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Blown away by Cambodians’ hospitality

There are 2 or 3 posts from Laos waiting for a writeup, but here’s a story I don’t want to wait to write about.

Having left the lazy paradise-like Don Khon island

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I hitchhiked from Ban Nakasang to the Cambodian border and then 200 km into the country. The  reasons being: I wanted to do something more adventurous, enjoy solitude of hitching in a middle of nowhere and avoid buses, since there doesn’t seem to be any scam-free cross-border service.

Even though a couple experienced backpackers warned me against it,  mentioning extremely low traffic and scam-friendly atmosphere around the border, I had a great day. Mostly due to the incredibly generous people, and not just on the Cambodian side. I  didn’t even have to wave at the first driver – he just pulled over when he saw me walking.

That’s nothing, though, compared to the friendliness of Cambodian people. Well, except for the border officials, of course, who managed to extort the standard $5 bribe. When I demanded a receipt and they produced one (no doubt fake, but I had no way of proving that) my line of defense fell. Touche, you corrupt scumbags. At least the Lao officials gave up and stamped me out without paying. Incidentally, they did so soon after I started whistling and singing out of boredom. Needless to say, my vocal skills are, ekhem, somewhat lacking.

Back to the nicer part of population, though. I walked a few kilometers from the border with hardly any vehicles passing me by. Despite scorching sun, I enjoyed it with a  nice European-like forest on both sides of the road (a nice change after dense jungles of Lao) and no people in sight. Around noon I finally stumbled upon a small patch of shade on my side of the road and used this opportunity to take a break. Within few minutes a young lady approached me with her kids and grandmother. They said they were worried about my safety and invited me to rest and have a meal or drink at their house just 50 meters away. The young lady even offered to stand by the road and call me if there is anything coming or drive me to the nearest town (60 km away!). Since Vietnam I keep my guards up and distrust local people, especially after what I had read about Cambodia, but I think their concerns and offers might have been genuine. It seemed too elaborate and sophisticated for a scam. And I don’t think any tourists ever show up in that area. Even after I declined and assured them I was fine, the young lady kept me company until I started walking again to regain my solitude.

But before that, two policemen stopped and said they had to drive me back to the crossing, so that I could take a regular (i.e., rip-off) bus, quoting concerns for my safety as the reason. After a short conversation, though, they let me stay, without being pushy or insistent. They just warned that they could not warrantee safety. Maybe I really met that mythological creature: an honest policeman in Cambodia. The lady seemed genuinely surprised by my worries when I saw them approaching.

Anyway, soon after I got up, I caught a short ride on a scooter and then a long one, all the way to my destination, in the box of a pick-up truck. The cabin and the box where completely packed, but the universal rule in SE Asia is: The vehicle is never full.

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The bone-breaking (tailbone-breaking, to be  specific) bumps were not the hardest part. Neither was lack of legroom, forcing me to sit in a position that in Yoga might be called A crane who thinks he is a snail. The worst part were the nice, wide and flat unpaved roads, allowing for high speed and resulting in everything in the box getting covered by a  thick layer of dust, including yours truly. I was really glad to have my facemask with me. And my swimming goggles.

Anyway, the family driving that truck was incredibly friendly. An explanation of all the care and generosity I had encountered might be what the son of the family told me: Cambodians find the idea of solo travel terrifying. Perhaps that’s one of the many scars from the Khmer Rouge times.

As I said, I’m really happy with how smoothly it went (well, except for the bribe). I only feel a bit uneasy about stingyness of hitchhiking. Money is not my main reason for doing it, although I have been unable to fit into my planned budget so far and enjoy those substantial savings. Still, I’m probably wealthier than almost anyone living in this country and feel a bit guilty about asking those poor people to help me for free, even though it doesn’t cost them anything and they have an easy way to refuse (just ignore). I had had the same issue, though to a lesser extent, in other countries I visited. I never hear it mentioned by other hitchhikers, so maybe it’s just my idiosyncrasy. Then again, due to my trade and education, I believe that once I settle down and find a job, I’ll be making significantly more than most backpackers will, so that might partially explain it. I guess I’m overthinking this entire issue :-)

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A bit of Balkans, part 2

The second part of my trip was no less exciting. Other than spending another night with a heavy thunderstorm in an abandoned building, I had some exciting encounters with pickpockets, muggers, scammers and corrupt law enforcement.

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A bit of Balkans

Few weeks ago I went with my friends to the Balkans. First we visited Belgrade – nothing interesting except for lot of homeless people and dogs, trash and zoophilic statues:

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Then, after a long and only partially successful struggle to find a hiking map, we went hiking, first from Niksic to Ostrog, then in the Lovcen NP, until we arrived at Kotor. Again, nothing terribly exciting, except for a couple cool camping spots. The first one was next to some mysterious abandoned construction:

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that contained nothing but rocks

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The other cool spot was next to some abandoned dwellings, few hours hike from the nearest village:

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And there we didn’t need to worry about the firewood

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Anyway, after a week spent together we decided to split and the excitement level rose significantly.  I got molested, worried about tides soaking me and my gear wet, was refused a threesome that I didn’t ask for and camped in a hell of a thunderstorm. All that within few hours. Here is the story:

I hitchhiked to Jaz near Budva, very touristy place, famous for its beaches. Kept walking until I got away from the tourists. Soon I arrived at a nude beach – sweet! Nothing like swimming in the warm Adriatic Sea and lying an a beach, free of the textile oppression. On top of that, next to me there was an abandoned bar that I could sleep in:

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Everything seemed great except that the beach turned out to be frequented by desperate creeps, hoping to find a young male or female to have a quickie with. I soon learned not to smile or show any friendliness towards others. Instead, I set up my camp

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and a new problem appeared. The tide started rising and I wasn’t sure how high it would get. When I tried to ask a local couple about it, the girl firmly said ‘No!’ Guess she thought I was one of the many creeps on the beach.

Luckily, in the evening the water started getting lower and I could enjoy great view without any fears. What could be better than lying in a hammock, by the Adriatic Sea, at night, in an abandoned bar, with no people in sight? Maybe doing all that in a heavy thunderstorm, watching lightnings strike the sea, listening to heavy waves crashing just couple meters away from you? Yep, it was as cool as it sounds :-)

tbc

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Unexpected camping

Yesterday I was trying to hitchhike from Warsaw to Gdynia (approx. 350 km distance). After over 6 hours in a heavy rain I found myself only 90 km from the starting point. Guess that’s the price a guy pays for having a beard. Anyway, I couldn’t stop shivering and it was starting to get dark, so I decided to spend the night in a forest by the road. Especially that there were some nice birch trees and I was hoping to find some tall dead trees leaning on others that could’ve stayed dry that way. I wasn’t disappointed.

Good thing I had recently skimmed through the Mors Kochanski’s book and noticed a trick to break such trees into smaller pieces (if you don’t know it, look it up – very neat and useful).

Another trick I remembered was stacking several logs to build a heat-reflecting wall. So I put it on one side of the fire and gathered some branches with leafs on the opposite side to sleep on.

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Later on I realized that putting that wall of dry wood right next to a fire was not one of my brightest ideas. I’m going to blame it on exhaustion from cold and not on my stupidity. Anyway, I moved the wall to the other side, so that it could reflect the heat onto my back. Since it was hardly higher than me laying on my side, and thus not very effective, later into the night it served as a fuel.

It turns out that every year I find myself camping without any gear and then promise myself not to ever do that again. This time it wasn’t too bad – at least I was warm. But I didn’t sleep fearing the fire might get out of control. Guess I need more experience to gain confidence.

I’m really happy that I managed to start a fire in this damp forest. And I realized there are several items I should be carrying whenever going for a day hike or longer. For my own reference, here’s the list:
Headlamp
Pocket knife
Fire steel
Lighter
First aid kit
Tarp (or an emergency blanket)
Thin ropes to hang it
Rain jacket
Hat

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Introduction

I’ve had quite a few adventures in my short life. I figured it would be a good idea to have a written record of them. And now, that I’m just about to try another adventure I decided to create this blog.

For now I will be probably focusing on the current events and how I’m doing with my new hobby. Over time, though, I guess I will be posting more about my past experiences.

Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is a great thing and it should be even better if I can write about it and show off. And so the main motivation for creating this blog has been revealed :)

BTW, pointing out any typos or language mistakes would be greatly appreciated.


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