|Our 'garage' on the sidewalk in front of our hotel|
The next morning, I bought the makings of breakfast in the market. We had fresh baguettes, fruit, and iced coffees (strong enough to put hair on yer chest!), and then got down to work on my bike. Colin was wise enough to include sprockets in our spares kit, so we set about to change the front and rear sprockets on the sidewalk next to our hotel, in hopes that it would solve my oscillation and lurch. The original front sprocket looked fine, but as I compared the old and the new rear sprockets, I noticed that one of the bolt holes in the old one wasn't quite round anymore. Colin took a look at it and thought it probably happened when the bolt backed out and locked the rear wheel waaaay back when in Namibia, and he also supposed that it might be at least part of the problem. We put the in the new sprockets, even remembering to reinstall the chain, and Colin also adjusted my clutch and front brake (he did say it was almost unrideable)before he pronounced the job finished.
|Irrawaddy dolphin, from the web. Our pics were of water.|
Later in the afternoon, we took the bikes out for a ride north to the village of Kampi, in order to hire a boat on the Mekong to try and spot the very rare, freshwater, Irrawaddy dolphin. This particular area, between Kratie and the Laos border, reputedly has population of about 100 dolphins living in its waters. On the ten-mile ride to Kampi, I was astounded how much better my bike handled! Even though the pavement was uneven and made for a bouncy ride, I felt like I was riding a new bike. Shifting was much easier, and the motor no longer sounded like a garbage disposal with a fork stuck in it.
|the distant specks are dolphins|
We arrived at the boat launch area, bought our tickets, walked down to the water, and hopped into another narrow, wooden boat. Our boatman took us out onto the river, where a cluster of other boats had formed. About halfway to the other boats, we spotted a pair of dolphins in the distance. The boatman shut off the motor and switched to an oar to get us closer to the dolphins. I dug the camera and binoculars out of my bag, and we took turns scanning the water's surface for fins. Over the next hour, we saw a either a whole bunch of dolphins, or the same four a bunch of times. Either way, it was pretty neat to actually see them. I recently read that there used to be thousands of them in the Mekong, and the local animist people believe that the spirits of the dead inhabit the dolphins. During the Khmer Rouge reign, they killed the dolphins to frighten the locals eradicate the animist beliefs and also for oil. Irrawaddy dolphins are odd looking creatures. Colin (and I) thought they looked rather phallic. We tried to take some photos, and even some video, but between the erratic appearances of the subjects and the fact that we aim the camera as best we can and shoot, we got a lot of pictures of where the dolphins just were.
|sunset on the Mekong|
On the way back to town, we detoured to a hilltop temple at Phnom Sombok, where we climbed to the top for a view of the surrounding countryside bathed in the late afternoon sunlight. It was beautiful.
Since our market dinner was so good last night, we decided to repeat it tonight. Unfortunately, our vendor's cart was nowhere to be found. Since we didn't have another plan, we walked along the food stands, looking for something good, until we settled on some fried noodles. When the food arrived, I had another one of those premonitions that I should not eat this, but instead, I did. The meal wasn't sitting very well, and to make matters worse, when we went to pay for our food, the bill was much higher than it should have been. Shame on us for not asking, but whereas every other stand's price for beer was 2500 riel, here our friendly, smiley cook was charging us 4000 riel. It's not the money, since the difference is less than 1 USD, it's the feeling of being taken advantage of. And the funny feeling in my tummy. Later in the evening, my tummy wasn't feeling very good, and just before I went to bed, I had to make a mad dash for the bathroom.