by Kerry Tolson @kerrytolson.com
The following was an article I wrote for a local daily back in 2010.
Grimacing, I brace myself for the sickening crunch about to be bestowed as I feel the little scooter slide, swerving towards the jeep. There’s no traction on the dusty gravel and as the attached canopied trailer I’m hanging-onto-for-dear-life in ricochets off a pothole, it flicks towards a woman zipping past on her chicken-bouquet scooter. I skim through a mental checklist of Cambodia’s must-sees and there’s zilch about a trip to Siem Reap’s hospital being on the itinerary!
It’s a visual-packed schedule with a melding of time: days, hours, minutes, seconds melt into the cosmos under a sweltering humidity thick as honey, tasting of musk. Trips to ethereal temples litter the list: the brooding Bayon with its two hundred enigmatic faces staring down at you from towering pillars, willing you to question their knowing smiles, refusing to let you in on their secrets. Our footsteps muffle against baking grey rock that transcends above us, whilst drumming of cicadas reverberates and bounces against the stone, colliding and smashing the peace filled energy. Below, monks in robes the colour of mandarins with smiles just as sweet sit under a foliage umbrella, whilst around them, swirls of butterflies flitter and dance with emerald dragonflies.
The jungles 287 temples with thousands of secretive faces gives way to a visit of the inland sea, Tonle Sap, and exploration of its floating villages. It’s a fast boat ride up an almost black oil-slicked river, past fisherman submerged to their waists, throwing nets into the boat’s wake in the hope of skimming shrimp. Past small floating classrooms filled with children in crisp white shirts, and past boat builders in ragged trousers, hammering, sawing and planning great planks of wood by hand; not a skerret of electricity.
The open inland sea welcomes and the longboat zips across its glassy waters, then splashes into a village. A flotilla of boats line against a bobbing church, ‘What day is it? Sunday? The blending of days has become a blur in this vibrant country. Further along, a child’s delight: a carrousel bobbles behind a floating café along with its drifting garden.
A group children, each in their own silver bowl bobbing merrily upon the water row up to our boat, their joyful laughing in steep contrast to the hideous reality that afflicts this idyllic land. Landmines. And even out here, there is no escaping the truth. The ongoing legacies of wars past scream from the bodies of these beautiful children. Some are missing an arm or a leg but their audacious spirit shines through as they splash and bob and shriek playfully with wide eyes and cheeky grins.
No, there’s definitely no hospital visit on the list and as if reading my mind, the universe intervenes and brings to a halt the skidding madness. We stop inches away from the metal on metal, body on metal impact, and a sigh of relief is released. My driver turns around, a smile crosses his face, his eyes lit with exhilaration, ‘Lucky miss… now, we go to temple?’
Hello! I'm Kerry
. . . a plan-nothing, have no idea where I'm going travelholic.
A daughter of the gypsies and the wife of a workaholic, I'm forever wondering 'What's over there?' and devising ways to squeeze through the barbed-wire fence of small-business ownership responsibilities and every-day life tangles to discover it.
and this is my book