Friday, February 19, 2016

Cambodia, an old man, and a canoe

One Saturday morning in Siem Reap , Cambodia, I woke up early with a massive head ache /hangover combination. I swallowed a fist full of aspirin,and sat on the edge of my bed sipping ice water. The single small fan in my room was doing little to cool me off in the oppressive humidity. So, I got dressed and walked to the local coffee shop. Buying a cup to go,I headed up the trail/road along the Tonle Sap river toward a wooded area I knew about.

My intention was to walk off the hangover then head back to my apartment for a long nap. I sipped the coffee as I walked along, wishing I had not drank sooo much mehkong "whisky" the night before. The stuff is cheap in Cambodia and sells for around .75 cents a 5th. It is a good inexpensive source for getting roaring drunk when you are on a tight budget.

There is actually 2 varieties to be found in Cambodia or SE Asia proper. One is the super cheap Cambodian made stuff (my personal favorite) and the 2nd is the newly retrofitted Mehkong whisky made in Thailand. It is a bit more expensive, but higher quality.

I finished my coffee and tossed the paper cup along the road - like all of the locals do - and walked a bit further. I spied a giant banyan tree, the shade was inviting, as was the grass below it. The humidity was terrible, and combined with my head ache and general hangover, I felt like I had been eaten by a wolf and shit off a 200 foot cliff. I sat down in the grass, and immediately laid back, the dew on the grass soaked through my shirt and cooled me off. There was a breeze coming off the river. I closed my eyes and was about to drift off to sleep when I heard the unmistakeable dip, pull, gurgle, dip , pull, gurgle of a canoe paddle.

I propped myself up on one elbow and saw an old man wearing shorts, and a conical hat squatting in the bow of his canoe. He was paddling down stream at a steady pace. Every 3rd stroke was a modified cross bow draw to keep his canoe straight. It was cool to see how easy this old guy moved along. I noticed in the back of his canoe there was a bundle of bamboo fishing poles , a basket of fish and a lantern. This old cat must have been on the river all night trying to earn a living. Now, he was either heading home, or heading to the market to sell his catch.

I watched him paddle out of sight.I regret that I didn't have a camera with me to get a picture. I laid back down and tried to sleep. It wouldn't come. I laid there under the banyan tree thinking about Canoe trips I had made in the past, and of my friends at the jack mountain wilderness school in Maine.

Canoeing has always been a great pastime for me, and seeing this old man doing what he had to do with such ease. Made me realize that - metaphorically speaking - I have many more rivers to explore before I take up a rocking chair.

See you on the trail!


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