working at the Cambodian branch. Smart, funny, driven, courageous, she’s one of the most incredible people I’ve met so far and we immediately clicked over dinner, drinks and laughs the night we met. Both having stayed a couple weeks at Eighty8, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to be ambassadors for our amazing hostel and already formed a close group of friends that are also heading south for the holidays. Ready for adventure, we kick the bike started and rumble off into rush hour traffic, fighting our way out of Phnom Penh. It’s not until we’re out in the countryside, passing the occasional small town and rice farm, when I feel a slight trickle of fluid splashing against my leg. I look down and notice a steady stream of gas leaking from a split seam underneath the tank. It was Chelsea’s first experience with roadside mechanics in Cambodia, but it wouldn’t be her last. After patching up the leak and heading deeper into the rural back country, away from even sporadic sightings of small villages and oncoming traffic, we were humming along an empty stretch of dusty road when all of the sudden the engine died a coughing sputtering death, forcing us to pull over to the shoulder and investigate. The bike wouldn’t turn over and all efforts to resuscitate the engine were useless.
A couple people stopped by to see if they could help, and from what I could gather the closest town to us was another 7km away. Sweating, exhausted and melting from the heat of the midday sun, we began the slow walk down the road in the direction of the nearest mechanic. One thing I love about this country - the kindness of complete strangers. It wasn’t five minutes before a couple friendly locals pulled over on motorbikes and offered whatever help they could. Speaking no English, they gestured down the road and one of them made a motion with his foot towards the back of my bike. It finally clicked and I realized he was trying to tell us that he would push my bike with his foot while riding behind as I steered it down the road. I’ve seen them do this in town a few times with carts or bicycles, but never another motorcycle. Figuring there’s a first time for everything and not wanting to walk the rest of the way into town, I hopped on Lucy and we took off down the road, powered by Khmer ingenuity and a prayer. I have to say, it was much harder than they make it look. Keeping the bike straight and upright while someone is pushing it along from the side solely with their foot is no simple feat. We finally made it to another motorcycle mechanic in a worn down wooden shack on the side of the road and spent the next couple hours watching them work on the bike, chatting up the family and playing with the surrounding kids. It was another unnecessary detour, but Chelsea, in true form, said that it just added to the adventure. Before long, we were fixed up and on the road
again. No more stops or detours along the way, we bee lined it straight to Sihanoukville to make it before nightfall. Crawling down the beach as the sun set faintly in the distance a feeling of freedom overcame me. No schedule, no itinerary, no constraints, no expectations except for what the day has brought me. Riding carefree into the haze of the setting sun, Chelsea pressed tightly against my back, the wind rushing past us both as the hum of the engine rumbles in time with the rhythmic crashing of waves upon shore - nothing wanted or needed beyond the perfection of that moment. I sat back in the seat, the slim glimmer of beachside huts and bungalow lights growing brighter and brighter as we rolled down the dark sand covered trail - not a care in the world and full of hope and anticipation for the coming weeks ahead. I could get used to this…
Back to the beaches of Southern Cambodia. It's Khmer New Year and all the locals are busy traversing the country, leaving cities and towns to make their way back to countryside provinces in order to spend the holidays with family and friends. It’s the biggest celebration of the year and the festivities start weeks before with parties, drinking, feasts and weddings. Having spent the last two weeks in the heart of the capital, I was needing some respite from the constant buzz and endless nights of life in the big city. I loaded up the bike, said farewell to Eighty8 and grabbed my friend Chelsea for a road trip back to the sunny paradise of Otres. Another long term resident in Phnom Penh, Chelsea interns with the UN specializing in refugee aid across the world, and is spending the next three months