Cycling Across the Cardamom Mountains

Over Water Festival, my good friend and I made our most ambitious cycling trip yet: 250km across the Cardamom Mountain Range.  Covering 6% of Cambodia, the Cardamoms are home to most of the country’s large mammals and half of its birds, reptiles and amphibians, including globally endangered and threatened species like Asian Elephants, Indochinese tigers, Malayan sun bears, Pileated gibbons, Siamese crocodiles, and Irrawaddy and Humpback dolphins. The Cardamoms includes a vast ecosystem with sixteen vegetation types, from dense evergreen rainforest to lowland swamps to coastal mangroves.

Thanks in large part to the war and lingering UXO, the Cardamoms have fared relatively well while other swathes of pristine forest have been cleared out.  Unfortunately, I fear the Cardamoms won’t be quite the same even a year or two from now.  Upwards of a dozen hydroelectric projects, massive land concessions (30,000+ hectres), and other projects threaten to destroy one of Asia’s last eco-frontiers.  Needless to say, I am glad I went but sad at the seeds of “development” that I witnessed.

Prior to selling my soul and enrolling in the college of business, I was a film major.  I don’t have a speck of artistic flavor, but I love filming and editing.  I may not have a proper write-up of this trip for a bit, so enjoy this video I spliced together instead of packing for Hanoi.  Also, check out the GPS tracks and Google Earth info at Virgin Trails.

Update – Read the full write-up for the trip starting on Day 1Pursat to the Red-Hat Man’s House

~ by responsiblenomad on December 6, 2010.

10 Responses to “Cycling Across the Cardamom Mountains”

  1. Next biking adventure Preah Khan? How about the summer some time? Or shall we try northern Vietnam🙂 ?

    -steve-

  2. […] Check out my video post on the Cardamoms trip here. […]

  3. […] take some video of the downhill, I wipe out spectacularly (see it about half way through the video here).  I recover and snap a shot of a bemused Steve in his beloved […]

  4. Hey, great video and blog, currently in Battambang and am thinking of trekking the Cardomoms soon. Could you tell me what the name of the song you used for the video!? i love it! Thanks and great work!

  5. October 2013 route update: A buddy and I just got back from our own crossing of the Cardamoms, figured this is the place to update future readers on the road. We set out to do the same Pursat to Koh Kong route as you. Arrived mid-day in Pursat, easy dirt road from there. Found a guesthouse about 50-60km in, but it was shuttered. Spotted some friendly folks at a roadside shop who let us hang up our hammocks. Didn’t seem to be any proper guesthouses between Pursat and Pramoy, aside from the shuttered one.

    Day 2 continued along the good dirt road to Pramoy, where we turned to head towards Koh Kong. Rainy season, so lots of mud and rain. A few steep sections of road were very muddy, but pushable. About 40km before O Soam, the road you had taken is now under a reservoir. The new dirt road was in great condition, despite heavy rain. It’s a longer route though. Second night in O Soam, three guest houses there.

    From O Soam to Koh Kong is the big change. The “smuggler’s trail” through the jungle seems like a thing of the past. The new road built for the dams has diverted all the traffic away from that jungle track, according to our guesthouse manager. It didn’t seem possible to do it even, or at least not in the rainy season, as sections of it require boats. Again, according to the guesthouse manager. Giving it a shot in the rainy season was more adventure than we had signed up for, so took the 100km or so road into Koh Kong. Some muddy sections near O Soam but altogether pretty good conditions. Even some stretches of pavement around the dam infrastructure.

    This trip could be done in three full days without need for camping equipment. Arrive the prior evening in Pursat, then bike to Pramoy on the first day, several guesthouses. Next night in O Soam, then to Koh Kong. The road is rough on bikes – broke a rack, shredded brakes and lots of punctures. Be prepared.

    Great trip!

  6. […] a more manageable option, and found a great blog about a five day cycle from Pursat to Koh Kong (https://responsiblenomad.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/cycling-across-the-cardamom-mountains/).  I was a bit concerned about my fitness to do something like this, which got me looking at other […]

  7. Hi Tim, i was searching for some informations about cycling tour (on my own) from koh kong to pursat. Well, i found your interesting blog!🙂 but you did it reverse! nice video btw, i really like it and now im even more motivated.🙂 do you think gps is a must or is a compass all i need? I dont want to take the mainroad, when possible. Im not a professional cycler nor do i have some bear grylls moves in my package. Ill get a bike, a hammock and some water in koh kong. I intend to take my 15kg package on the tour… Thank you for your short answer.🙂

    • Thanks for your comment!

      I’ve attached the GPS, but these tracks are from almost 4-5 years ago, so I am sure the trail has changed (or perhaps disappeared). There is now a decent dirt road that goes from Pursat to Koh Kong – constructed for the dam. It is not used that much, but still wouldn’t be as beautiful as a single track.

      I would highly recommend a GPS – if you do go through jungle trails, it is very easy to get lost and disoriented. Moreover, if you do succeed in making it off the beaten track, you’ll need to find water sources. The dry season is starting, so rivers might be a bit lower – you shouldn’t have an issue, but I would definitely bring at least chlorine to treat water. We spent 2 days in the jungle without seeing any humans or settlements.

      Another option would be to cycle tracks from Koh Kong south to Chi Phat (Beautiful ride), and then Chi Phat to Arieng Valley. Chi Phat has a good ecotourism office which can arrange homestays or camping. Moreover, they can help send you on your way to Arieng Valley – absolutely beautiful place!

      Finally, there is a great track in Kirirom National Park (see my post on the Kirirom Backdoor). Single track that is wonderful this time of year. River crossing will be fun! https://responsiblenomad.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/camping-at-monks-lake-in-kirirom-national-park/

      Good luck and enjoy! Let me know how the trail is so that I can update the blog!

      Best,
      Tim

  8. […] in the dusty recesses of forgotten google search results, I found a sliver of hope. A post, written in 2010, described a possible mountain bike trek through the Cardamoms, beginning in a town called Pursat, […]

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