Sombor – 14th July 1866

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On the thirteenth we covered a small distance only: after a short stop at Sombor, we camped for the night at the entrance to the Peam Champi, a small affluent of the left bank.

There we were at the beginning of the rapids of Samboc-Sombor. The edge of a maize field served as a dormitory. The novelty of the situation, the long conversations until late at night, the mosquitoes and a few drops of rain caused most of us to pass a sleepless night. At 6 a.m. the next day, after a quick breakfast of biscuits and coffee, also on board, our barges continued the ascent of the river.

The current was strong. The waters had risen approximately five meters and already carried trees, branches, masses of leaves swept from the banks. Instead of the rocky promontories which sow this part of the river during the low water periods, only a few far-off clumps of trees that indicated the location of submerged rocks could be seen on the vast river.

The right bank of the river was more than a mile away. Along the bank that we were following, a large space appeared clear of any obstacle, and offering an easy passage to a steamboat that has sufficient power to oppose the current.

In the end, the dreaded rapids seemed to disappear with the rising of the waters, and the navigability of the river, which, at the beginning of the journey, was the most important issue to research, could be ascertained up to this point without fear.

At 5 p.m. we arrived at Sombor. 

Garnier, Vol 1: 55-56

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On 16 July we found ourselves facing formidable rapids: the clear and easily discernible banks of the islands which had so far framed the arm of the river that we had been following suddenly vanished.

The Cambodia river was covered with innumerable clumps of half-submerged trees. The muddy waters flowed impetuously in a thousand channels, the inextricable network of which it was impossible to discern.

Enormous sandstone blocks rose up along the left river bank which we were following, indicating that a bank of the same stones crossed the river and barred its entire width.

Rather a long way out from the bank, the stingers’ bamboo poles hit the bottom at less than three meters and it was only with the greatest of effort that our barges were able to advance against a current which, in certain constrained places, reached a speed of five miles an hour.

The future of rapid  commercial relations on this vast river, the natural route from China to Saigon, of which I had happily dreamt the previous evening, appeared seriously compromised to me from this moment on.

Garnier, Vol 1: 57