for a while, tasting the salt and shaking my head in amazement that salt is actually made in fields, I grew bored as ultimately salt is not actually that fascinating.
I camped out on the bridge for a while, took some photos and watched village life unfold – boats getting mended, people bathing in the river and milling about their shabby balconies. That was fascinating, although I was starting to feel guilty about leaving Em on her own all day. When I made the short journey back to the hostel, she was fine lazing in bed watching her favourite TV shows!
So with my guilt abated and as I had some petrol left in the tank, I wasn’t going to waste it. To the north of our hostel (Bodhi Villa, on the opposite side of the river to town) there is a spot in the river where it’s shallow enough to bath without being dragged away. It’s called the rapids (although in dry season don’t expect any white water rafting!) and it’s frequented mostly by locals who chill out there with beer and picnics by the many food stalls and a large Buddha shrine.
The sun was slowly setting while I floated on my back in the water and I couldn’t have found a more relaxing place to unwind and cool down after a day out on the motorbike.
Hope you have enjoyed our “Motorbiking Kampot” mini-series and that you now feel compelled to jump on a bike and see what the area has in store for you. There is so much more there and we’d love to hear of other places you discover!