Road Block:

The quickening dark was on us but the two riders used their combined lights to shine the way. Buzzing along side by side the potholes were better discernable though I was more worried about encountering something like the beaten up wooden bridges we'd crossed today. Ret and Rat seemed confident enough so I tried to keep focused on keeping by back straight and chin tucked in to avoid another painful whiplash.

As the air cooled down, settlers had taken to their plots and the burning resumed in earnest. We came to what could have been taken for a plane crash. The scene was something I'd viewed on TV in another context; a long wide strip of flattened forest with multiple fires and debris hanging from the trees, toiling faces lit by the flames. It was a disturbing carnage and I wondered how long the forest could sustain this daily onslaught. The urgency caught my breath.

On the dark road the dust added another veil to unlit figures, bicycles and vehicles that dived out from nowhere. Dogs had a death wish. The riders seemed to have developed a night sight, weaving and ducking the apparitions, occasionally stabbing at the brakes. We stormed through another surreal dream as our lights sent rays into a fog of powdered earth. The settlements were behind us and the jungle once again defined the road. Rat and Sena had dropped behind us in single file as the road surface broke up making side-by-side riding impossible. Up ahead, trees had been used to block the road and a figure stood in a guarding posture. Rat was not preparing to stop. I didn't like the look of it and I thought it would be better not to be recognised as a westerner so I pulled up my facemask; I was dusty and scruffy enough to pass for a Khmer in the dark I reckoned. In an impressive slalom action we weaved through the barricade as the guard made a lunge for us. We stopped about a hundred yards up the road to see that Ret and Sena had been caught. Rat said something to me in Khmer, he sounded worried and I hoped it was not about to go bad.


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