TRAIL UPDATE: Cycling in the Cardamom Mountains (Smugglers Trail)
This is a quick update on the state of the Smugglers Trail through the Cardamom Mountains (see blog/maps/GPS tracks/story here and videos here and here), one of the best cycling trips I’ve ever done anywhere in the world.
Appears that the jungle trail is overgrown and perhaps impassable – yet to be confirmed, but would make sense given the new Chinese road from O Soam (near the massive hydropower dam project) to Koh Kong City. I might be headed out to Western Cambodia to try this route again in Nov/Dec, so hope to provide a definitive update.
For now, a big thank you to David Haskel, who provided this update in a comment on one of my Cardamoms posts. If you’re headed out to the Cardamoms, might be best to heed David’s advice and wait for the onset of the dry season (and bring a machete to recut the trail):
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.