Not wanting to be anywhere near the city for Water Festival we headed down to Kep on Friday morning for a few days. Loading up the ute was something of an exercise and I had to draw on many childhood years of watching my father pack our car for trips up to our farm. Memories of him painstakingly fitting odd shaped luggage and farm necessities into trailers and trucks came back to me and I wish I had taken a photo of the end result but, alas, I forgot. I managed to pack 48 bamboo frames ( which went well over cab height on the Ranger ute ), one 80 litre esky, one 20 litre round tub full of tools, two long handled shovels, a pick, 6 coconut trees, 8x1metre high acacia trees,8 acacia seedlings,camera case,travel bag,hot plate,small gas bbq,baby bag,pregnant wife,baby and dog into the truck….strapped it all down….said a prayer…..and headed off. Luckily….we made it ! We stopped at the block quickly to unload all the frames which our neighbors very kindly let us stow away behind their house and then headed in to Kep.
The first night was spent at N4 guesthouse opposite Vanna Bungalow as everything else was full. This place is a bit strange ( though in a good way ) . It is on a huge, beautifully landscaped block with may rooms and bungalows but the pool is empty and there seems to be about only 3 staff working there ! A bit like a movie set N4 is all facade with not much going on behind the scenes ! It could be really great if they fixed the pool, opened up a bar next to it and set up a bbq in the afternoons etc. Rooms are squeaky clean and Karma had plenty of room to amble around in. After unpacking we headed down to the Knai Bang Chat Sailing Club to hook up with Ang,Paul and Trevor for sunset Coronas – about 6 of them. Absolutely perfect.
The following day we packed up AGAIN as were heading for new digs that night and after a few chores down in Kep village we drove out to the block. With a moderately warm day upon us and no sign of rain it was not an ideal day to be toiling but what the heck. Soon enough I had Leakhana and Grace installed under a tree on the picnic rug with esky and music on hand and I set to in earnest with the business of planting trees. Luckily, just after I started my mate Anthony arrived and I am bloody glad he did because the extra hands went a long way. We soon had a good system going and I found Anthony to be a very useful working partner. I have learnt over the many years of doing laborious work on land that you can always tell how handy someone is in general by the way they dig a simple post hole and I can report his were fine. Luckily…he works for beer. A couple of sodden hours later and we had all the acacias in their own individual cages and the palms in a specially built
” Ring of Fire” Octagon cage.
You would not think that planting a couple of dozen trees would be so arduous but I can tell you we were both stuffed when we finished. Lack of perfect planning meant lack of enough water and food and the pangs soon set in. After a quick visit to Anthony’s block I grabbed the family and headed for our new accommodations – Botanica – where we unloaded and hit the restuarant. I had the chicken breast stuffed with cheese and mushrooms and wrapped in bacon with a coleslaw salad and despite its massive size, it barely hit the sides as it got wolfed down. The resident dog had 8 pups hanging off her so Grace had no shortage of friends and it was all we could do to stop her from strangling one with her famous neck-first carry technique ! . After eating we had a couple of cold beers and then headed up to Kep Lodge where Paul was DJing the Jungle Party but we just did not have the stamina and retired early.
Sunday came around and we headed in to the Rusty Keyhole for a pot of tea with Kristian and Cum and then we joined Mark Hanna at the Bokor Mt Lodge for lunch. Kampot was heaving with tourists as usual and after lunch we followed Mark and his family out to their 35ha farm which was WAY out in the sticks. The road was pretty rough but a lot of fun and with rain threatening and the skies a dramatic steel blue colour we blasted out there in clouds of dust. On arrival we cracked a couple of cold beers and then spent the next few hours walking around Mark and Annie’s lovely patch. The land has huge amounts of pepper, mangoes,durian,cows,date palms and lots of farm dogs scaring the bejesus out of Karma. They are also building a large 5 bedroom house on a hillside that has commanding views over the land and you can see the ocean in the distance. All in all….a bloody nice patch and I hope we get to have a drink on the terrace when it is all finished.
On the way back to Kep we got a call from our neighbors who were after a bit of money. You might remember I blogged recently about them cutting some fence posts for us and what I thought was going to take a few months took them all of 3 weeks ! So we went out to the land again and slung them $50 , put in an order for 30 more posts and mentioned that we would not be doing the fence for a few months yet. They said that was fine and that they would submerge the posts in their dam which would a) make the bark come off and b) strengthen the posts and prevent premature rotting ! Thanks very much! That night we went for dinner at Breezes restaurant on the beach and we had some Kampot oysters which were just amazingly good. $1 a pop and after the first 6 we had to have more. We ran in to Diane and Frank and so sat with them and it was a very nice dinner indeed. After dinner we continued socialising and went up to where Anthony and Marie were staying up on the hill behind Champey Inn. A simply stunning house owned by a travel operator,words don’t’ even do it justice.
Come Monday I was ready to get home. Sleeping in bungalows is all well and good but give me my imported German mattress any day thanks very much. We packed up and drove into Kep where we were supposed to pick up Oum Sim, Grace’s Aunt who is coming to work for / live with us. She was married to Leakhana’s Uncle until his death last year and regular readers of this blog might remember he was very helpful to us when we were buying land and a very nice man in general3. In actual fact I had always hoped I might come to an agreement with him whereby he and his wife would go out and live on and look after our land but due to his death that was not to be. Leakhana has been searching high and low for household/ baby help for almost a year and like me, she has been very uncomfortable with the idea of hiring a young provincial girl who might not know much or care properly for the baby (s). We have always bandied around the idea of asking Oum Sim and my wife finally had the talk and it was agreed she would come up. So we went to pick her up but she said she needed to wait for her daughter to get back from Phnom Penh and needed a few more days. No worries at all we told her. See you soon. With that we were off back to Phnom Penh with very little traffic and were soon safely home. Phew.