Sunday, 23 April 2017

Day 21: Biking Bad

Well I dunno, but Zak says this is Breaking Bad territory. It's true, perhaps, that the most interesting thing to see is vast and sparsely decorated landscape. Zak says it's more depressing than that. A lot of the others concur. 

As for myself, I like it when the vista opens out for a second--I feel my edges melt. The rest of the time, or all the time before that particular moment, I've been very much within. The way out of Pleiku is by rolling hill and you, the motorbikes, the cars and coppers and trucks and things all point pretty much in the same direction (unlike in Saigon) and you go, go go go. The highs aren't so high if you peddle your bum off on the downhill. Your speed gets up and you have to watch out for the trucks. The air is clean though and that couples with the speed and a nicely planned central reservation to make you feel healthy and alive as you dart through, looking out for trucks and perhaps a mate who has fallen behind. I breathe quickly through this bit, eyes everywhere.
The city, as it were, gives way to countryside but the undulations continue. It's fun to just ride fast. Then the Breaking Bad bit. It's uphill for the last 20 km. People seem high from the ride at the last stop before the up but also a lot of us are ill. Not me at this point but I've shared my drinks bottle so I know it's coming. The sun starts to blaze so I throttle right back for the last 20. I stop in the shade, it's hotter than on the bike. I can see Zak--apparently just stopped for a while, I find out later he rode into what he thinks is a cloud of spores and was coughing his lungs up. 
I get out of the sticky shade that I got into only 10 minutes after the rest stop and peddle up the gentle incline. I catch up to some of the others as the gradient starts to bite. In front of me, big strong Travis, with his ridiculous orange helmet and Belleville Rendezvous legs, is looking strong. Then a change to an awkwardly low gears sees him wobble to the side of the road. He stops, he pukes or something, I ask if he's alright as I continue to climb. No answer. I slow. "Do you need anything?" He replies 'yes' and keeps riding. 
Grace is at the side of the road resting her shoulder. Storm joins me at yet another rest stop. When Travis catches up he says he'll just carry on, thanks. Storm has the flu. We rest and drink and set off just as the sun decides to emerge from behind a big cloud. She's happy to continue so I take up the rear and we go slowly. And it's great. I can see everything. There's more green now, more children to shout hello then run away or collapse into themselves under the weight of their own shyness which only manifests after they've realised that they've just successfully greeted a foreigner in a foreign language. Dark skin and big smiles. Small boys on motorbikes made of pure rust. Red dirt. Driving machines to make Mario and Luigi proud. Oxen. More uphill. But slowly does it for sure. And slowly and surely, just like that, we arrive.

--Bianca Kubairsingh

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