March 6, 2010

Lady! You want take long, hot bus ride? Good price for you!

Bus rides are notorious for being adventures, and our trip home from Kratie was no exception. After a 45-minute delayed start (that's Khmer time), we were shuffled onto a crowded bus with people sitting in the aisles, on the stairs, wherever. One guy even had to brace his foot on the door handle to keep it from flying open. I was perched on the front seat next to the boiling hot window. Instead of an arm rest, to my right was a metal pole (like the poles on city buses—for holding purposes). At first I thought it was a nice addition, but as soon as our bus began the usual bumping and swerving of Khmer-style driving, I found the pole to be a bruising and head-bumping annoyance. Three hours of unrelenting window heat, jostling and jarring later, we arrived at the lunch stop. We had just enough time to shove $1 of rice and stir fry into our unsteady bellies, use the last-chance outhouse, and choose from an assortment of foreign soft drinks (they were out of water!) before being summoned back to the overheating bus by impatient honking.

As I prepared for total dehydration, my rattled body began to hate Cambodia. Without reprieve from the constant motion, the shaking, the heat, I found myself just concentrating on not screaming. I was beyond thirsty, my butt and legs were tingling, my head was pounding and all I could do was sit there and take it. Two hours into my self-pity, a loud thunk from the right side of the bus startled even the unshakable bus driver. We pulled over in middle of nowhere Cambodia, and off-loaded in the hazy afternoon sunlight. The bus crew quickly assessed the situation, deemed it suitable for more driving, and ordered us back on. We drove incredibly slowly the rest of the way to Phnom Penh—roughly two more hours of slower jostling. I've never been so happy to get off a bus in my life.

At least it was an adventure. It always is.