Stuck In The Mud With Bear and Ralph

Somewhere on the outskirts of the isolated jungle I cross a desolate railtrack, the civilization of the twin iron-girders an eternity away as I approch the off-road tracks on Mayday, a jet-black 125cc scooter. Soon we’re slipping along saturated muddy paths, the deep dark jungle towering either side two stories high, a chorus of insect chirps deafening the chug of an overworked engine.

Two girls sharing a bicycle pass-by, the only people I’ve seen since I crossed the tracks. They smile knowingly and pointing up the trail gave me the thumbs down. I’m too busy avoiding  the pockmarked jungle path to pay much attention, I smile and wave back . Another hour passes, deeper into the jungle we venture, Mayday battling the terrain like a lion on speed, me like a clown on a bull.

A derelict ten-story concrete block rises out the canopy ahead, a singlur lonesome structure once home to a water treatment plant, the bright blue corrugated roof contrasting wildly with the lush jungle green tree tops. And then… silence. Mayday stops dead in her tracks almost vaulting me from the saddle, dark red mud vomits from her rear wheel spray-painting the jungle wall with obscene graffiti. Mayday splutters, screams and finally dies.

Stepping off Mayday, my blue trainers take on a distinctly red tone as I sink a foot into the muddy soup pretending to be a track. Cursing my negligence I half-slide and half hop to the side of the pool and surmise in a most Bear Grylls manner that I’m a bit f*cked. No rope, no tools and no people to help leaves me with only a few dismal options, and with at least 70km to the nearest village I honestly didn’t want to start walking.

Mayday had only sunk a foot or so and while the mud was saturated from recent heavy rain, it wasn’t too viscous. Pulling my legs free I accidently leave a trainer buried deep, spend 5 minutes extracting it and then penetrate the jungle foliage looking for nature’s tools to plan my escape.

Time passes. Maybe an hour, maybe two, I wasn’t sure. It could have been days, but more probably ten minutes. Finally I emerge with pockets stuffed full of leaves and branches and twigs underarm ready to exact Mayday’s prison-break.

With a bed of leaves jammed deep under each wheel and a make-shift track of pathetic looking branches I summoned Bear and Ralph for moral support and started rocking Mayday back and forth. Kicking the engine to life, the rear wheel screamed, bucked and awkwardly freed itself giving a jump of momentum to the front, now also free from the slippery mud and looking for purchase on meager twigs. Cursing loudly in my best Chinese, I pushed Mayday one final time. Burying the snapped and twisted branches beneath her she somehow found purchase and ejected victoriously onto dryer land.

A passer-by may very well have likened the scene to that of a whale performing a somersault. Mayday clattered to the floor, her engine still turning and left me kneeling a foot deep in the mud somewhere in the middle of the Cambodian jungle.

Dripping with sweat, surrounded by graffiti, sucking in heavy engine fumes and burnt to a mid-afternoon crisp, I was finally free and blissfully happy that I might have a chance of getting home. I call that a win.

Nikon D700 / Nikkor 50mm f1.4 / Natural light

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

Barnaby Jaco Skinner

Full time photographer & publications specialist

I'm a professional photographer and artist. I've worked and lived around the world, spending most of my adult life on the run from conformity and routine; it's a lifestyle that lends itself well to exploring this vast Earth we call home. This virtual place is home to some of my latest work and acts as a portal for business and workshop clients.

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