I do apologise - really, awfully remiss of me. Terribly un-British as it is, I havn't yet found time to talk about the weather.
So, terrible weather we’ve been having, eh? Well no actually - sorry to rub it in, but it's been reliably jolly nice ever since I arrived.
At first it was strange that the sun rose and set at the same time each day (and indeed that the sun was actually visible every day). From this, I concluded that there aren’t really any seasons here, that it just stays the same all year round.
But I was wrong about that – I’ve no idea why (can any meteorologists in the house enlighten me?), but whilst day length remains relatively constant, there are still three fairly distinct seasons here. When I arrived in October it was the end of the ‘wet season’, which in Phnom Penh at least was actually quite agreeable, as it only actually rained for an hour or so most days with the rest being warm and pleasant. As we moved into December and January we’ve been in the hot, dry ‘windy season’, apparently the most pleasant time to be here. And now it’s meant to be dry but progressively hotter and muggier until around April, when the welcome rain will arrive and we’re back in ‘wet season’ for the rest of the year.
All fine in theory Mr Kettley, but after a lovely day chilling out with my volunteer friends Jen and Deirda in Sisophon this weekend I headed for an internet cafe to try to Skype mum and dad, only to find there was no power ‘due to the weather’. This was concerning, not only as would I miss out on my weekly update on the moving and shaking in Delph, but also as it appeared that we’d managed to export to Cambodia a particularly poor British excuse for stuff not working.
By 5pm I had to give up, as it’s a good hour’s moto journey back to my village of Thmar Pouk, and as mentioned it gets dark every night at 6pm sharpish. I also had a prized pack of two-ply supersoft toilet tissue – unheard of back in my village - and a bag of marvellous mangos to escort home.
On leaving the town of Sisophon the tarmac quickly disintegrates into the dirt track of the fancifully-named ‘National Route 56’ to Thmar Pouk (there’s also an ‘Olympic Stadium’ in Phnom Penh – maybe one day they’ll both live up to their names). Just moments after setting off something most unexpected happened – it started to rain. Actually it started to thunder, lightning and fair tip it down. I THOUGHT THIS IS MEANT TO BE THE BLOODY DRY SEASON!
It wasn’t fun at all. The dirt road quickly flooded, and I was suddenly competing with motos, taxis and lorries a the small strip of non-waterlogged surface in the middle of the road. The dust I so disliked before managed to become something even worse – clingy, slimy, treacherous mud. Progress slowed markedly, and before long I had to steer round a series of trees in the road, I assume felled by lightning. And it was starting to get dark.
Fortunately I’d had the foresight to have my moto serviced last week, including the addition of a big thick nobbly tyre on the back wheel to help deal with poor road conditions. Unfortunately, as only seems to happen after major servicings and upgrades, progress was counterbalanced by something which previously worked fine now going wrong – in this case my front tyre, which was flattening with alarming speed. Now really wasn’t the time to be getting a puncture.
With darkness well and truly upon me, I finally made it back to my village after over two hours on the road. I tried to turn onto the dirt road where my house is, just too late to realise it was now an impassable mudbath. I just about managed to dismount as the bike slid gently into the ditch. Only with a combination of wheel-spinning, brute force and a proportionate contribution of choice language did I finally get myself and my blessed vehicle home.
Home sweet home. Only, as I stood dripping and muddied in the doorway, my landlord cheerfully explained that I couldn’t get into the house as the lock was broken. In fairness he managed to get me in after a few subtle hits of an iron bar (him on the door handle, though I would happily have used it on my bike, him or myself by this stage).
Finally inside, I didn’t even mind that my mangos were mashed and loo rolls squelched. Stumbling through the dark (no electricity here either tonight), I merrily trod think clods of mud through to the bathroom, and at long last enjoyed a shower which wasn’t from the sky with water which wasn’t from a puddle – bliss!
At least I can now feel proprly British again - jolly terrible weather one’s been having, what?