26-Feb-2023 -- This confluence, according to Google Maps, is only three and half hours from Phnom Penh by motorbike. A closer look at the satellite map made me doubt this, but at least it seemed possible in a long day. Tried on Sunday 19 Feb 2023 but Google maps sent us on roads that did not exist, or were blocked with fences and locked gates. Eventually we turned back at 3pm, only 11 klms from the confluence but from where the roads were in very poor condition.
One week later, on Saturday midday 26 Feb, we again tried for the confluence with plans to camp that night close to our destination. Our first trip had shown us the correct roads though the last and hardest 11klms were still unknown. We camped 11klms from the confluence, mainly because one of the motorbikes, a scooter, locked-up the engine after a fall. It was a beautiful cool night, with fires burning on the mountains nearby, clear sky apart from the smoke, and far from the noise and lights of Phnom Penh. We camped simply, with a tarp on the ground and everyone with blankets. I slept well but the kids were cold.
The next morning, we left at 7:30am, three kids on one step-thru motorbike and Sokha and I on a scooter. We immediately had trouble with lots of creek crossings, mud, and sand. Eventually we backtracked across the valley to a track on the right side of the valley. This is a logging track used by charcoal makers who use cultivators to transport old fallen logs from the forest. They are likely the reason for the many fires in the valley and on the mountains. The track is badly rutted by the cultivators, with sand and bulldust on the flat areas. It was not an easy drive, with many falls from the soft sand and the deep ruts.
At 11:30am we were 1klm east of the confluence, however we were blocked by a deep channel and heavy scrub. Fortunately, we found a faint track that ran to the south of the confluence. We parked the bikes around 800m to the south and walked. The confluence is on the northern side of a deep channel. We took a few pictures and videos but since it is in heavy scrub it is hard to appreciate. Even though we had walked only 800m from the bikes it took 30 minutes to find them. There is no phone service in the area so we could not pin the location of our bikes on google maps.
We left on the motorbikes a bit after 1pm. On the trip back we ran out of water and had to collect and drink water from three of the fast-flowing creeks. In our haste and excitement to leave in the morning for the confluence we had forgotten to bring enough water. The water was coloured from the ash. No one fell ill though the youngest kid suffered from heat exhaustion.
We arrived back at our camp site at 3:15pm, and left with the step-thru towing the scooter with locked up motor. For a rope we used one of the kids nylon blankets. It worked well with the stretch of the blanket soaking up the jolts. The first 10klms of the road was difficult with some sand and three deep creek crossings which meant pushing the scooter as the road was too rutted. In total the kids towed the scooter 25klms, all on dirt road. We got back to our parked truck at HLH Agriculture Company at 5:30am, loaded up the bikes and returned to Phnom Penh by 8pm. The scooter with locked motor had sand in the side fan that is attached to the crankshaft and that cools the motor. It was easily fixed though we did not have the right tools to do this on the trip.
A great trip, highly recommended to all who like to get out of the city. Best if you camp. Best if you don’t take scooters, though they have tubeless tyres which is a big advantage. Definitely not doable in the wet season.