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Rabid dogs in Kampot, Southern Cambodia

CAMBODIA | Tuesday, 3 June 2008 | Views [2390]

3rd June 2008

Having had a taste of Sihanoukville, Stephen and I travelled further down the coast to a smaller quieter town called Kampot. A charming little town by day which sits beside a river. Stephen and I both sought out a spot by the river under some shade to read our books.

We also stopped by a cafe which was recommended in the guidebook due to its community ties. The cafe was run by disabled cambodians. Most appeared to be deaf, although some were suffering from a physical disability and our main waitress suffered from a skin condition (I think it may have been leprosy). So our order and requests were communicated by the simplified sign language explained in the table literature and pointing at menus.The lunch snack was delicious, as was the tea.

The cafe is actually a side-project of a wider community initiative that encourages performing arts. The founder was actually an English contemporary dancer who was paralysed (I remember reading about her a long time ago) - and who was inspired by CandoCo Dance Company (which I watched in performance years ago when I was dancing at school). I felt quite moved by it all.

Dinner was spent with two girls - Australian and Brit - who had booked on to the same group tour as us for the next day.

I have this thing about seeing towns and cities at night - I really love contrasting the town at night with its character during the day. So at 10.30pm, I decided to leave the table in search of an ATM which should have been a 15-minute walk into town.

The streets were pitch-black...no street lighting! It gave a perfect view of the night-sky. I rejected the advice of an irritating English blabber-mouth who(amongst the many unsolicited pieces of advice he offered) advised that we travel by moto or tuk-tuk through the town at night because of the high number of rabid dogs prowling the streets. I took this advice, along with everything else he said, with a large dose of salt. That turned out to be a huge mistake.

The town was quiet around the guesthouse. No person was walking the streets, and few cars/motorbikes ever crossed my path. I decided to take a backstreet to the town - since this was the most direct route to the ATM.

As I ventured into the street dimly lit by the moon, I occasionally caught sight of shadows moving in my peripheral vision. I never looked directly, there was no need...I knew that there were packs of dogs along the pavement to the right and besides the closed shops to the left. I opted to keep my eyes focused on my destination - knowing also that any direct look may intimate fear. I also opted to walk in the middle of the road, as I figured that there was less chance of me being hit by a passing vehicle than being attacked by the dogs. In my left hand I carried a torch, which I did not put on because I did not to highlight my intrusion into the dogs domain like a beacon. In my right hand I carried my pocket-knife - a fairly sturdy Leatherman Wave with a single-finger knife action. I honestly don't know what I would have done with it, although I have felt alot safer travelling alone in certain parts at night when I have carried it in hand (I always keep it in my pocket anyway) and made its presence known as an intimidatory deterrent.

I made it safely to the ATM, only have to take one diversion near to my destination to avoid a pack of dogs blocking a junction.

My return journey was not so fortuitous. I took the same route back, but this time I was stopped in my tracks by a different pack of dogs at a different junction. One dog creeped towards me, teeth showing, after I had stopped. I decided to back away slowly and take an alternative route. The dog sped up, and so I did to. I realised that the dog was coming for me, so I turned on to a different street and ran as fast as me legs could take me (fortunately I can run quite fast). The dog gave chase, quickly followed by the pack of dogs which he had crept away from. I ran through the dark backstreets for about 25-30 metres (which may be an underestimate) before I managed to lose them. My heart was racing, I was panting, and I found myself standing on one of the partially-lit main roads. I followed the main road north, as an alternative route back to the guesthouse.

But again, not far from the guesthouse, I found myself descended upon by dogs. I may well have provoked this chase after one dog started to move towards me - I decided to make a run for it once it was uncomfortably within biting distance. This chase was far worse in terms of the number of dogs - this time packs (plural!) of dogs started chasing me in waves from each side of the pavement. I was helped, however, by the partially lit street.

I had to run quite far past my guesthouse to the bridge at the end of town before I lost them. I waited a while, and then made my way back hesitantly. I eventually searched out my guesthouse and banged on the gate so that the asleep guard would let me in.

I rejoined the dinner table. My closest encounter with disaster so far - what a night!

By the river running alongside Kampot, southern Cambodia - where I stopped to read my book for a while.

By the river running alongside Kampot, southern Cambodia - where I stopped to read my book for a while.

Tags: dogs, kampot, rabies

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