Yog Talks : Cambodia Trails
“What do you ride Yog?”, Willy asked me while sipping his coffee.
6 ft something, big built Willy is straight out of those biker magazines. His heavy Scottish accent just makes it easier to recognize him. I met him in the victory guesthouse, a small guesthouse in Siem Reap, usually a hangout place for individuals involved in charity activities.
“A Harley Davidson”, I hesitantly replied.
“Eh.. are you riding a tractor?”. Willy replied sarcastically.
I didn’t expect that coming, especially from someone I barely met! My Harley boy ego was being questioned here and he wasn’t even waiting for me to respond! Instead, he said, “Get into an off-road bike mate, you will know what I am talking about”.
It was hardly a couple of weeks for me in Cambodia. The charity school we were involved in was nearly done and needed few IT things. I met Willy in a coffee shop while I was designing the IT system infrastructure for the school. Without wasting much time, he asked me if I could help him with few computer related things. I obliged. Although, I didn’t expect anything in return, calling my Harley a tractor was definitely not the paid back I was expecting in my wildest dreams.
“Let’s see what your off-road baby bikes have Willy”, I responded.
As if he knew, I would take the bait. He said “Yaay! Let’s do it tomorrow. It’s Saturday and we can do at least a day trip!”. My ego wouldn’t have said no to anything at that moment. “Let’s do!!” is what I could respond with.
The following day, Willy and I got up early in the morning and headed to Cambodia trails, one of the best providers of off-road motorbike tours and trips in South East Asia. It’s owner Aki Pich is a crazy off-roader himself. His passion has led him to start this company, which was evident from the way he was handling his customers, more as fellow bikers than customers.
Till this time, I wasn’t nervous at all. I had no preparation and here I am getting ready to ride the off-road in one of the toughest terrains in the world!
Known as the wild west of Asia, Cambodia is deep in history and rich in culture, offering the most incredible off-road riding experience in the world, venturing deep into lost temples through jungle trails, wild river crossings on a vast range of incredible terrains, remote villages, and beautiful paddy fields.
I was excited about the prospect and nervous too. The butterflies in the stomach were getting ready to fly.
Cambodia trails have very good stock of bikes. Bot, assistant of Aki Pich, suggested me to try Yamaha WR-250F. It was lightweight thanks to its aluminum frame, nimble, suspension was Cambodia ready and more importantly, it had an amazing throttle response.
Barely few minutes of riding in the city, we reached the red dusty road of Siem Reap. The best part of Siem Reap off roads are their colors, either it is Red or Black. Couldn’t have expected more intimidating roads than this. As we rode further, the roads were getting narrower with both sides covered with forest. Most of the time, The turns were blind! You would have no idea what’s coming. The road changes from deep sand to knee height mud in minutes. You need to be alert all the time. There is not even a second of relaxation! The computation runs all the time, when to keep the clutch on and when not to, should your body position itself to be towards the front or rear? Should you stand or sit? My brain has to be a supercomputer to overcome this!!
With my fight against elements, even a fall is a pleasure. In one of such turns, the surface looked as it was just a deep sand to me, but it was actually mud sprinkled with sand!! I couldn’t believe that it was not man-made, I had my first fall!! Bot who is an efficient rider himself came to help me. Willy lifted my bike. Thanks to the gladiator-like protective gears Cambodia trails had given me, I wasted no time getting back to the seat again. Bot who had his fair share of falling from the bike tells “Falling here is normal sir, I often get surprised if someone doesn’t fall”.
In off road-biking world, falling is not a disappointment at all. You need to fall to learn. This is what nature teaches you, falling is not a mistake, but not getting up is.
Nature in these trails has carefully crafted challenges for all types of bikers. As if the sand, mud, jungle, water puddles were not enough to deal with, I came across with a 3 ft wide bamboo bridge!! I stopped my bike and told willy “No way I am crossing that. A fall here from 30 ft above, would end me up in the hospital”.
Willy was laughing to his heart’s content. “Yog, you won’t fall trust me, just cross the bridge will you?”. I was thinking if closing the eyes while crossing this bridge would actually help me calm myself. Nevertheless, I mustered all my courage and gave a bit push on my throttle. The bridge is just 10 to 12 bamboos put close to each other. I can feel every edge of those bamboos.
“Yaaay!’’ I shouted after crossing the bridge. Willy came to congratulate me. It was an achievement! Often in the rat race world, we compete hard with others, we always want to be ahead of friends, schoolmates, colleagues, competing brands. We spend a lifetime to stay ahead of others. What we forget slowly is to compete with ourselves. The moments like these remind us the importance of competing with your own self. I was competing with myself, not with any benchmark.
My hands were tired. I could barely lift it. 8 hours of constant battle with the elements had taken a toll on me. My ego was battered and bruised too. Ego has a bad reputation for being synonymous with evil. Only the wise ones look at it as fire, right usage of it gives you everything and the wrong side of it destroys everything. But for my ego, I wouldn’t have experienced this amazing ride. I was still counting my experiences. This one will be cherished forever, a story anyone would love to tell to their grandchildren every single day of their life. There will be definitely something to add every time it is retold.
The next day I got up at 10! I wasn’t able to move. My body was behaving as if I did hundreds and hundreds of pushups. I saw Willy, sipping his coffee at the restaurant. He looked perfectly normal. “Hey, how was your day? Did you enjoy yesterday?”, he inquired.
I could barely lift my hand, but without being bothered by the pain, I gave a tight hug to Willy. I couldn’t speak. He played a big part in giving me a lifetime experience and I didn’t have suitable words to thank him. My tears were doing their job and I was recalling what Willy said: “Eh are you riding a tractor?’’