I’m walking down the street in Kampot when I see my friend sitting out the front of Milano Pizza. I cross over and take the empty seat next to him, and we chat about the water pump on his chopped Vulcan. There’s maybe some gunk in the system – it’s not cooling the bike properly – he’ll finish the job tonight, when the sun’s gone down and the coolness settles over the town. If you don’t have air conditioning, the midday heat in Kampot is unforgiving.
While I sit, I can feel drops of sweat rolling down the backs of my legs. The feeling of movement irritates me momentarily – I look down to see if there’s an insect – but there are just clear baubles of perspiration. It’s the hot season, the time of year when you shower three times a day just to sluice the sweat from your skin.
Weather like this always reminds me how happy I am to be in Asia. Yes, there might be a rivulet of sweat running down my breastbone but imagine if I were still sitting in the arctic air conditioning of a Sydney law office? Some inconveniences are to be cherished if only for the freedom they represent.
* * *
I’m in Kampot, on the southern coast of Cambodia. If I climb up the hills behind town, I can see the sea; but the river also has beaches, offering a sheltered riparian alternative to the wind tossed coast. I rolled into town two days ago and walked in on a group of the local Rebels MC having lunch. They invited me to a party that night and I went, happily, for an evening of talking motorcycle adventures with riders from all over the world.
I followed that with a day out on the trails with the very kind Dennis, who volunteered his time and petrol to show me around the sandy tracks of Kampot. It was a fabulous opportunity for me to get reacquainted with the 690 and develop confidence when faced with a sea of sand.
There followed some days of exploration and some days of rest.
I was feeling inordinately tired and found myself sleeping until 7am, crashed out for ten hours or more. My friends invited me out to drink tequila but I was already fast asleep, melting into the hard guesthouse mattress.
Why so tired? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. The privilege of traveling alone is that you can rest when you are tired.
Yesterday, I was gentle with myself, making a date with seaside. In the morning I went to visit my friend Alexei, who is from Siberia.
He has piercing blue eyes, stories of seafaring and resourcefulness to match. We sat in front of the fan, drank tea (me) and whisky (him). The air was sweet with the smell of fermenting passionfruit and molasses which drifted from his rum distillery across the backyard.
In the afternoon I rode to the sea, and checked into a nice guest house for the Khmer New Year. I could hear people celebrating in the early evening but I was tired again – and so I slept.
Today, I celebrate quietly with a cold cold beer. It is not a good day to ride – festivities mean more drunk drivers than usual, and lord knows Cambodian traffic is wild enough. So today I rest, and tomorrow I ride.