Riding through the Cardamom mountains. a trip report

Discussion in 'Cambodia Motorcycle Trip Report Forums' started by alrikki, Feb 8, 2009.

  1. alrikki

    alrikki Ol'Timer

    Here's a story of my journey/s across the mountains from Koh Kong to Battambang, at the end of January 2009.
    Also there is the GPS route we took,including some waypoints, I'll link to it http://cid-a22e6ef9336635db.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Public/cardamoms.gdb
    See the route(or part of) in Google Earth


    Most of the fotos should have gps/exif data, so you should be able to open them in google earth etc., even if I can't link it all up yet, but I want to post this asap
    Heres a link to more fotos
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] ... 432645264/

    I got to Koh Kong and realised how much there is to do /see round there, now before it disappears forever.
    So I rented a bike and setoff for camp56 with 2 german guys and nick from Sauna Garden in Koh Kong. As you may know Nick does bike tours into the Cardamom mountains. Camp 56 is by the river crossing, and the start of the real jungle,where theres nobody and the riding gets tricky
    It was good riding with people. There were several minor obstacles on the way. Noone managed to clean Lara Croft alley,we all took the wrong line,but all good fun.
    It took 3 .5 hrs to get there, so they had to go straight back, but I spent 2 nights there in a tent. The bees were sometimes a problem as they like the sweat and I freak out when they crawl allover me. Masses of butterflies. some bee-eaters, beautiful to watch them hunting, but noone had told them what they were supposed to eat. Also a big black squirrel made a huge leap from the trees on one side of the river to the other side.
    Some animal scat(guess bears), and vague tracks, but mostly old. I found some porcupine quills and there were fish tails etc and scat in the morning so I think there were otter that night.
    Saw some oriental pied hornbills very close and it was lovely listening to the cicadas , birds and gibbon. Also I got mobbed by some birds with big white fluffy crowns. Was drinking from the river there and no problem so far.
    I went back reluctantly on the third day, as arranged, as there was no phone signal. A goshawk flew beside me for a few yards, real close
    After a couple of days in Koh Kong, I met Finn, a big danish guy who also wanted to ride through the cardamoms on his angkor bikes xr250 so we got supplies from the local market.

    Eventually we left town, rode to camp56,(cos it's 56km on the GPS from Koh Kong) for the first night.
    We got on the right road, and took our time ,the scenery was good, the bridges were out. Every time there was a big gap where the bridge once was,and we had to go down to one side to cross the ditch.
    There were a few makeshift bridges of 2" wide sticks, and sometimes rock steps to cross
    Finns rear brake faded just as we were going to cross the river and we didn't know how far to the next river so we put hammocks up and built a fire. I rented a hammock with a built in mozzynet and blanket from nick so was quite comfortable.
    We'd brought a spare gallon of petrol but didn't need it yet.

    Day 2.
    We didn't get away very early.first bridge was OK on the left,packed with dirt,then things got worse.
    The bridges were now trees over 10+ foot drops, some were rotten,some new with smaller sticks nailed to the side to keep our wheels on. Mostly about 6inches wide, with other sticks beside to put one foot on. We didn't have the courage/skill/stupidity to ride over so we had to manhandle the bikes over, one on the bike, the other holding it upright.Usually Finn as he's very strong and could pick the back up
    On one bridge I was sat on the bike edging along with my right foot on some poles. Finn lifted the back wheel a bit to get it on track,but this made me lose my balance so I fell off,and disappeared under the bridge, while he was stuck holding the bike on the bridge. I got up quick and we managed to get across.
    Another of the bridges the wood was rotten and split, so we spent an hour finding more rotten wood to try to make it half safe before we decided to go for it.
    In the hot sun we struggled to get over each obstacle, then soon came to the next There was a lot of the trail up hillsides where the bare red earth
    was gravelly but the rain had run deep ruts maybe 1 or 2 foot deep, running parallel to the track, so we had a foot wide ridge to ride on, and had to keep crossing ruts. Sometimes we would slip and fall, and the other would find somewhere to park then rush back to see what the damage was and lift the bike up.
    There was a lot of bamboo and shrubs taking over the trail, alot of which had been cut recently by other riders,but we still had to duck and dodge the sharp edges and low branches.This was a lot of first gear stuff and went on for hours, and I got many hard blows on the helmet. One stick almost took my eye out.
    There was another hillside with rock steps, we didn't know how hard it was going to be so we took the luggage off, then tried and both got to the top (almost) cleanly.
    We had runout of water now, and it was really thirsty work in the hot sun.We both fell off maybe 4 times that day.

    Finn let me take his bike down one ditch after seeing me get through cleanly, but i was too fast and got stuck in there. So he rode it out of the streambed. Or tried to . He had a lot of weight on the back, and gunning the bike up the short steep slope, the front wheel didn't want to go down at the top, instead kept lifting and went over backwards. I thought the bike would crush him, but he got out the way, and the bike got stuck in some bamboo so we lifted it out.
    Somehow the bikes kept running, b ut we were both getting bad cramps in our legs.
    Finally we got to the 2nd river about 5pm so we camped there,.We slept really well since we were exhausted, but got up every 2 or 3 hours to keep the fire going
    There were lots of animal tracks there in the soft sand,but I couldn't tell what they were. A large cat, but not a tiger.


    We got up and spent a long time deciding how to cross the river. We were running out of food and didn't know what might be ahead. Again we did not want to try the well-made new bridge,which was 6" wide,20+ ft long. We picked a route across the river bed and filled in some holes with rocks,so it was 18' deep at most .I went first,but used too much throttle,and needed some help to get through. Finn was confident with the idea, and made a much better job than I did. His XR250 was having battery problems so we really didn't want to stall it. It was lunch by then so we got on our way
    Thinking it was all over by now, we found more ruts and bamboo tunnels to ride through until we got to river3. There was a local there, and his village,so we picked a route over the stream, and Finn made it look easy.So I followed but dropped the bike twice.
    Still, no damage done, I'd left the camera on the bank.
    We were soon in O SOM, looked a good peaceful place to stay, friendly locals and a shop, but the guesthouse was full, so we went for pramoia. The track got sandy now and a bit bumpy,we had to pay attention to the trail. through the flatlands. we got to pramoi around 5pm, found a guesthouse for $5 room,got some rice to eat and beer.
    I watched the sunset from the roof

    Day 4
    After getting some doughnuts and bananas,and redbull, We carried on north over the pramaoy crossroads.
    We were trying to follow the route from Ultimate Cambodia guidebook, but it got confusing around Rightfork1,where there was a stream crossing, we needed the gps and we found another fork a few kms later. With a little help from the icecream man, we took the right track,until we came to a junction.
    Our route went left, but the locals said go right. We did, and son hit a new chinese road,which went straight north about 20km.onto the old battambang road (not highway 57)
    So we got into Battambang about 5.30. We found a good hotel for $10 with hot shower, which we needed, and a good cafe, Blue Gecko, where the food was really good.

    I'd like to thank firstly Finn, also Nick and Coralie from Sauna Garden, Thomas from Neptune, and Fat Sam for making it possible[/url]
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  3. xen

    xen Member

    Excellent write up. Thanks. Gives me a lot better idea of what the ride through Cardamom is like.

    Please let me us when you've got the GPS stuff ready, I'll add it to my growing collection.
  4. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

    Great post alrikki, Ive allways wordered what it would be like in those mountains.
    Is there any other way roads/tracks that go from Koh Kong to Battanbang?
    Im planning a ride in cambodia late april for a month, Dont know were Im going...but Im going.

    Thanks for the report. Rex.
  5. alrikki

    alrikki Ol'Timer

    sorry not been able to fix all the gps data to the fotos yet.
    Anyone recommend a good program to attach gps/exif data to fotos taken up to 100metres away?
  6. tonykiwi

    tonykiwi Ol'Timer

    Inspiring report


  7. BignTall

    BignTall Ol'Timer

    Awesome report. A hearty thank you for the GPS coordinates, a giving gesture.

    Rex - I'm back over in June so if you're up for going let me know.
  8. bard

    bard Ol'Timer

    We're going to ride the Cardamom mountains in November, this post was very very good. GREAT trip report, GPS coordinates and everything.

    Thanks :D
  9. alrikki

    alrikki Ol'Timer

    I hope the 'bridges' are still there and you can ride skinnies

    good luck
  10. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    Wow! I think it might be easier on a mountain bike! Ride On! T
  11. alrikki

    alrikki Ol'Timer

  12. MuddyMick

    MuddyMick Ol'Timer

    Heyup, I do alot of survey work here, and Garmin Map Source will interface with your garmin, you can up/download tracks, as you may already know.

    The tip I have for fotos, is to guestimate the distance, like you said say, 100m, note the photo number and mark down the compass bearing. You can then later mark the photo location grid numbers after you enter your track by moving the pointer 100 m in the compass bearing you noted.

    Hope this helps.

    Then you can display the photo, with a small map inset.
  13. alrikki

    alrikki Ol'Timer

    hi muddy
    I use mapsource but dont have garmin cambodia maps to use with it.
    I like to see the route in google earth,with the rivers,roads,villages etc

    unfortunately I didn;t get very far with route editing and geotagging etc
    I have fotos on flickr but it seems like a lot of work do geotag them there now
  14. bard

    bard Ol'Timer

    The KML file comes up as empty?

    The trip looks really challenging, and it will be a brilliant ride to do. Luckily we are a small group going so we should be ok on the skinnies and technical bits helping each other out.

    How was the fuel situation? Did you need the extra fuel carried?

    Cheers Bard
  15. alrikki

    alrikki Ol'Timer

  16. bard

    bard Ol'Timer

    That worked great,

    We will come from Pailin but do the same route the opposite direction, apart from the Battambang distance.

    Will definitely carry water with us, thanks to your post. Does not look like fuel will be of any problem luckily.

    Thanks a lot for the input, advice, GPS route and the Google Earth route that was very helpful.

    Can't wait to do the tour it will be awesome.

    Cheers Bard
  17. dtd

    dtd Ol'Timer

    been reading every post on this ride plan. this gonna be real awesome ride. n it will prove that the so called impossibility/difficulty is possible/do-able/worth a try. Too bad i am not good at mapping. i did download the google map from the alrikki's link.

    i am a biker and i do love riding but from time to time, i need to ask local on which way to go. even worse, i am not even good at mapping in the city.

    again, what i worry is about the gas. " when u r in rome, do as roman do". i wont mind putting as much gasoline as possible in water bottle after the lesson learned from my riding when i was worried in every munute on running out of gas. if u have been scared from those lesson learned on explosion, put the gas bottle somewhere n wrapped them with something--i think, thru ur planning, u might have bought some gas containers-- however, carry more. some lubricant might not that heavy just in case u do the Z or O n extend the miles planned.


    if u see a wild animals, do not get off the bike but roar the engine louder because those wild animals think ur bikes are a type of animal and wont dare to attack you if you dont attack them first.

    do not confuse btween malarone and malarine for malaria. malarone is to prevent while malarine is to cure. prevention is better than treatment. malarine is cheap and can be found almost in every phamarcy. however, malarine is only availble at some pharmacy only such on U CARE pharmacy (tel: +855 23 222 499 / +855 23 222 399) just in case u forget to buy them from ur country.

    n i forget the name of lotion to put on skin to drive those mosquito away and name of the spray to spray on clothes--double preventions from mosquito. remember not to put those chemicals on face. mosquitos wont bite ur face-- as rowan told me. they will just bite ur skin under ur face--believe it or not.

    finally, water and water and water.
  18. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    Erm, not quite sure I agree with that... In my experience mosquitoes will bite anything they can get to... There are mosquito repellents that are safe to use on the face- just don't get it in the eyes - stings like a MoFo!
    Citronella oil and the oil of the lemon eucalyptus are safe and proven effective. These natural oils will effectively repel mosquitoes, but they require more frequent reapplication than chemical repellents (at least every 2 hours).
    Happy Trails!
  19. bard

    bard Ol'Timer

    I am used to the Doxycyclene pills for prevention of malaria, sux to take them but beats getting malaria by a mile.

    From Africa and Asia I am using mozzy repellent with minimum 30% DEET now this is shite to get in your eyes. It also dissolves plastic and rubber so care must be taken when you use it so it's completely dried on your skin before you touch anything made of hydro carbons.

    Prevention beats the cure any time.

    Cheers Bard
  20. alrikki

    alrikki Ol'Timer

    I just checked the .gpx file above, in google earth, (converted it to .kmz)
    and I cannot get any of the track North of Pramaoy to show.
    It shows in mapsource though.
    Does anyone else have the same problem?
    Or is it a temporary fault with Google earth?

    **kml file added to 1st post
  21. Auke

    Auke Ol'Timer

    As mentioned in a reply to your other message in the GPS forum there is no problem opening the .gdb file in Mapsource. If you save it as a .gpx file in Mapsource you can open the .gpx file in Google Earth.

    Assume that something went wrong in your conversion process to the .kml/.kmz format
  22. burnjr

    burnjr Ol'Timer

    great report bro..
    more picture pls
  23. Gromily

    Gromily Member

    Hi Alrikki,

    great trip report, it looks like quite an adventure. Thanks for all the hard work putting your route into Google Earth - It's amazing to see how isolated the track it from the satellite images.

    I see that you did this back in Jan 2009 and the ride from Koh Kong to O Som took you around 2-3 days according to your report. The road looks crazy, and like one hell of a ride.

    The thing I can't work out is that Bill just posted this recent trip report:

    https://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorc ... t7394.html

    and did Koh Kong to O Som in 3 hours! :shock:

    Can you tell me, is it the same route you took or a completely different one? If it is the same route, they must have overhauled the road entirely.

    I'm planning to do (S'Ville - Koh Kong - O Som - Pursat - PP - S'Ville) around April 10th - 14th 2010 with 2 other guys.

    Thanks mate, G
  24. alrikki

    alrikki Ol'Timer

  25. Gromily

    Gromily Member

    Thanks, I hadn't seen that road report before. It now looks much easier on the Koh Kong - O Som route than it was when you guys went.

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