Last week I, along with best friend and youth pastor Christina, ran the first annual EPIC conference for TCKs. There were 60 people plus a bunch of parent volunteers who helped out over the three days. It was a great time and a fantastic start to what we hope is the first of many EPIC conferences.
For the last three days, Christina and I holidayed in Kep with Joe and Chris, two guys who put a lot into making EPIC happen. The four of us were basically the organisers of the event. Spending some downtime together was good.
I’d heard good things about Kep (pronounced more like Kipe) but this was my first visit. I fell in love with the place. I’m sure I’ll be back again – I can’t imagine not coming again sometime.
We took the bus from Phnom Penh on Monday morning – $5 a person for a comfortable AC bus – and arrived in Kep about 4 hours later. A short tuktuk ride brought us to Kep Seaside Guesthouse – simple, cheap accommodations but wonderful. Clean rooms, decent food, hammock huts, right on the ocean. There’s no sandy beach, just a sea wall, but it means the sound of lapping water is everywhere.
After a lazy Monday afternoon we watched the sun set over the ocean and then went into the centre of “town” for Khmer dinner and western dessert. We ate and drank and played cards and it was lovely.
I was the last to get up on Tuesday morning – I’m stunned with how tired I’ve been. I think it’s a semester of stress draining out of me. After breakfast the boys hired motorbikes and drove up the hill into Kep National Park while the girls did very little. Lying in a hammock reading my book (a Christmas present from my sister) with the gentle seabreeze washing over me, with the slightest salt scent… so perfect!
The boys came back and dinked us down to the crab market. We ate in a wooden restaurant that overhung the ocean – I sat by the big open window in the seabreeze… we ate fresh seafood (barbecued squid with fresh mint leaves!) and played cards, then went into town for dessert and more cards. Then Joe and I took the bikes up the hill again while the others bought our return bus tickets.
I really enjoyed driving through the park. There were some wonderful views across the ocean to many small islands. In places the trail reminded me of driving down the Clyde from Canberra to the coast. In other places it reminded me of the descent into Wollongong. It was very beautiful – rainforest, with vines draping overhead. There were bits of bright colour amongst all the green of the trees – little flowers and bright red leaves here and there. There were also scents I could never quite place – I just knew that warm, exotic floral scents would wash over me from time to time.
The trail was dirt and rock and we saw very few other vehicles – just one car and two motorbikes inside the park. In places there was forested hillside on one side of the track and the other fell away to a view of the sun setting over the ocean. In other places the forest totally enclosed the track, so it was shaded and close, all dark green but for the pale orange dust of the track. I loved the sensation of patches of warm and cool air brushing over my skin.
We drove home along the ocean as the sun was setting. Of all the sights there is one postcard moment that really sticks in my mind – two cows grazing on an overgrown basketball court with the sun setting behind them, beside very traditionally decorated buildings.
After dropping off the hired bikes we went home for a sunset swim in the ocean. The sun had dropped behind some cloud but I floated in the shallow water (never past my waist) watching the colours leech out of the sky, the reflections on the water’s surface dulling moment by moment. The moon grew brighter and even with my bad eyesight I could see a few stars coming out.
Then dinner, a bottle of Baileys, and more games. As I wandered off to bed I marvelled at the beautiful stars in the clear sky. I stood at the railing on the seawall and stared out into nothingness – so strange that it was just water and a few fishing boats as far as I could see. The moonlight on the ocean’s rippled surface was so pretty.
The morning was overcast with a strong cool breeze – lovely for reading in a hammock. We played cards and made our way to the bus stop to ride back to Phnom Penh. For half an hour or so I amused myself by counting people on motorbikes and the percentage wearing helmets. I stopped at 103 helmets on 300 people – 34%. The number would be higher if I counted helmets per motorbike. While there were frequently 2-4 people on a bike, there was almost never more than one helmet per bike. I was later told that the law requires the driver of a motorbike to wear a helmet, but not passengers.
Now I’m back in Phnom Penh, with a few days left to do errands and spend time with Christina. I feel just about ready to start a new year. Bring on 2012!