I am lying on a swinging daybed beside a river, gently sautéing in my own sweat. The hot wind has pushed clouds over the mountains and muted the light, but the dampness of the air still clings to my hairline, my eyelashes, my salty skin.
This is one of the many faces of Cambodia. Fifty metres away, my KTM is parked under trees, its tyres dipped in ochre from the ride in. Battered and screwed straight into the tail plastics is my New South Wales number plate, reminding me of how far we’ve come. Five years on, I still have the curiosity which leads me to far flung places, but I no longer have the hole in my heart which kept me on the run. I can sleep at night now, and the nightmares do not come.
* * *
My 690 awoke like sleeping beauty from her two year covid-time slumber. New fluids, new filters, and a rebuilt rear shock put her back on the road again. We left Phnom Penh in the mid-afternoon, late as usual. I had spent hours fiddling with the bastardised pannier set up that had been left with the bike. It isn’t mine – it will be returned to its owner when I fly back to Thailand at the end of the month – but in the meantime it’s all I have and it’s driving me nuts. I hate worrying about whether my gear is going to end up around my ears every time I hit the whoops. Definitely room for improvement there.
My rear sprocket is worn and needs replacement, the teeth thin but not yet wave-like. Although I’ve already dropped a tooth on the front sprocket, the 690’s gearing is still too high for tight, slow stuff. I will switch to a 50 tooth sprocket on the back, if I can do the magic required to successfully import one from the US. Wish me luck.
Last night was a fairly standard slog down the main highway, with nothing more exciting to report than the deranged overtaking techniques of Cambodians at dusk. Apparently if you flash your lights before pulling out onto the wrong side of the road, the laws of physics no longer apply to you. I am less stubborn than I used to be, and quicker to get off the bitumen to give way.
I even got shaken down by the police before I left Phnom Penh, with a hasty discount to my fine when I asked for a receipt. Maybe they didn’t notice that my gopro was on and filming everything; or maybe they simply don’t care. Anyway, I will not be sharing the footage; this is not a place to make enemies. There was a time when I would have cried and fought over the small fine, but now it is just water under the bridge. Move on, try to find a way to recoup the money lost, and be grateful for the smallness of the misfortune.
Indeed the gods of motorcycling continue to smile upon me: I have a wonderful motorcycle, wonderful friends, and the whole world ahead of me.
Today I spent by the riverside ordering motorcycle parts and talking Thailand tours with prospective customers. As the light faded, I ordered a beer and watched the afternoon light exploding through the amber bubbles. It’s all good; the world may be going to hell in a handbasket, but I am grateful for the moments of tranquility which I am afforded.