Road to Saigon 2018

4 February - 2 March 2018


FEBRUARY 25, 2018

Phnom Penh to Ban Lung

Easy like Sunday morning

We enjoyed an unusually early 7.00 am start today and after a superb Sofitel breakfast the Rally began to weave its way through a sleepy Phnom Penh. Asian sleepy however is still quite busy by most standards but nothing which caused anyone any too much trouble.

It was slated to be a long day behind the wheel and with one Regularity at about the halfway point there was always going to be something to either look forward to or reflect upon.

The first 30km ran across the Tonlé Sap River then alongside it. Next we enjoyed the banks of the Mekong before we crossed it at the Prek Tamak Bridge and immediately entered a much more agricultural world.

Sadly, disaster struck for the Itala, along with its crew, David and Karen Ayre, soon after this landmark. They broke a left hand side half shaft and lost a wheel. There was nothing to be done by the side of the road save arrange a recovery truck and tonight they and their old warhorse are stabled once again in Phnom Penh awaiting shipment to Saigon.

For the rest of the rally it was another engaging drive which took them through busy towns, past workers in rice paddies, lotus fields in full bloom and yet more countless scooters and lorries to share the road with.

The first Passage Control was at Ampil right on the Vietnamese border, in the King Rooster Casino which luckily featured a franchise of Bistro 315 serving coffee and tea and giving the odds of red 13 coming up on the roulette wheel.

Pepper plantations, rubber trees and ponds filled with ducks lined the roads as we continued on the way the Regularity at Kbai Chrum. This competitive section was an 8km gravel piste with many clanking metal bridges to negotiate, small settlements to look at and cane cutters and lumberjacks riding atop heavily laden lorries grinding and groaning their way to the main road.

A picnic lunch had been organised in the Oramis Restaurant on the shady banks of a small river where a few cold drinks washed any lingering dust from parched throats. As usual the temperature was in the mid 30°s but at an altitude of 700m the lunch halt was cooled by a slight breeze.

Once the last of the sandwiches had been polished off all that was left was to make our way to the night halt in Banlung and dozens of roadside fires added a little extra interest to a superb piece of traffic free tarmac which rose and fell, turned and straightened, through singed trees, long dry grass and bamboo thickets .

Christian and Beatrice Collenberg’s Range Rover Series One was in a spot of trouble, running on only four out of its eight cylinders and was losing a little oil. The latter could be dealt with by regular topping up but the swiss crew decided to sit in the shade and wait for the sweep crews to pass by.

When we arrived in Banlung the old Solihull mudplugger and the first Range Rover ever to grace an ERA start list, went straight under the spanner. With little else to do other than eat, drink and relax, four sweeps along with Marco Halter and Matt Bryson set to under the bonnet. By the time the rest of us had enjoyed our desert though nothing had been resolved. It’s going to be a long, tense night ……….

It’s another border day tomorrow and it’ll be another early start.

Syd Stelvio



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