The End of an Essential Journey

Waking up in a hammock in Cambodia’s countryside. Photo: Nicolò Tissier

Travel Journal, Episode 6: Returning to Cambodia, All the Way to Phnom Penh!

We came back to Cambodia through the O’Smach border checkpoint in Oddar Meanchey Province. From there, the distance to Phnom Penh was 475 kilometers, which would take us around 18 days to walk. The route was more direct by coming via Siem Reap province than by following the main road to Phnom Penh.

We decided to take this direct road, which meant to go across land deep into the countryside for four days. This way was one of the most beautiful and nature paths we took, but also the most difficult one. We didn’t get any real meal for those four days; so, we ate instant noodles we found in small grocery stores, and snacks we had brough in case we wouldn’t find any fresh food.

On the first night, we had found a hut, but the villagers were worried when they saw us. They called the local policeman who came and asked us to go to sleep at the village chief’s house. It was an unpleasant moment because we had to walk for an hour in the middle of the night, but it ended fine when we arrived at the house.

The other problem we had, and that from the second day on, was that the road indicated on the map didn’t exist. And what was supposed to be a path turned out to be a swamp…We struggled a whole morning trying to find ways through, and finally crossed the swamp with the help of villagers and their boat. In the afternoon, we found our way back.

There was neither homestay nor even pagoda where we could spend the night, and so we had to camp in nature. It was the most rustic nights we had, but they also were great experiences. Hammocks became most useful in this last part of the trip; we ended up using them a lot.

During that part of our trip, we were in such an isolated area that people really were surprised to see us.

Sunset in Cambodia’s countryside. Photo: Nicolò Tissier

After four days, we arrived in the Siem Reap area and, from then on, it was a major road again and the way was smooth until the end of our trip.

The last days were almost the most difficult as the closer we were getting to the end, the harder it was to go on and keep being motivated.

The temple that marked us the most during that part of the journey was the one that would turn out to be our last.

A little isolated from the main road, we reached it at the very end of the day, and at the precise moment when the sky turned pink and purple—the most astonishing sky we had seen. The temple itself was old and beautiful. The monks were all young and very friendly. The combination of all these elements made that last temple unforgettable.

And so, our walk ended along with our 3-month journey of April, June and July 2023.

We walked approximately 50 days, covering 1,000 kilometers on foot.

Above all, we’ll remember this as a life-changing experience, a once in a lifetime adventure. I honestly don’t know if I will ever be able to do something like that again. Or if I’ll want to do that again, because of the difficulty and lack of comfort it was.

That said, I don’t regret it for a moment, as this experience had a deep impact on how I see things in life now. Through this trip, my perception evolved. I guess this is what traveling is all about.

Areas with few trees left in Cambodia’s countryside. Photo: Nicolò Tissier

Follow the author's travelogue from episode 1 to 5 here: Episode 1Episode 2Episode 3Episode 4 & Episode 5

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