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Long Way Up

By: Charley Bolding-Smith Posted: April-22-2011 in
Charley Bolding-Smith

Most readers will be familiar with the overland adventures of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman (Nat Geo Adventure TV seems to have Long Way Down on a permanent tape loop). They’re epic ‘Boy’s Own’ journeys – achieved with the full weight of a support and production team. Phnom Penh resident Nick Simpson is also preparing to go a long way, travelling from the capital to Siem Reap. A distance of 464 km. Riding a cyclo. In five days. With no support. Is it possible? You decide…

Instead of travelling on Highway 6 (the most direct route, north of Tonle Sap Lake), Nick leaves on 23rd May using Highway 5, south of the Tonle Sap, and will travel through some of the more off the beaten track provinces. He’ll first head north-west to Pursat and Battambang, then on to Sisophon, and finally east down to Siem Reap. It’s all in a good cause, of course (someone should benefit, and it’s unlikely to be Nick!). He’s doing it to raise money for a community development project in Siem Reap called Khmer for Khmer Organisation. They are working towards alleviating extreme poverty in Chreau Commune, by providing bi-lingual education and vocational training.

On his Virgin Money Giving page Nick describes his expectations as ‘scorching heat or driving rain, probably both, good scenery, shocking motoring skills, dust, sweat and tears, burning calf muscles, and, as always, friendly locals’. A seasoned adventurer, who’s been a serious rock climber for the last decade, Nick confesses to a track record of ‘stupid journeys’. He’s also run half marathons, with an impressive personal best of 1.21 hrs. Which is probably a faster way to cover 21.0975 km than in a cyclo. No records appear to exist on the vehicle’s maximum velocity (a shocking omission in the Wikipedia article), but he acknowledges that they’re not built for speed – or comfort! Better add burning glutinous maximus muscles to his list of expectations.

Fortunately Nick speaks good Khmer, and, if he fails to reach his daily destinations, plans to sweet-talk the locals into giving him a space to string his hammock for the night. Where’s the cyclo coming from? “I’m buying one for $100 – I might sell it in Siem Reap, or maybe I’ll keep it” Nick told me when I met him recently. So, he hasn’t actually done any vehicle-specific training as yet? “No”. Ah. What are his main concerns? “Close encounters with trucks! I might have to use the hard shoulder of the road, which would slow me down. That, and keeping hydrated”.

All the support equipment he’s using is being transported in the passenger seat of the cyclo. “It’s not really practical to have a support team – every other vehicle would be faster than mine!” But what if he fails to meet his destination before nightfall? “I’ve got lights on the cyclo, and could push on if I’m close”. In which case, what about those close encounters with trucks? Nick made no comment but raised his eyebrows. Suddenly, the dangers inherent in the enterprise – which makes any real adventure worth the undertaking – came into focus.

Nick is a nice guy, and deserves a bit of support from the barrang community in Cambodia for his philanthropic if, frankly, madcap scheme. We’ll let you know how it goes. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yes, he is a Brit.

More information can be found on Nick’s Virgin Money Giving donation page:

You can read about the work of the Khmer for Khmer Organisation here:


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