The storm raged without pause. From what I could make out through the blue mosquito netting under which I lied awake, outside my bungalow window the wind and rain blew until night blurred into morning, ruffling everything in sight, except the white cow that, I swear, was grazing on the green grass – in that same spot! – the evening before, an impervious fixture.
We were stranded. That morning, the small boats would not shuttle us back to Kep, would not make the 30-minute passage. The water was too choppy, they said. We took refuge from the wind in a three-walled restaurant, ate warm banana and nutella pancakes, salted fries and grilled prawns. We conspired with other stranded travellers, caught up on our reading, and napped in net hammocks.
Once, we took a stroll to a small cove.
And once, I took a walk by myself down the beach, past the empty hammocks swinging idly in the wind, and stared at the frothy grey water lapping at my toes, at the cold grey skies above, and at the cool sand collecting on my skin.
In end, the boatman came. We boarded the small boat, with cheer. But our cheer soon dissolved into shared glances of worry, then frantic laughter, as we braced ourselves against the water that swelled up and grabbed at us, threatening to capsize our small boat, one violent wave at a time. And it was then, as I sat soaked to the skin, wiping the sea water from my eyes and watching the shape of the island grow more indistinct with each rise and fall, that I told myself: Next time, I will check the weather report before making a boat trip to a remote Cambodian island. Sorry, mum.