It’s hard to believe that I am back in Cambodia. It’s like I was just here. I was a little nervous as usual when touching down when thinking about getting all my medical supplies through customs, etc. It was incredibly easy to get through immigration and customs thankfully. The Cambodian air hit me like a wet blanket when I stepped out of the terminal. I had to wait for one of the runners but soon we were piled into a careening tuk tuk with 3 large pieces of luggage.
The Himawari hotel was very nice as usual. I had about 20 minutes to shower and get situated before our first team briefing. It was business as usual at the briefing. Afterwards there was an unexpected treat though. Fireworks! Apparently today is the Water Festival in Phnom Penh and fireworks explode over the Mekong River in celebration. The race crew was headed out to dinner but I wanted to wait for my co-worker. My fellow race physician is Jenn Starling, of Grand to Grand fame.
I was trying to wait for her to get in before joining everyone for dinner but promptly fell asleep. A little after 8 we were on our way to a small local restaurant. I can never get over how cheap things are here. Our meals were about 4 dollars a piece and drinks were even cheaper. The power went out mid-way through dinner which was interesting. But the staff seemed to expect this event since candles were set out within minutes of the blackness settling in over us. I pooped out quickly after eating and we headed back to the hotel to start sleeping off some of the massive jet lag from the 38 hours of travel.
2nd pre-race day: We got to sleep in a little this morning. There was nothing going on race related until 3pm, so the day was my own. After breakfast in the hotel, we divvied up supplies in the medical kit. I had packed my personal kit this time so it was quite the relief to have everything organized and already know what was what. We then ventured out into the bustling metropolis of Phnom Penh. We visited the museum. Last year during our city walk, we visited the courtyard of the museum but did not get to go inside. It was pretty neat – I think that the photographs on the walls of local vistas were almost more ascetically pleasing than the stone carved relics.
Laura took us to one of her old favorite Vietnamese restaurants (Laura spent 8 years living in Cambodia previously). We had these really interesting giant savory pancakes with what looked like entire gardens of greens on plates. There were about 50 different little dishes of sauce too. They were excellent! As I’ve mentioned before, I think part of my love of travel stems from my love of eating. And this place was right on the mark.
We then visited a Cambodian pharmacy which was a little like being a kid in the candy shop. If these kinds of places existed in the US, they would put American physicians, urgent cares, and ER’s out of business. What I am trying to say is that you can pretty much just ask for whatever drugs you want there and they just give it to you. Crazy! It’s nice to be able to get some drugs locally because despite all of the appropriate paperwork, I am still uncomfortable with bringing “the strong stuff” across the border. Eventually the time for us to get to work rolled around. We checked all of the racers in and thankfully there were no surprises from a medical perspective this time around. Check-in rolled right into the banquet. The local racers were recognized before dinner as well as a few Global Limits repeat offenders. It was nice to catch up with a few racers that were in Bhutan. Bedtime felt pretty awesome though too. We head out into the jungle tomorrow morning.
3rd pre-race day: We had an early check out at 7:30. The racers had the option to take a city tour but I took said tour last year so I spent the extra hour drinking coffee and eating chocolate croissants at the hotel breakfast buffet. It was quite a long and dusty bus ride to our first camp. We had a few interesting stops though. The first was the “spider market.” We stopped there last year as well. For a horribly arachnophobic gal, it wasn’t like the best thing ever but it was still cool to see again. All kinds of fried bugs, larvae, and spiders glisten in their oils in the noonday sun. Little girls tried to press bags of bananas in your hands for the equivalent of about one US dollar.
We were then whisked off to lunch. It was in a new venue this year and was quite nice. I think I may have been most impressed with the actual sit down toilet and toilet paper! Quite the luxury. We rolled into camp around 3 in the afternoon. Everyone slept on the floor in a large temple. I think it’s impossible to capture how neat it was inside with the mosquito nets and the gaily painted walls but hopefully these photos give you the general gist.
Jenn and I set up hammocks underneath the structure. I’m so glad we brought them! It was at least 10 degrees cooler outside. And there was even a bit of a dry breeze. I busted out the first backpacker meal of the trip and tried to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime. Unfortunately I didn’t make 8 o’clock but I guess there’s always tomorrow. I am obsessed with sleeping in a hammock so it was with great glee that I climbed in.
I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom (of course) and it was quite the creepy experience. There was a very bright moon half hidden in the clouds and my walk to the toilet was guided by torches. This could have potentially been a pretty romantic midnight stroll. However my reveries was interrupted by the rushing whooshes of wings on the night air. Large wings. I looked up and there were bats! Huge bats. I scurried to the WC and back with visions of being mauled by bats in my head. Or bats tangled in my hair. Or what about vampire bats! Goodness. Suddenly my beloved hammock seemed like quite flimsy protection against the creatures of the night. Thankfully I woke up to all of the runners banging around in one piece and without any extra puncture marks on my body.