Even the hardest skin can cover the softest hearts. Ask Peter Jones, a rugged adventure cyclist who showed his soft side recently by donating $15 a month to the Cambodia Daily Mosquito Net Campaign.
Jones made the donation after returning home to the United Kingdom after pedaling more than 650 km through Cambodia’s unforgiving road system.
He battled potholes, cars, water buffalo, motorcycles, a horde of bicycling students, ferries, broken pavement and loose gravel. When he returned home, he gave some money for mosquito nets, which are distributed to remote villages to protect residents at night.
“It seems to be a charity where giving a small sum can make a real difference to people’s quality of life,” Jones said. “Not such a bad thing, I reckon.”
Jones is a long-time cyclist who on this trip traveled through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. He logs between 70 km and 100 km per day.
While most people couldn’t, or wouldn’t, imagine cycling through Cambodia’s dusty, bone-jarring roads, it apparently wasn’t much of a challenge for Jones, who kept a travelogue of his adventure and maintains a helpful Web site for adventure cyclists.
“I have to confess I didn’t enjoy Cambodia quite as much as Laos,” he wrote. “The people are great, but the flat nature of the countryside wasn’t my cup of tea. I like my mountains…. However, if you’re one of those strange people who doesn’t like slogging up big hills, then Cambodia could be the place for you.”
“I look back on my early trips to Asia with nostalgia, and wonder where I can recapture that spirit of adventure I remember,” he wrote in his November notes. “Looking at the news reports over the last two months…those Afghan mountains look pretty…interesting.”
The kind of adventure cycling Jones does can’t be undertaken without awareness of the dangers, especially in Cambodia’s countryside.
Malaria is one of the country’s top killers, and not just of Cambodians. Foreigners working in the heavily forested mountains in the north and southwest are just as likely targets as Cambodians.
Mosquito nets are the most effective form of protection from the disease, which is carried by mosquitoes that only attack at night.
“Insect-borne diseases are endemic,” Jones warns potential cyclists. He also pointed out the dangers of land mines and unexploded ordnance.
“Add to that the fact that Cambodia’s roads are reputed to be the worst in Asia and…well, it would’ve been rude not to ride across the country,” he wrote.
For more information on cycling in Cambodia, or for some of Jones’ unyielding observations of Cambodia, read his Web site: www.btinternet.com/~peteajones/SEAsia/cambodia.htm.