Stuck In The Mud With Bear and Ralph

Somewhere on the outskirts of the Cambodian jungle I crossed a desolate railtrack, two black-iron beams nestled in to the green foliage adorning the forest floor. That was hours ago. The civilization of the twin iron-girders seems an eternity away as I approach the off-road tracks on Mayday, a jet-black 125cc scooter. Soon we’re slipping along saturated muddy banks and streams, the deep dark jungle towering either side two stories high, a chorus of insect chirps deafening the chug of an overworked engine.

Suddenly two girls sharing a single bicycle appear from nowhere and pass me by, they’re the only people I’ve seen since I crossed the tracks. They smile knowingly, and pointing up the rough muddy, watery trail give me the thumbs down. They disapear just as quickly, but I’m too busy avoiding the jungle trail to pay much attention, I just smile a big toothy grin and attempt to 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 far ahead, a singlur lonesome structure once home to a water treatment plant, the bright blue corrugated roof contrasting wildly with the lush jungle-green canopy. And then… silence. Mayday stops dead in her tracks almost vaulting me from the saddle, dark red mud vomitting from her rear wheel, spray-painting the jungle wall with obscene graffiti. Mayday splutters, screams, and finally dies.

Stepping off, my blue trainers take on a distinctly red tone as I sink a foot into the muddy soup pretending to be a trail. Cursing my negligence, I half slide and hop to the side of the pool and surmise in a most Bear Grylls manner that I’m a bit fucked. 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 whilst the mud was saturated from recent heavy rain, it wasn’t too viscous. Pulling my legs free I accidently lose a trainer and spend the next five minutes extracting it. Penetrating the jungle foliage, I decide it’s time to look for natures 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. I looked like a sunburnt scarecrow.

With a bed of leaves jammed deep under each wheel and a make-shift track of weak-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, 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.

– Read more about Cambodia –

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