A whistle from above brings us to a halt. We turn to see the old man waving us back, the road we are on isn't right and we must descend the steep zigzag track to the brown, fast flowing river below. Carefully negotiating each corner so as not to loose our bikes down the steep slope, we reach the sandy river bank below. The old man calmly sweeps the area around a small room carved out of the cliff while a small baby in a sling on his back follows us with his eyes. He indicates for us to wait for the ferry to come. Meanwhile on the far bank, a horse is loaded on the rusty boat before pushing off from a safe landing place. The current carries the boat swiftly downstream until the roar of the engine brings it around and back up the where we wait. We load ourselves and the bikes and pull out into the current. The thump thump of the engine is all familiar sound of the standard Chinese engine.
With a scrape and crunch we arrive at the far side, our bike are unloaded onto a rock ledge with a near impossible access way leading to the washed out road above. We portage the bags and bikes in several goes across the boulders before pushing the 2 km up to the road above. Tiny lizards dart here and there as we disturb their peace. The rock strewn track indicates the infrequency with which this crossing is used.
We are now entering the Tiger Leaping Gorge with an incredible 2500 m or more between the peaks of the surrounding mountains and the raging torrents of the river below. After years of work, a road has successfully been blasted into the shear cliffs making for a great days ride along the length of the gorge.
The mountains ease back to rolling hills as terraced farmland takes over. Harvest time is in full swing as we loose altitude, fields are filled with workers harvesting, threshing and winnowing rice to feed the nation. Men run with huge bags to catch the abundant crickets between the fields, women replantthe next crops while men carry huge bundles of rice stalks to the roadside. It is like watching an ant colony from the outside, everyone is highly skilled at the task at hand and teamwork brings the food to the table. It's an incredible sight which stretches for hundreds of kilometers of the ride. I fell small and insignificant as my mind projects this incredible amount of activity to the entire nation where some 800 million farmers feed the soaring population of 1.3 billion in the same way.
After all this I had a relaxing week with old Chinese colleagues that I worked with in Sweden at their research lab at a military hospital in Chongqing. I was treated like royalty during a wonderful week of good food, good company tough table tennis matches.
Support a great cause: DONATE NOW to The Cambodia Trust