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Sweat and blood

Wednesday 3rd January

Miles: 61   Climbing: 1506ft

I had a bit of a late start today. Before I got out of bed I used the wifi to check out the route for the day. I wanted to find some options for places to stay tonight and research the border crossing I was planning on using. There appeared to be a few places to stay at a town on the other side of the border, just 60 miles away. My only other options were way too far for one day so I settled on another short day of 60 miles. Besides, I had no idea how long the border crossing would take, you hear stories of them taking hours.

Next was the border crossing research. What I read filled me with dread. This was supposedly the worst, and one of the busiest border crossing in SE Asia. Tourists were regularly getting ripped off, pockets were picked, bags would go missing, and the wait times were terrible. I found some information specific to cycling and it appeared that most likely I would have to leave my bike out of my sight and queue for hours. Great, I would have to take all of my bags off the bike and drag them around with me. I though about this for a while and decided I would prefer safety in numbers, I needed to find Roger and Peter. Plus, roger could speak Thai, that’s got to be useful.

I quickly packed my bags back onto my bike and as I checked out I asked about my friends only to be told they had left at least an hour ago. I really hoped they weren’t joking about being slow.

They hadn’t been joking, within half an hour I saw the familiar sight of Rogers recumbent bicycle up ahead. They were more than happy to have me join them for the border crossing and it was actually quite nice to ride with someone else for a change. I even enjoyed the slower pace.

As I was crossing the border today I needed to spend what was left of my local currency. In Cambodia they unofficially use american dollars but they do have their own currency, which you often get given as change. One stretch of road was lined with stalls all selling the same thing, it went of for miles. I could quite understand why they were all selling the same thing, surely they would stand a better change if each stall varied it’s produce, at least a little. I had no idea what it was but decided to try it. They were cooking pieces of bamboo over open fires so I stopped and asked for one. I inspected my piece of bamboo and realised that there was a leaf sealing the open end so I removed that and discovered it was full of a sweet, stick rice. It was the perfect snack, easy enough to eat whilst riding and as it was packaged in bamboo you can just throw it into the undergrowth afterwards. I really wish this had been available to me everywhere.

Before long we reached the border and it was mayhem. There were so many people there. Not just people trying to cross the border, but a lot of people trying to sell stuff as well as a lot of dodgy looking characters. We spotted the building where we needed to queue to get stamped out of the country and thankfully the queue wasn’t too long and their were windows that looked over a spot outside where we decided to leave our bikes. We only removed the most valuable or important items from our bikes and, as there was nothing to lock them to, we used all of our combined locks to secure them together.

There was a lot of interest in our bikes, especially the recumbent. There were some suspicious looking children circling them whilst also keeping an eye on us. There was also a border official inspecting them and taking a lot of photos. We were eventually stamped out of Cambodia and set about unlocking our bikes and trying to figure out where to go next. The border official was still taking pictures so I gestured to him to get in the recumbent and give me his phone so that I could take a photo. He seemed a little unsure at first but he soon gave in and he really appeared to enjoy it.

We were just about to head towards our next stop of the border crossing when the border official beckoned us to follow him. He took us to the car crossing that the locals used and spoke to his colleagues there. We cycled straight through the border, never having to get off our bikes, queue up or pay any money at all. I asked for a 15 day visa, as this would be long enough for me, but I was told that Thailand is too beautiful and I would want to stay longer so I was given a 60 day visa. We came away from the border in a state of shock, we couldn’t quite believe we had gotten so lucky.

We were due to part ways within a few miles of the border. Roger and Peter were heading south but I was continuing west so we stopped for some lunch whilst I tried to get used to cycling on the left again. Cycling on the left was great because I was generally travelling either South or West for most of this trip so the shaded side of the road was usually the left.

There were a lot more great things about Thailand. There were coffee shops with cold drinks and wifi every few miles. I stopped a lot. I kind of needed to though, for some reason you cannot download maps of Thailand to use offline so I needed to connect to wifi to keep checking my route.

I eventually got onto some slightly quieter roads but there were hazards everywhere. I was right in the middle of huge areas of forest fires. There were flames on either side of the road for miles. This had driven the wildlife onto the roads and I was constantly having to swerve around snakes.

I finally made it to my room for the night. I couldn’t believe my luck when I got there. For just £4 I got a motel style room that I could easily sneak my bike into and it was a wet room big enough to get my bike under the shower. It had been a while since it had a good wash.

After my bike was clean it was my turn. As I looked into the mirror I noticed that my skin was covered in something. Where my sunglasses touched the bridge of my nose it looked crusty, there were red streaks down my neck and my t-shirt was also stained around my neck, back and under the arms. It looked a little like blood but it couldn’t be, I wasn’t injured. I was completely baffled but started to undress so that I could wash whatever this was off. It was when I removed my Garmin watch that I realised it was blood, my blood. I won’t share the picture I took but the sweat under my Garmin was always still wet at the end of a ride, it was the one place in never evaporated from. Bright red blood had pooled underneath my Garmin.

I checked every inch for an injury but couldn’t find anything to explain the blood. That when I remembered back to when I was ill in Laos. Numerous people had told me that I probably had Dengue Fever but I hadn’t believed them because I had recovered so quickly and because I had heard stories of people with Dengue Fever suddenly starting to bleed. No here I was, apparently sweating blood. I did a bit of googling and discovered that the hemorrhagic complication of Dengue does start 5-10 days after the fever, which was just about right for me, and although it’s usually bleeding gums, eyes, nose and ears there have been some cases of sweating blood.

Apart from feeling quite anxious now and the usual tiredness and hunger I felt fine. I didn’t feel ill but though I should probably look after myself a bit more so I went out to find cake. A good helping of chocolate can solve most problems and thinking about the situation on a full stomach would be much better.

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