Friday, February 7, 2014

10. Kratie - Phnom Penh

345 km

Green: Acceptable to good road
Red: Nightmare


"Living Nightmare". (Phnom Penh Post)

After leaving my "lovely" guest house in Kratie and a quick breakfast in town (I wouldn't have eaten at the Riverside Inn if it was free), the good, yet narrow road without too much traffic follows the Mekhong until it forks to the left to be called Highway 73. This is actually a major connector from south (Phnom Penh) to the north, but by the look of this rural road you wouldn't have guessed.

All is well until after some 150 kilometers 73 joins the major Highway 7/6a. 
Nothing prepares you for a motorcycle riding experience such as this one.

The road is a nightmare, no matter which season. Now during the dry season it is thick clouds of dust, limiting the visibility to about 30 feet. Since here you share the road with heavy construction equipment, trucks and everything else including oxcarts, it wasn't possible for me to stop and take a picture, afraid I would get rear-ended by something bigger than me. The road resembles the "surface of Mars", in billowing clouds of a sand storm.

The Post writes quiet correctly: "But, in the apocalyptic landscapes beyond Phnom Penh’s city limits, where the terrain of Route 6a at best resembles quarry paths in a mining town and at its worst the surface of Mars during a dust storm, it is difficult to picture the ultra-modern future Mr. Hun Sen (Prime Minister) evoked."

I have to keep the speed up despite this washboard road since slowing down means you become vulnerable and even more covered in dust by the passing trucks or other vehicles. Sometimes it is hard to believe my eyes. The path is actually wide (the finished Chinese-designed and financed road will be more than 20 meters wide), which means that drivers drive wherever they think the least bumpy ride can be assumed. This means that vehicles come towards you in your lane also, and they come out of the dust cloud like an apparition, right in front of you.

There isn't much choice though; I have to continue this hellish ride. After some six hours the traffic gets much denser, I am in the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The road becomes more compacted dirt and soon after, already within city limits, it is asphalted.

The ride from hell is over.

After checking in at the hotel, a shower and some rest I need to take the protectors out of the motorcycle jacket and wash it in the bathtub. I need to do this myself, since hand-washing is recommended. The tub looks soon like a mud bath in a spa. I have to wash the jacket a couple of times.
Everything else goes into the laundry.

I disassemble the fairing parts on the right side of the BMW, take off the air intake snorkel, and remove the washable K&N filter element. The filter is a sight to behold: It looks like a piece of heavy chocolate cake. I wonder how air still made it through this piece!

I bring all the parts to my room and start washing them, especially the filter element. It needs to dry overnight. In the meantime I tape the exposed air intake with my black Gorilla duct tape.

The next morning the motorcycle jacket and the filter element are dry, the filter gets a new coat of K&N oil and everything is put back together again.


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