The plan for today is to ride from Kep to Kampot, have breakfast there and visit a number of places in Bokor National Park, such as the waterfall and the abandoned French resort with the Casino. If there is still time we want to use it to explore other roads around the Phnom Popok and into the Elephant Mountains (Chuor Phnum Damrei).
Views from the hotel terrace.
We leave the hotel in the morning and ride the 23 km to Kampot. We have breakfast in a guesthouse where I spent the night when I came here for New Year celebration one and a halve year ago. We try to find out from the hotel owner about other interesting places in the province during an extensive breakfast.
Later we head to Bokor National Park, the gate of which is located about 12 km from Kampot. Still in Kampot, we stop at the petrol station to fill up the bikes for the trip. My bike does not start when we want to leave, and even with the joined efforts of petrol station staff we do not manage to start it.
One of the friendly staff heads with the other bike to the local mechanic. A few minutes later two men appear on a motorbike. They bring the bike to the repair shop which is only a few hundred meters from the gas station.
At the petrol station.
After a few minutes of investigation I learn that repairing my bike will require exchanging a small computer which is about $50. However, they are willing to first try if the respective part in Uwe’s bike can make my bike work again, which would indicate that it is indeed this part which causes the problem. However, the bike does not work with the spare part either and after some further search the mechanics find out that it is the switch at the handle bar which does not work. They fix it within few minutes for a very reasonable price.
While we are waiting, people occasionally drop in with their bikes. One guy introduces him self as ‘Bad Boy Kampot Town’ and offers weed.
Time goes by while the bike is taken apart and put together again. It is almost noon by the time we leave. We cross the bridge and follow National Road 3 towards Sihanoukville. After we have left the town behind we find that the road is under construction all along the way to Bokor. In most places, this means that a wide road is already evened out but not yet paved. In other places we ride on a bumpy stretch of road next to the main road. At any rate, it is an easy ride and all the construction work seems to indicate that there will be a nice and wide road all the way to Sihanoukville in the not so distant future.
At the riverside in Kampot.
Then we reach the point where a secondary road departs towards the foot of the mountains. The place is easy to recognize because there is a huge traffic circle at this junction. The sign says “Preah Monivong Bokor National Park”.
Over there is National Road 3.
The entrance to the park is at the bottom of this mountain.
We pay $5 to the ranger at the entrance gate and enter the park. We follow the narrow road which is winding its way up the mountain in sharp turns. What we are riding on does not actually deserve the name road and is very broken in most of its parts. Only few fragments are left of what appears to have been a paved road, long time ago. It is my impression that the condition of this road has declined very significantly since I was here last time, when I was riding with a passenger. At any rate, riding up this mountain is something of a challenge and great fun.
Once in a while we stop and enjoy the view. Down there is Kampot.
We continue to ride up the mountain while the climate is getting noticeably cooler and clouds appear.
After some time we arrive at a plateau area on which the shells of previously wealthy villas are build right along the mountainside overlooking the coast. However, there are too many clouds preventing us from appreciating the fantastic views of the sea, islands and the higher stretches of the mountain that one can see around here on a sunny day.
Clouds are floating all over the place which makes for a somewhat creepy experience.
We spend some 30 minutes and head towards the resort area. After another 7 km we reach a fork in the road and follow the road to the right for another 10 km until we reach the waterfalls, called Popokvil. The road is slightly better than the one leading to the villa place. Some stretches are paved and others covered with small stones. We don’t see anybody besides a couple of Western tourists who are leaving with a pick up truck when we arrive. We lock the bikes and walk down to the waterfall and climb to its lower level. There is some sort of pool and we go for a bath in the brownish water.
We check the clock after this refreshing experience and find that it is late afternoon, maybe already too late to both visit the abandoned resort and make it back to the main road before dark. We decide to give it a try, hurry back to the folk and follow the road to the left for a few kilometers to the resort area.
We ride to the old casino, park the bikes and explore the building and its surroundings.
Unfortunately we cannot appreciate the stunning views from up here that range from Vietnam to Sihanoukville, due to the clouds. Nevertheless, this building in the midst of clouds floating around makes for a fascinating atmosphere.
We ride back and stop at the old church. It looks as if it is made of red bricks but in fact it is built entirely from concrete, including the altar.
It is now early evening, close to sunset. It is getting dark rapidly also due to clouds and the thick forest along the road. We ride straight back towards the entrance gate of the park, passing the fork and the villa area. It is almost dark by the time we pass the villas and we rely on the rather weak headlights of the motorbikes. Despite these light conditions we speed up and ride fairly fast, first in order to get as far as possible with daylight, then because we have gotten into racing mood.
However, at about half of the way to the main road Uwe realizes that his back tire is flat. There is nothing we can do about it at this point other than to continue riding down the road, now slowly. We keep riding through the dark forest, on the broken road and at very slow speed, until we reach the ranger station at the bottom of the mountains. We meet some rangers and they advise us to go back on the main road towards Kampot and to stop at a repair shop about 3 km from here.
This is what we try. However, we find that the only businesses that are still open at this time of the day are restaurants. We do not find any repair shop and ride back all the way to Kampot. We go straight to the mechanic who has fixed my bike earlier. The shop is closed but the people are still there and we leave the bike with them to fix it in the morning.