We are very proud to announce that our Rally is the first time that Classic Cars have ever crossed the Cardamon Mountains.
Someone ring the Guiness Book of Records……..
The Cardamon Mountains were once a stronghold for Khmer Rouge fighters but now they are an internationally recognised bio-diversity hotspot.
The trouble with our route today is that a lot of the road exists in name only. Much of it is really bare earth and protruding rocks.
Locals use it and trucks do too, so the ruts are pronounced, deep and they severely tested our cars.
Oh, and the bridges: they are just planks of wood and some hasty repairs by our Cambodian agent the day before made them passable, slowly.
In fact slow was the watchword for a day of driving and surviving.
With the challenge in mind, we split the group into three “pods”, each with a leader and a 4×4 in case a tow was required. We set off at 20 minute intervals to allow the dust to settle between pods and avoid a single snake of 18 cars line astern.
In fact the first 90kms was a doddle because the Chinese had laid a thin strip of concrete up the mountain to the Stung Atay dam which they built to create an enormous reservoir. Then the road began to deteriorate making progress bumpy and slow.
A coffee stop quickly ran out of coffee, since they had probably never seen such a mass of customers all at once and an advertised waterfall was in fact just a trickle since this is the dry season.
From there to lunch was tricky, with omens of what was to come, but everyone made it in good spirit to find a feast had been arranged for us by Claire and her team. Even though it was in the middle of nowhere.
The worst was to come though: 46 kms of very bad ‘road’ which generated masses of dust in which we had to slalom our way around the biggest holes and ruts.
It was impossible to avoid them all and our sump guards were constantly hammered as we grounded on the uneven surface.
We had the odd mechanical problem, a dislodged accelerator cable on Lee and Mandy’s car, a stone trapped against the disc brake on Andy and Sheila’s car but otherwise we miraculously got through relatively unscathed. Apart from the filth and the dust in every crevice. Oh, and Paul wants to do a spanner check on everyone’s steering and suspension in the morning just to be sure that nothing has been damaged.
Two very nice examples of us being looked after in Cambodia. Neil M’s co-pilot John forgot his camera at the coffee stop and had written it off when who should appear but the coffee shop owner who had jumped on his motorcycle and driven 27 kms to our lunch stop just give it back to him. Bravo.
And at the end of the day, when everyone just wants to get to the hotel, Neil M. and Paul’s 4x4s were trailing at the back (as per normal) when our “Tourist Police” escort flew by them, switched on all his lights and sirens and set off at 100kms/hour clearing the traffic and shooting red lights all the way to the hotel. Jo said it is the only time she and Paul have legally exceeded the speed limit.
This has been a great day and one that will no doubt live in the memory. Mostly perhaps because the dust will continue to be discovered in the cars for years to come