Monday, July 31, 2017

Sihanoukville and the saga of Elizabeth's toe

This is a 2 way road and yes we are on the
wrong side
Buses! We have travelled in small buses, big buses, transport vans and trucks, both local and tourist, all around the world. From Peru to Portugal and Egypt to India we have experienced some of the world's most lawless roads and craziest drivers, but never did I actually seriously fear for my life. That changed on the trip to Sihanoukville from Battambang. Our driver was seriously dodgy. I constantly saw vehicles coming directly at me as he weaved in and out spending most of the time on the wrong side of the road, overtaking on blind corners and double white lines, and following behind trucks overtaking without knowing the road ahead, ducking in at seemingly the last moment or forcing the vehicle he had just overtaken to brake to let him in. Vehicles were constantly flashing and beeping at us, and even though this WAS actually normal for Cambodia, this dude took it to the next level. He forced most smaller vehicles coming towards us to move on to the shoulder as he played chicken with them in his bigger vehicle. The bus came with wifi so we googled 'leading cause of death in Cambodia', answer 'traffic accidents'; we were not comforted, or surprised. As a fellow traveller said in his Trip Advisor review, 'A food cart would have been safer.'

To add insult to injury, when we arrived we were dumped at a petrol station outside of town and set upon by taxi and remork drivers. Armed with google maps, we threatened to walk several times until we negotiated a sensible price and arrived a little shell shocked at our hotel the Don Bosco Hotel School. Run by students this was an awesome hotel to relax in at an incredible price. Final word on buses (and I could write a blog on them alone): check Trip Advisor for ratings. We chose our bus companies in Cambodia a bit more carefully after that.

Now that is off my chest, Sihanoukville, a cosy little coastal town famous for beaches and islands. We went into town to try to find an activity for the next day. We settled on a relaxing, peaceful hike that was available in the nearby national park. In the morning we woke up early and waited for our transport (a remork) to arrive, and were delivered the news that it was cancelled, not enough people, but a certainty for the following day. In compensation we were offered a boat trip to three islands that they could get us on for the day. We took up their offer, grabbed our bathers and set off for a pleasant day on the water (or so we thought).

The boat was called 'Happy Boat' and took us to the first island, a veritable Shangri La with beautiful beaches and bungalows on stilts so you could stay high up in the trees. Would have been a great place to stay, maybe next time :-) Next stop was out in the blue ocean where we were allowed to swim and snorkel. They had a slide going down from the second level so you could enter the water with a splash, and splash we did.

Finding a cat on the way to the waterfall
The day progressed like that until we arrived at the last island. It had a waterfall, and we wanted to see it, but with wet dirty feet we broke a long standing rule and did not put our shoes on. We arrived at the bottom of the waterfall without a problem so decided to climb up to a higher vantage point. As the path got rockier I turned and said to Elizabeth that this is getting a bit dodgy and that we might need to give it a miss, but I kept moving forward without waiting for a reply. Next thing I know Elizabeth is yelling up for me; I hurried back down to her and was presented with a small toe at a right angle to where it should be. Apparently it got caught between rocks as she slipped and her foot went one way without the toe following.

She attempted several times to stand on it but it was too painful. While I wondered what to do a  strong young Cambodian on his way down from the waterfall stopped and offered to piggy back her. Elizabeth enthusiastically took up the offer and he piggy backed her down the hill, along the path, across the beach and back on to the boat. It was a sizeable distance, and he did take a few breaks, but he refused offers of help and insisted on taking her all of the way, with me and his partner struggling to keep up. During one stop some local ladies had a look, confidently announced it was broken and pulled bottles of fluid out of their bags that they liberally doused on the toe.
The bottom of the waterfall
Heading back to the boat

"The rock was THIS BIG!"
At the boat a fairly old gentleman (I assumed he was the captain) chewed some gunk in his mouth and squished it on to Elizabeth's toe and then the staff bandaged it up. We then found out why it was called the happy boat as the music started and  dancing was encouraged for the whole trip back, culminating in some sort of soap machine filling up the dance floor with foam. Unfortunately (or fortunately) we were unable to participate (I was looking after Elizabeth). Back on shore an equally strong staff member of a Vietnamese businesswoman we befriended on the boat also piggy backed Elizabeth, from the boat to a remork, while I cancelled our hiking trip. Long story short we found a clinic with a doctor who said the toe could be broken or dislocated, suggested immobilising it for two weeks and sent us on our way with some anti inflammatory cream.
Definitely the party boat

We spent the next day and a half in our room availing ourselves of room service with Elizabeth recovering with her foot up and bandaged. Not sure what it was they put on her toe on the boat but it never swelled up. By the afternoon of the second day we carefully made our way to a beach where Elizabeth relaxed and I swam. We took things similarly easy for several days before leaving for Vietnam as our visa was about to begin.

Breakfast in bed recuperating
Relaxing at the beach
Looking out from our favourite vegan restaurant
Night time on the beach

One of the bungalows on the islands