For the second year running Paleriders – Cambodia ran a charity ride for the Jesus School in Phnom Penh. The school was founded in 2002 by Pastor Meng Aun Hour after he visited the Thnot Chrum rubbish dump. He had a vision of creating a school nearby to educate the children of the dump workers so that they may have better opportunities in life. The dump has closed long ago but the school continues to serve the local community. There are currently 213 students enrolled, from Kindergarten to Grade 6. Their education is free, with uniforms, text books and school supplies provided. The Jesus School also provides assistance for the children to enrol at a Government High School after they complete Grade 6. This year we only had 4 participants, Brett, Jim and I riding and John in the support vehicle. Despite the lack of numbers we still managed to raise $6500 USD for the school. This was largely because another rider, Tom Mauloni; paid upfront for the trip but had to pull out due to business commitments. However, he very generously donated the full amount to the cause. Thank you so much mate! I thought I’d put together a blog post about the ride, and I’ve also included commentary and images from Jim Elliot, thanks mate. I’m also cheating a bit and using the Facebook posts I uploaded each day on the ride.
Day 1 – Brett Hardwick arrived in the morning from Australia so we left Phnom Penh around 11 am which wasn’t a bad thing as the traffic had died down to a mildly chaotic level. After arriving in Kampong Cham; I spent the afternoon buying steel and fasteners for a bridge repair project at Kar Chuoy Dai Orphanage which was commencing just after the ride finished. The rest of the crew relaxed and took it easy. All good, the weather had been fine so far, there was a little bit of rain expected overnight but the forecasts said it should be fine for most of the ride.
Jim Elliott – “First day on the road was an adrenalin rush; the rules don’t take long to learn. There is only one – ‘Might Is Right’. Stayed at Kampong Cham then followed the Mekong making a ferry crossing late morning, that night was Kratie then onto Mondolkiri Province where we stayed in a jungle camp”.
Day 2 – we had an easy day riding from Kampong Cham to Kratie and then to the dolphin pool at Kampi. So far so good, the bikes were running well. John Boyd was keeping Sreyda and the boys in the car entertained.
Day 3 and 4 – we had an easy ride from Kratie to Sen Monorom where we met up with the volunteer staff from Elephant Valley Project in the afternoon. After all the admin stuff was done we followed them out to their base camp, about 10 km out of town. With no internet and generator power only from 5:30 pm to 9 pm, it was peaceful, serene and we all had a great night’s sleep. Next morning we walked in the forest with Jemma and Claire, and spent time with two elephants, Milot and Sambo. After lunch we rode to Banlung, about 200 km north, and cooled off in Yeak Laom volcanic lake. That night the rain bucketed down.
Jim Elliot – “After saying g’day to some ageing elephants and lunch we rode onto Banlung in Ratanakiri Province were we got to cool off in a volcanic lake and watch the sun go down”.
Day 5 – an easy ride from Banlung to Stung Treng and then preparing for the boat trip next day, when we travelled to Voeun Sien village to repair the village water pump which hadn’t worked for about 3 years. I spent the afternoon buying the pump parts and doing some chassis repairs to the support vehicle while the boys relaxed and explored Stung Treng. Jim had a new set of wheel bearings fitted to his bike and checked out the largest wooden house in Cambodia, owned by a government official.
Jim Elliott – “We left the mountains for Stung Treng where I had new bearings fitted to the front wheel and visited a home built to excess by some Government official. It would have cost more than a hundred schools. Resources not going where they’re needed?”
Day 6 – an eventful day, an early start from Stung Treng but we soon stopped due to the horrendous noises coming from the diff. Nothing obviously wrong was found so it was put down to the extra load and a bit of wear in the limited slip clutches so we carried onto O Svay village. From there we travelled 15 km down river in boats to Voeun Sien, a village on a Mekong River island where we repaired their village water pump which had been out if action for 3 years. It was soon bringing up clean, fresh water which will make a big difference as they’ve had to haul water up from the river since the pump failed. After lunch we visited their school to hand out books, pencils, toothpaste and brushes kindly donated by John Boyd and Sokountheara Hon. Unfortunately John was nipped by a dog so he returned to Stung Treng for a rabies shot while the rest of us travelled by boat to Don Khon in Laos. All enjoyed staying at Senghaleune Resort and we caught up with John next day back in Stung Treng.
Jim Elliott – “Leaving the bikes chained up in Stung Treng we travelled to O Svay Village were we left the van and travelled 15 km down river by boat to Voeun Sien Village to fix a water pump & visit the school. At the village school John was snacked on by a dog after standing on it. He went off and had some vacs, all OK. Giving books, pencils and toothbrushes to the kids”.
Day 7 – another eventful day, starting out with a ride over to Don Det in Laos on a couple of really crap scooters with no brakes, stopped at Ban Hangkhone primary school to give books and stuff to about 40 kids, then a tuk tuk on the Cambodian side to Sopheakmith Waterfall, boat ride back to O Svay and then back to Stung Treng to catch up with “Mad Dog” John Boyd. He was OK, he’d started on the course of rabies vaccine and was in good spirits.
Jim Elliott – “Further up river to Laos and a stay on Don Khon Island, no visa required. Hired some small bikes without brakes, they didn’t even have the calipers on the front but they got us across the island. While in Laos we stopped at Ban Hangkhone School and gave away the last of the books and pencils 26 books 43 pupils! Life can be tough sometimes but we didn’t see any tears only big smiles! Out of Laos and a visit to falls on the Cambodian side of the border”
Day 8 – a nice 320 km ride from Stung Treng to Siem Reap, with a stopover at Koh Ker Temple for lunch.
Jim Elliott – “320 km ride to Siem Reap, the bike handling much better with the new wheel bearings. Stopped for lunch at Koh Ker, one of the more mysterious temples in Preah Vihear Province. Fantastic views from the top”.
Day 9 – I hit the road at 4:30 am to do the 400 km round trip home to swap my Transalp for the XR650. This was because in a couple of days we were planning to go across the Cardamom Mountains and it may have still been a bit muddy. Meanwhile Brett Hardwick and Jim Elliott visited Angkor Wat and a few other temples and John Boyd went to the doctor for another rabies shot. We met up that night for dinner in Pub Street and wandered around the Night Markets.
Day 10 – a 180 km ride from Siem Reap to Battambang, an awesome lunch at The Kitchen then a ride on the bamboo train. Sadly it will probably be gone by next year’s ride, the government are reopening the line from Phnom Penh to Poipet to connect with the Thai rail system. The plan was to split up on day 11; Brett, Jim, Vien and I were to ride across the Cardamom Mountains while Sreyda, John and Coit went in the car by the main highway. We were to meet them in Koh Kong on day 12.
Jim Elliott – “Bamboo Railway, great fun thundering along about 30 centimetres off the ground on petrol driven rail cars, 2 axles, frame, bamboo mat to sit on; nothing bolted together the thing comes apart in seconds when a car comes the other way one dismantles to allow the other to pass”.
Day 11 – things didn’t go to plan, we were ready to leave the hotel in Battambang when Jim’s bike wouldn’t start. We couldn’t get it going so ended up calling a mechanic. He worked on it unsuccessfully for a couple of hours so we ended up leaving it there to be returned to Phnom Penh by taxi. By then it was too late to go to O Saom so we travelled down Road 5 to Oudong, and the bike shop sent a new bike there for Jim.
Day 12 – Road 51 from Oudong to Road 4 near Kampong Speu was bloody awful, if I knew it was that bad I’d never have taken the car that way. I believe it’s not that old but overloaded trucks have destroyed it, there are potholes a metre deep in places. It was a relief to get onto Road 4, even with all the semi-trailers and idiot drivers. Soon after we stopped for a late breakfast in Kampong Speu and the rest of the ride to Koh Kong was fairly uneventful.
Day 13 was a free day in Koh Kong. Jim arranged a boat trip to Koh Kong Island but the rest of us were happy to have a late breakfast and relax for the day. Brett and I went for a ride over to the Thai border and caught up with Nick Berry, who was laid up with a cut foot from a grinding accident. John rented a scooter and went exploring in the border market.
Jim Elliot – “Koh Kong Province; another lay day. Did an island excursion snorkeling & kayaking, BBQ barracuda and pineapple for lunch, got a bit rough on the return trip. Only a small boat and a big swell in the Gulf Of Thailand”.
Day 14 – John had mixed up the dates for the ride and had booked his return flight too early so he left us early in the morning to return to Phnom Penh. We had a 300 km ride on good roads from Koh Kong to Kep, the wind gusts around Kampot blew the bikes all over the road but we made good time and were there for lunch. I was looking forward to resting up next day as I’d had a stomach bug since we left Siem Reap and felt pretty bad.
Day 15 – a free day in Kep, I made the most of it and rested up. Jim went exploring the old French villas and ended up tasting beers at an art gallery.
Jim Elliott – “Kep was one of my favourite places, it has a rustic feel to it. Jungled mountains, a quiet beach, back in the day luxurious villas dotted the hillside, a few still remain, now ruined vestiges of a bygone era. Oceanfront Crab Market, shacks serving excellent seafood, pleasant little cafes, it’s a foodie’s fantasy. French villas constructed between 1930 and 1960 were abandoned during the war, taken over by the elite of the Khmer Rouge before fleeing in defeat they destroyed and burned most of this fine architecture from the French Colonial period”.
Day 16 of November 2016 Charity Ride. Our last day, we had a fairly relaxed ride from Kep to Phnom Penh and returned the rental bikes. Later we met Meng Aun Hour and Polin Paul Tho at the Jesus School so that Brett and Jim could have a look and afterwards we visited a young man, Veasna, who Sreyda and I sponsored at the Jesus School a few years ago. He lives in the slum area behind the school where 32 houses burnt down in July, his included. A few NGOs have now built new homes for them. That night we had dinner at Meng’s home and presented him with the money raised on this year’s ride. This will be used for school expenses such as teacher’s salaries, uniforms for the kids, books, stationery etc. Money was received from the following people:
Tom Mauloni ~ $3000 USD
Jimmy Mack ~ $800 USD
John Boyd ~ $800 USD
Brett Hardwick ~ $800 USD
Sreyda Meas & I ~ $800 USD
Tivhor Balonzo Cantor ~ $150 USD
Ross Whitewood ~ $75 USD ($100 AUD)
Lola Holcombe ~ $75 USD ($100 AUD)
TOTAL FOR 2016 ~ $6500 USD.
Thanks everyone for your support.
Jim Elliott – “Cambodia was magical, Paleriders Charity Ride a fulfilling experience, awesome food, some manic riding, travelled through 19 of the 25 provinces covering around 2500 km and raising money for the Jesus school in Phnom Penh as well as assisting local communities along the way, fixed a village pump, visited schools ,gave away books, pencils, toothbrushes and showed some under privileged kids that someone cares”.
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