I returned to Kampot in September to discover that the process of resurfacing the main road past the market had commenced. Apparently, it had already been going on for quite some time by the time I arrived back, partly because everything in Cambodia takes forever and a day to complete. However, there was another reason for the slow progress. According to the more blokey blokes who frequent the Kampot Noticeboard on Facebook and are self proclaimed experts on such matters, this section of road was being resurfaced to international standards, which to your average Joe (or Sara) means that they were putting 2 layers of metal grids and copious blue drainage pipes into wooden frames and then filling said frames with concrete to create a road made up of a patchwork of huge concrete slabs.
The work stopped for the Pchum Ben holiday in the middle of September by which time the slabs on the roadside closest to the market had been completed and quickly claimed as ground level stalls by numerous market traders, rendering the newly surfaced road useless for its intended purpose.
Once the holiday was over, work continued slowly but steadily to complete the patchwork of concrete and coming past the market on my way home today I was pleased to see that the road is finally complete, relatively smooth and partially open to traffic again – although in fairness, it was never really closed as the signs and bollards indicating the closure were ignored by all and sundry as is the standard practice when confronted with a traffic sign in Cambodia.
Meanwhile, back in the lovely lane that leads to my big blue home, copious amounts of rain and some dubious driving skills have served to add to the already numerous potholes and also increase the span and depth of many existing ones you may have seen in my little video showing my cycle ride out to town.
After a weekend of awesome storms (think skies filled with disco lightning flashes and thunder claps that shake the building) and heavy rain (approximately 60mm between 5 and 7am on Sunday apparently) I tentatively ventured out on my bike on Monday and once I’d navigated the flooded driveway from the house and made it out into the lane discovered that someone had been carrying out roadworks in the lane too.
Sadly, whilst these repairs were much more speedy than the 6 month effort of resurfacing a few hundred yards of road at the market, the rrepair techniques employed are not quite up to those international standards. Instead of pouring concrete our road workers have employed the tried and tested methods of:
Chucking a load of broken bricks and tiles in the hole until it is filled to the level of the road around it. Yep, it means there’s not a pothole or a puddle to navigate but bike tyres and sharp bits of pot a happy union do not make. And so I find myself skirting through the mud at the edge of the repair to avoid another puncture (the last one occurred last week courtesy of my foolish attempts to ride across a similar surface elsewhere in town).
A second fix finds workers chucking loads of mud, rubbish, soot and polystyrene into a hole. Because that’s not going to get churned by tyres is it? Oh hang on, wait a minute….
But my all time favourite has to be the fill a road wide pothole with sand which will mix with the water already in the hole to create a thick, gloopy swamp as it gets churned by tyres. This repair method becomes even more interesting when, as we’ve had this week, additional rain falls and turns said swamp into a pool the colour of diarrhoea with a consistency just thick enough to not be pure liquid but not solid enough to allow bike tyres purchase (in other words also similar to diarrhoea).
Imagine the joy I experienced as a woman with an odd phobia of dirty muddy surfaces trying to cycle through that on my way home today. My stomach churned as I slowly entered the swamp, the squelching sounds as I crossed it alerting me to what I already knew would meet me should me and my bike part company.
Oh concrete road, how me, my flip flops and my bike love thee!