Ride day 50: Sen Monorom to Banung
25 August 2016
It’s a sad morning saying goodbye to Mondulkiri after the amazing times with the elephants and hiking over the last couple of days. We pack up our stuff and carry it the long walk up the hill from cold water cabin ‘N’ to the main building at tree tops cabins. After a quick breakfast in the main building we start to pack the bags, and can confirm that the signs they have up about mice getting in to bags aren’t a joke. The little devils had got in and raided our snack bags of biscuits, leaving us only one snack pack left untouched out of 10.
Once the bikes were loaded we rode up the steep driveway and up the hill back in to the town to get some water and new snacks for the day, and to top up with petrol.
We weren’t entirely sure what to expect of the days riding as this section of road is affectionately known as the “Death Highway”. So called because of how treacherous it gets in the wet season, AKA now! We hadn’t booked accomodation for the night as we had no idea whether it would take a day or a few days to cover the 180 or so kilometres to Banlung (our desired next stop).
As we rode out of Mandulkiri the road didn’t appear to deserve the name. The roads were much the same as the ride in a few days early, with good Tarmac and winding roads up and down the hills and through the pine forest. As we started to drop off towards lower altitude the pine forest have way to more jungle areas and then in turn to wide plains as we passed through a World Wildlife Fund protected nature reserve. The road however remained of equally good quality for the entirety of this route. Not knowing how long the new good road would continue for, we pressed on at a rapid pace on the good Tarmac in case we encountered the red dirt roads and mud traps we had read about. A few new looking river crossings began to make me think that it was now likely that the old death road had in fact been upgraded and replaced with this new Tarmac. Whilst this makes for a much easier ride, there is a bit of sadness that these wild back country routes are getting less and less.
As we approached Lumphat (the old provincial capital until the Americans bombed it away to nothing during the secret war) we thought we might stop for a break and a drink somewhere in the shade. That however was not to be, as Lumphat is now merely a mark on the map, with no discernible town or village there anymore but for a few farms and residences. This is true in fact of the entire route from Mondulkiri to Banlung. A few very small roadside mechanics, local shops and hand petrol pumps, but nothing more.
Having prepared for the worst, and made sure to keep up a good pace when roads were good, we actually found ourselves getting to Banlung in the mid afternoon. We head to a hotel (Randalakiri Boutique Hotel) that Tracey had found online, and check in. The hotel overlooks the lake and is very modern with nice clean rooms and bathroom.
After showering up, we check out what the town has to offer and settle on Cafe Alee as somewhere to go for dinner. This turns out to be a fantastic decision and we enjoy an excellent meal before riding back to the hotel in the dark to settle in for the night.
Full days route here: