This trip has happened in the winter 2012-2013. I published photos from this trip, but without the history behind them. Can’t promise that dialogues are exact.
B.: Let’s go to Cambodia on Tết (Vietnamese New Year)!
Y.: OK! But what are we going to do there? We have only a week of day-offs.
B.: We can ride motorbikes somewhere. But not visiting Angkor Wat and other touristic places.
Y.: Cool. Find a hard route then.
B.: Well, I’ve found some “Death Road”.
A flight from Hanoi to Saigon, a night in a stuffy hotel, and in the morning I, Bachan and Duong are taking a bus to Phnom Penh.
B.: Hmm, I’m not sure about those scooters.
Y.: Yes, they look unreliable. Let’s rent those enduros. It looks like somebody takes care of them. Nevertheless, we are going to cross “Death Road”!
I’m trying to pull clutch smoothly on Honda CRF 250. Bachan, at the same time, is trying to climb onto his huge Suzuki Djebel. A Cambodian shorty is clibming onto the motorbike and keeping its balance, stretching his toes. That’s how you have to do it!
Y. (still agonizing over clutch on a next crossroad): Oh, s-s-shit, seems it was a bad idea.
Endless red-yellow dusty roads of Cambodia. We’ve got used to motorbikes. Feel confident.
Y.: Bachan, Duong, something is smoking on your bike!
B., D.: Where?!
Y.: Over there, under plastic stuff.
The bags have pushed plastic to the muffler, plastic became melting, now there is a big hole in the bag. Duong is throwing out a burnt jersey from the bag.
A walk in jungle with elephants.
Y.: Are you shooting?
B. (with GoPro on the head): Yes, I am.
Y.: Have you shot that moment, when I overtook you yesterday on the highway?
B.: Yes, I did, I did. It’s the fifth time you are asking.
We are coming to the most difficult part of the route. There is a trail through a burnt forest, it’s full of sand (20-30-40 cm). From time to time we fall down from the motorcycles if we reduce speed. We are watching a jammed car on the way. The driver and his mate can’t do anything with it the last two days.
Getting darker. This hell has to end soon. Bachan and Duong are going ahead of me. My motorcycle is becoming broken. Mobile phone can’t find the network. I’m waiting. They are coming back. The motorcycle still isn’t starting.
B.: Mmm, so what shall we do? Maybe a rope?
Y.: Good idea. But we have no rope.
D.: It’s dark already.
Sleeping in the forest. Terribly want to drink. After two hours someone is passing by. He’s giving us water.
In the next two hours another guy is passing by. We’re explaining our problem. He’s promising to come back with a rope. He makes a bonfire, then he leaves. We are lying on the road, anyway almost no one drives here.
Terribly want to drink.
B.: Oh, look, he’s coming back!
The guy has brought us a rope.
But there is one more surprise: a problem with the gear train on Bachan’s motorbike. We can’t go faster than 10 km/h.
We’ve reached a river. There is a small shop on the bank, where we can buy drinks. We can’t get enough. The seller is putting more and more bottles and cans into the ice, but we are drinking more and more.
We are rolling the motorbikes on a raft. One clumsy motion and Bachan’s motorbike is rolling from a narrow board to the river. Luckily, it isn’t deep there.
A truck driver is agreeing to drive us and motorbikes to the nearest big city. Tens of hands are helping to lift the motorbikes on the top, the truck is full of wheat sacks.
They fix Bachan’s motorcycle quite fast. But mine is a problem. They don’t have proper spare parts.
Local guides take us to show around.
I’m getting back the bike. I can start it, but mechanic gives no guarantee it’ll keep working. After 80 km the bike is moveless again.
We are coming to Phnom Penh by a minivan. Our bikes are fastened to the rear door.
Not the best mood.
Bachan is placing a chair on the street, right in front of the guesthouse, and drinking beer in silence. Tomorrow we are flying back to Hanoi.