Asia | South East Asia | Cambodia | South West Cambodia | Kampot – Day 23 – The Boker Run, Cambodia
Up at six, out by half seven and squished behind an uncommonly large Cambodian moto driver named Cian Pross, I did the Bokor run today while the road to and from it did me.
It didn’t help that Pross’s long arms pushed him back on the seat and it also didn’t help that the seat on Pross’s motorbike was a bit smaller than average (although the bike itself was so new that even the spedometer and fuel indicator were working – the first time I’ve seen any such gauge flicker in Cambodia). I found myself having to lean back slightly with legs splayed wide and this put strain on joints I was never aware of before, somewhere between the top of my femur and my pelvis.
Anyway, Bokor Hill Station, our destination is at 1100m above sea level, while Kampot, our starting point is maybe 11m above sea level. The entire intervening altitude was covered in that splayed pose along a 30km long ‘road’ which more closely resembled a dry riverbed, studded with scheming soft-ball sized rocks. Pross actually did an excellent job of finding the best line, avoiding major hazards and managed to keep from spilling us even once. Still, it was a rump-reducing ride. At places the jungle encroached on the road, greedy leaves grabbing and slapping at us as we passed. Crunching kilometre by kilometre, we wound our way up into the jungle and approached the clouds. Finally around kilometre 24 the road’s gentle slope flattened out, the tall trees stunted into sparser and shorter cousins and we reached the plateau.
A few kilometres along we reached the fork in the road, watched over by a Buddha in a shrine, and we headed to the right towards the Popokvil Falls. A 20-minute walk through almost moor-like fields brought us to the quite lovely water plunge. Us, and the ubiquitous troop of teenage monks who seem to inhabit all corners of Cambodia. These monks were particularly friendly and welcoming. They showed me the route down to the base of the second tier of the falls along a mist slicked rock slope. They continued right into the pool at the base of the 20m cascade. They bathed, I photo-ed.
After an hour or more, Pross and I headed back to the bike and the bum-bruise renewed until we arrived at the cloud-ghosted shell of an outpost known as Bokor Hill Station. Built as a cool-climate get-away by the french colonizers of the 1920’s, and over-run by the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge at various times since, Bokor has been inhabited by only the whistling wind and creeping cloud for decades. It is a stark place where buildings bespeak the pain of their age, exposure and lack of care through their groaning decaying walls, dripping mossy ceilings and empty window frames. Perched right on the edge of the plateau which proceeds to drop away about 3000 feet to the coastal plain, the haunting hotel echoed a faded glory, left to rot as the billowing clouds floated up and over the cliff to cover the structure with a cool misty shroud. At times it felt as if the clouds were trying to hide this now sorry site from the rest of the world, to swallow it, and us, whole; at times they succeeded adding the effect of heaven’s half-light phantom effect to the spooky scene.
The trip back down was an exercise in determination and endurance as I tried to find creative combinations of posterior and hands to support my weight in the little space available. I almost couldn’t get off the bike when we finally arrived back in town.