I say "attempted" because we didn't actually make it. We set off at 8.30am. A 9.30am on the highway the front left wheel (really) dropped off the mini van we were in and we were stranded. At least we were alive.
I was the responsible adult in this group (the driver was a newly qualified student at the centre.... about 17 years old.).... Ummmm not sure what to do about this one. I got out to consider the situation further. Basically the wheel bolt had come off and the wheel had then slid off the axle. Foolishly I picked the bolt up - Scalding HOT! OWWWWWWwwwww (I made good traditional Cambodian sound). Burnt three fingers and the skin went yellow - nice. Fearing that my fingerprints were burnt off forever I then used most of my drinking water to salvage them.
During this medical emergency time we arranged for a pick up to come from the centre with a jack for the van. We waited under a tree for 90 minutes. The jack and a (student) helper arrived.
A further 90 minutes passed with 2 of the older boys trying to fix the wheel. We were starting to get a little bored and very thirsty. Coconut man cycled down - Yippppeeeee. 8 coconuts provided a welcome distraction for 30 minutes or so.
The boys then decided we needed a pick up - I am still glad they took control at this point. The teacher will come with it - about 90 minutes later he arrives with about 15 other kids from the centre riding in the truck. He tries to fix it - for about 90 minutes.
By this time the kids are moody and so am I (but trying very hard). I have sun burn and have only had a coconut since 9.30am (but this stage it was 2pm). AGH! I am told that the minivan/bus will go on to the pick up. How? The pick up was essentially just a flat bad truck. It was no way of "picking up". The minivan was bigger than the pick up's flat bed! I am assured by this stage it will work. I cannot wait to see this.... are 15 kids going to pick up a tonne van?! How will it fit?! It only has three wheels after all?!
You see at this point I still have Cambodian faith - That is, even though it is totally impossible it can happen. Sometimes "impossible" things do happen here. The excitement of seeing a van "fly" keeps me going for 30 minutes. Then I realise the Cambodians have discovered it is impossible - It is not going to happen. Tonne vans cannot be lifted on to "pick up" trucks.
Disappointed by the failure of the van to fly I suddenly need water! The teacher announces he needs a spare part and I am determined to go and see civilisation again and more importantly buy water. Grabbing the most dehydrated student as a translator we were off in the back of another pick up truck (in the outside part naturally) off to find water.
Ahhhh sweet water. At this point I realise I resemble the red nosed reindeer. I also have very red arms. It is about 3pm.
The teacher then decides to get a mechanic - Seriously after 5 hours of looking and hitting the wheel with a spanner they then decide to get in the professional. Whodathought! Suddenly I wish I had taken control at 10am....
Unsurprisingly, the mechanic cannot fix it on the highway (we are in the middle of the road with only branches to stop vehicles from thundering into those in the middle of the road staring at the wheel problem) ... we have to head back leaving the mechanic to sort out taking the van to his workshop.
We get back to the children's centre after 4pm. Grabbing rice from the cook as quickly as we could we shoveled it in like we hadn't eaten for a week!
So "see you tomorrow at 8am" the kids said. "We try again". How could I say no? So off we went on Sunday to the village. Again....
Burnt and slightly crazy by the 6th hour....