I have half an hour to write this and add pictures and it’s hard to know where to start. Yesterday we finished our sixth day on the river, the last of the white-water, and started seeing big boats and ferries with cars for the first time. So to speak, we came out of the wilderness.

By the river side in Kratie last night before going out to dinner. A little sun-dazed after paddling 39k through the heat.

I’ve posted a photo gallery below with captions.  Perhaps the best I can do now other than some quick notes.  Yesterday we did a 39k push (our daily goal is about 27k) to the riverside town of Kratie which I visited two weeks ago.  There was little camping to be had, just hot sand dunes, and we needed to restock on food.  And, I have to admit, a comfortable sleep with AC was calling us.

We had a sleepless night before, camping on a small island which we thought we had to ourselves. Unfortunately it turned out to be the meeting spot for people fishing in the night who built campfires and drank all night next to our tent.

He sang to his wife as they motored away

Backing up a bit: Francis and Suoen joined us for the first two days with their sit-on-top kayaks that they usually use at their house on the river near Phnom Penh. It was great to have their company for the start, and also very generous of them to let us continue down the river in their kayaks.

Sudeep and the Water Buffalo

It was pretty clear that our packrafts were simply too slow.   When we get to their house on the river near Phnom Pennh, only a few days from the finish at the border with Vietnam, we will change back.   While using the kayaks would help us when the current was slow, it also meant a higher capsize potential in whitewater, a decision that we would come to question later as we encountered some Class III rapids and huge whirlpools.

Frances at the start. I wish I had a group picture of all of us.

 

Frances and Souen relaxing by a Mangrove tree.

By far, the most difficult thing has been the white water.  I underestimated how much there would be….We had some notes on the map thanks to Theara, a kayak guide I met two weeks ago, and these helped considerably. We were also able to occasionally find and follow channel markers built by the French many years ago. We would frequently battle the glare from the sun study downloaded satellite images and look for indications of rapids, but when you try to zoom in that close it becomes a guessing game.

At one point we thought we were avoiding some dangerous whirlpools that Theara had warned us about, only to paddle straight into them.  Along with very fast water and clashing currents along with rock hazards, and feeling so remote, it was one of the scariest experiences of my life.

With some near capsizes and frantic paddling, we made it through. Suffice, to say, no pictures were taken.  We are really happy that yesterday saw the last of the white-water and have committed ourselves not to complain about a wide, slow-moving river feeling ‘boring’.

 

Surreal landscapes. This is the low season, many of these trees are underwater during the monsoon

 

Some sections we have gone through have felt extremely remote, but over the last few days we have seen more and more people living along the banks.  Many of them on islands with no roads or a single dirt track.  Invariably we get big smiles as we paddle past, exchanging hellos – us using or best attempts at Khmer.   We do this with the water buffalo too.  We’ve also seen a huge abundance of birds.  Herons, egrets, eagles, swifts…we are doing our best to learn more using the Merlin app.

 

Kids playing

The heat has also been a challenge. This was not unexpected but still difficult to deal with as temperature peak around 37k (100f) every afternoon. We try to hug the east bank of the river, both for occasional shade from trees and also to block the wind which usually comes from the east. The river at times has been incredibly wide – maybe between two or three kilometers wide at points, other times much more narrow.

Trying to beat the heat

I’m about out of time – while we are hitting the river later this morning there is much to re-pack and reorganize.  It feels strange to be in a cafe surrounded by backpackers, muzak and a waiter serving coffee.  While a nice respite, we will be happy to be back on the river.

This is a picture of the tuk tuk that helped us transport our kayaks and gear to the hotel yesterday. Big thanks to the driver Say Haw and the hotel (Sorya) for organizing this – the hotel is right next to the river but getting everything up the embankment would have been tough. So we landed at the ferry terminal and employed a little help!

Tuk tuk to hotel!

Ok – time to go and pack, more pictures below.  The rest of the river should be increasingly populated, and tamer in terms of navigation and swift water.  But also harder to find camping spots other than exposed sand dunes. We have approximately 14 days left and 330k (give or take) to the border.  Cheers.

Seth & Sudeep.

Kratie,. Cambodia

Feb 29, 2024

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “200 kilometers down the Mekong!

  1. What an intense trip, cousin. Don’t really envy the heat, but what a great adventure. Cool that you and Sudeep get to hang out! Take care, Seth and enjoy the rest of your journey.

    1. Thanks Danny. I just mentioned your comment Sudeep (we are in the tent which is really just a mosquito net held up by our paddles planted in the sand). He says Namaste to you and Gloria. I’ll play him aquarock!

    1. Hi Uncle John. Yes, the river is wide and slow now, not a rock in sight. Just sand. Easy anchoring if we had an anchor. We are beating the heat with umbrellas, lots of water, and frequent dips to cool down. All good. Thanks for reading!

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