Tuk Tuk Diaries

Posted: | By Sunrise Medical
Tuk Tuk Diaries

Greetings! My name is Mitch St. Pierre.

I am an intrepid adventurer who has osteogenesis imperfecta - which means that my bones are brittle and break easily, and often for no clear reason. Osteogenesis imperfecta is a genetic disease that affects how my body produces collagen, the protein that helps to strengthen bones. Because of this, I use a wheelchair to help me get around.

I know what you’re wondering… what on Earth am I doing miles away from any civilisation, in a wheelchair, in the Cambodian jungle? Well, I told you I have an adventurous soul!

And, that soul brought me to the jungle just north of Cambodia alongside my Canadian friend, Shawn, and our new buddy, Max, also both explorers at heart.

The three of us had been resting in our humble accommodations after a day of traversing our stunning surroundings when Shawn’s panicked voice shook me from my slumber.Hey, mate! There’s something out there!”

I knew Shawn well, and assumed this was one of his usual pranks - of which he’d pulled a few. But we were, after all, in the middle of the jungle, so I paid close attention to his anxious cries all the same.

And then, I heard it.

We all heard it.

A sickening scream pierced through the darkness, from a beast that sounded something akin to a pterodactyl on the hunt for blood. Our blood. We knew our end was nigh as we huddled together, trembling in fear, and repeating to ourselves, “I didn’t sign up for this!”

A Thirst for Adventure

While working with Shawn on a documentary in 2011, I fell head over heels for our surroundings and purchased a small resort hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The hotel is a haven for any weary traveller, and complete with a swimming pool, bar, and restaurant. I’ve been running this little oasis for the past three years.

Siem Reap is a stunning location. It boasts an endless list of amazing places to see and experiences to have, from the world’s largest religious monument, Angkor Wat, to the overgrown remains of the ancient temple at Beng Mealea, and everything else you could ever imagine in between.

But for me, even this can’t compare to the open Cambodian countryside and the thrill of travelling to places that tourists don’t visit.

Tuk Tuk Travels

Our goal was to travel the scenic route across Cambodia, starting from the capital, Phnom Penh, and reaching Siem Reap by journey’s end.

Our mode of transport? A tuk tuk that I had just acquired.

A tuk tuk is a three-wheeled motor vehicle, frequently used as a taxicab for tourists on busy city streets. We needed to get it back home, so, naturally, we made the trip into a sightseeing adventure as well.

From Phnom Penh we started northwards along the Mekong, the world’s 12th-longest river. Overnight, we took shelter in a monastery, and were awoken by monks the next morning to re-embark upon our expedition.

Our next stop was supposed to be Stung Treng, but after half a day of tuk tuk travels, we realised that we’d taken a wrong turn and had been heading towards the Laos border instead. Once we had driven another half-day back to our starting point, we crossed the Mekong River on a ferry and were back on course for home.

I don’t have a single clue how we made it. When you consider that the three of us were confined to a tuk tuk 16 hours a day, every day, under the burning hot Cambodian sun, navigating jagged and unmarked jungle roads, it seems impossible. But we did. We made it.

Wanderlust

The days were long, hot, and tough, but the nights were magical. Once dusk set in, we’d park wherever we pleased, and relive the highlights of our grand odyssey with drinks in hand. 

Shawn and I met in university 13 years ago and bonded through our mutual thirst for adventure and love of nature. In the years following, we travelled all over the world and explored every inch of it. Over this time, we’ve amassed quite the array of wild, funny, bizarre, and sometimes plain scary stories.

Our first trip together to Latin America sparked our wanderlust and became the foundation of our new lives as intrepid adventurers. We travelled for four months - Shawn, me, and my Quickie wheelchair - and experienced life in all of its beautiful extremes. We were held at gunpoint; we were stranded on deserted islands; and we fell madly in love with it all. Now, it’s what we live for.

The Return to Siem Reap

You might have wondered whether the bloodthirsty pterodactyl-creature in the Cambodian forest caught us and devoured us. Or, you might have suspected that it ended well, at least for me, since I’m alive and well and writing this for you.

Despite our fears, we didn’t get devoured by the beast, nor did we ever discover what it actually was. It did, however, leave us with the gift of an adrenaline rush and a renewed appreciation for being alive.

It would be an understatement to say that I was relieved to be back home at the end of our journey. Jungle life didn’t allow for the modern-day accommodations and comforts that we would have enjoyed, and I needed a shower. We all needed showers.

I’m filled with a sense of nostalgia when I look back upon all the journeys that have led me to this point in my life. Each adventure, scary night in the jungle, and near miss left me born anew with a little more knowledge of life. I discovered my strength and built upon it each time that I faced a challenge or threat and prevailed.

I also learned that it is okay to be afraid of entering the unknown. But, you also need to realise that no matter what happens, everything will be okay. Anything can be overcome, and I am living proof that anything can be achieved.

I will be back soon to share with you some more of my adventures, misadventures, lessons learned, and near misses. But, for now, I’ll leave you with a quote by which I live my life:

A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.- William Shedd.

About the Author

Mitch St. Pierre is an acclaimed advocate, public speaker, traveller, filmmaker and business person.

He ran as a candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada, and figureheads several business throughout Asia. Through his political activism, he has met with many influential world leaders to advocate on behalf of regions of conflict.

Mitch’s taste for adventure has seen him travel through over 40 countries in his Quickie wheelchair, equipping him with a unique perspective of the world, some awe-inspiring tales, and the opportunity to film from some of the most remote places on Earth.

His premiere film aired nationwide on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Canada, and on Current TV in the United States.

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