Saturday, January 25, 2014

Shuffle Off To Buffalo

From Monday to Friday, we make our way to Honour Village by tuk-tuk. As one of my last posts described, we spend a good portion of our ride out in the countryside, and get a close-up look at rural life. Seeing how hard the people work and how difficult their lives really are has helped me to understand Cambodians so much better, and to appreciate what a struggle life really is in a third world country. 

Once we get out beyond the edges of the city, and we hit the countryside with it's slow, easy pace, a peacefulness and calmness descends upon me and I feel the tension flow out of my bodyThe fields seem to stretch on for miles. It's like being thrown back into a time long ago when there were no farm machines and all the work was done by hand.  Back then, people had little, yet they survived. They were happy, and appreciated everything they had. This is what I still see here. 

Every once in a while, we pass a farmer walking alongside the road with his cattle. I am almost bewildered by their lack of reaction! Not a blink, a flinch, or a turn of the head, even when we approach from behind. They just continue to trudge along, seemingly oblivious to our presence, unruffled by the clatter of the tuk-tuk trailer or the low rumble of the moto.

A farmer leads his cattle alongside the road.
Most cows are pretty bony, 
which might explain why beef is so tough here!

It's usually a quiet drive down those country roads, except for those occasional exciting days when we get lost or overturned. (click on 'overturned' to read about that episode). The sights are pretty much the same - open fields stretching off on either side and the occasional herd of water buffalo lazily grazing away. These creatures are interesting and beautiful in their own hulking, ugly way, weighing around 1000 pounds each, definitely an animal I'd prefer to keep at a a distance.

We will often see a few water buffalo.
Large numbers together like this are a less common sight.

We sometimes see them cooling off in the streams
or in flooded rice paddies.

A few weeks back, as our tuk-tuk turned off the pavement onto the dirt road that leads to Honour Village, we could see a large herd of buffalo  plodding along the road, perhaps fifty or sixty head in all.  At first it looked as if all the animals were keeping well off to one side, and as we got closer, the back of the herd appeared to be veering in together to let us pass.

Water buffalo moving alongside the road.

Some were still on the opposite side of the road in the field

A little farther down, we began to approach them head on.
They still seemed to be steadily moving off 
to the side to let us pass.
The driver slowed down, staying to the far right, and kept going...
Suddenly, we were in the middle of the herd.
More started coming out of the pasture, coming at us straight on,
or crossing directly in front of our tuk-tuk!

The driver braked hard, sending our tuk-tuk into a little skid
and it was only then that the buffalo seemed to notice us.
For a few scary moments, they began to act a bit nervous, frightened.

See how this one has its ears back, head craning forward, almost in a run....

The tuk-tuk driver crept forward cautiously, trying to keep his distance
and the water buffalo passed by and moved off to the side of the road once again, 

Finally they'd all passed, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
As I looked back, I spotted a lone farmer, walking calmly at the rear of the herd.
He seemed to know better than to get in front of them.

When I was a kid growing up in the 1950's, Western movies were all the rage. Even though I watched scene after scene of cowboys perched high atop horses, engulfed in a sea of cows, I never once dreamed what it might be like to be a cattle rustler. After all, I'd never seen even one cow close up, let alone hundreds! There's an old saying that goes 'Never say never'. On that particular day, driving through a herd of buffalo, I think we came pretty close to the real deal.

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