Friday, March 8, 2013


and the clutch, dear one.

I hope you received my last letter. The photographs were separate. I'm feeling a bit pouty tonight. Mainly bcs I couldn't find anyone to travel with for my trek. Worthwhile but no one was up for it. Which just makes me bemoan traveling alone. I have met some lovely people in the interim, but still. And i'm sure i'm just cranky to be coming to an end, and cranky to still be traveling and cranky i'm running out of money- expectedly really. and cranky to have to find a job. Wah. Traveling is hard sometimes. Life is hard sometimes, or hard in that mundane sort of tilling the field and hacking away at a rock that won't come out. Whine. Speaking of- the interview of yours, all the anticipation and nerves involved- how exasperating! the rescheduling. Are you totally against the biscuit making? Now that I can eat them again, mmm. But anyway now that we're on to delicious things, like warmth, honey and butter, let me tell you about my motorbiking- I should've told you about it straight away. I was grinning ear to ear, dripping with exuberance. And now i'm all oh what a lovely distant memory of that one time- even though it was literally like barely 2 days ago.

It started with me googling 'how to ride a motorbike' and then after my nerves of the morning, crossing the anxiety producing rickety bamboo and wood bridge (available only during dry season) down the lane, across a stream, where I saw an impromptu gathering of butterflies- thrilled!, the heat pressing, but blooms, and baby chickens, and dogs and cats, and life humming quietly I waited for Tom to arrive back at his shop. He made me tea. He ate fried rice. I sat on a quad bike taking it all in, and thus it began!

I'm sure it was fairly tame for some, but for me high adventure. Traveling on rock ridden dirt roads, mostly flat with some dips and turns, at slow speeds, with a helmet and no other safety gear, almost running over a duck, learning how to use a clutch, and almost driving off the safe part of the bridge because I took my eyes off Jesus Tom for one second and looked at what I was driving over, like he told me not to, was enough that I was smiling most of the entire time we were out even as I uttered expletive after expletive when i'd fail to engage the clutch and gas at the same time to start.

His services came up on a tripadvis*r search randomly, people raving about it, and granted in my mind I imagined an automatic scooter or something- so when he emailed me back asking for my stats, and then I visited and he started talking about gears- I got nervous. But felt, sucked into his orbit as we laughed about flying ostrich tours (imagined) and he told me about the ghost of the old man who died on the land he lives on now. (he leaves cigarettes out for him, I said he really should move on, but apparently they have a rather amiable relationship so-) . I could've talked to this guy for hours and not done a thing and it would've been fine. He is the sort of person that makes traveling worthwhile- story, story, story and a passion for showing you what they love. (from wales, who knows where the wife went, kids, a kid? tells bawdy but harmless jokes, smokes copiously, just wanted to get out of the UK, and heaps to say about the locals in their defense and otherwise, which was a great insight-)

We trained in his shop for an hour+ before we even got on the road- and then he had me drive to a sign, practice turning, and driving back, before we kept going. His only wish and mine too would've been earlier in the day- cooler, less people on the road- and that his shop was longer since he had me practice once we were off the rollers to clutch, gas and go, then gas off, clutch in, brake while heading toward a cement wall. He insisted that's why I couldn't quite pull it together faster- sure at first it was fear, but then it was just a momentum issue- red switch on, stand up, kick it into neutral, engage clutch, start the engine, first gear, feel the bite as you release the clutch SLOWLY- ach- and give it gas- I overheated one bike, had to do another, and we had a pepsi break in between- I don't test well. That's my theory- bcs he'd be like, oh you got it! it'd stall. We'd both say DAMN. What happened. I do have a good ear- I could tell when I had to give it a go- and yet. Over and over, neutral, start the motor, pull the clutch in, gas, release the clutch, gas, pull in the clutch, kill the gas and break.... over and over!

Anyway I love this guy. Patient. Humorous. Encouraging. Practical. Kind. I really wish he was my uncle. It would be awesome.

And we stayed out way later than either of us knew as it was almost 630 before we got back- having stopped for a beer that I had to drink as it seemed to make him sad that I would refuse (hello we're driving!)- so I had some beer lao (I poured some in his bottle when he wasn't looking). Check it off the list. And he was able to scare one of the local girls with a plastic cobra, the baby monkey they were hand raising as well- screeched and wasn't having it either, which was amazing the instinct it had. My other regret- my camera wasn't with me. Mainly I feared projecting myself into gravel or a ditch so I left it behind- but I should've made him carry it- Otherwise we traveled through towns, with the lovely dramatic mountains around us. I didn't make it up into them- like the young german guys- oh well- I'm not that fast and keyword- fearless- of a learner. Also overall I don't have a need for speed or motorized fluidity- but I would do it again definitely. Because yes, it was totally RAD. And empowering and freeing.

I wonder if I could get to a point of just being able to - go- but i'm so conscious of what it would take- the knowledge of the engine I feel I would have to have, the gear overall, and the danger -- I mean I had just the other day seen a dead motorcyclist. So. It's conflicting. Was conflicting- that I would be absorbed in the moment and pulled out and aware again. We (me) try things, go to places, that there's no way any western country would let us- because we're consumed with being safe, despite the fact the world in no way is a safe place- but we always want to make it safer- and that's a good thing most times- and we (me) see a man with a helmet, great- but then the 3 kids with him- nope... and it goes on and on. It's part reckless. It's part, this is how we've always lived- on the cutting edge of life and death- nevermind the unexploded ordinance UXO and the lack of medical care- (next letter), the wars, most recently, communism, lack of education (aka social/environmental programming for both the intelligent and uhm, not, which unfortunately is the masses. how do you get around that. the shop across the street from my motorcycle man- a trash basket near the old woman (the ghosts wife), a boy, unpeels plastic right on her door, she doesn't notice, she does the same- having no concept that they make their country look bad. they laugh and titter at the foreigners with what we do, or how much we pay for things, or even our dislike of spice- with no understanding of anything, and in desperate need of smart and non-corrupt leadership. what do you do with stupid people? with a we would say 'different' kind of intelligence. beautiful need to be protected and guided sheeple?) My van driver for instance thought it was hilarious to have me try a really spicy mash- I was like yes and? But I seriously digress-

But that all surrounded our conversation- we passed an accident where something went wrong with a motorbike and a girls back was slightly scraped. He pointed out the hazards and how if when  the road is paved, what will happen to the livestock and the people pressed up against it- again, on the way here I saw a rooster get clipped, and who knows if it survived- and all the kids on bicycles, walking, the farmers with their carts, the cows in the road, and even people would stop in the middle of the road to talk- because it did seem quiet and idyllic- the houses here wood, or woven, thatched roofs- gorgeous. Simple. Absolutely prosaic landscape. With the signs of 'civilization'- the satellite dishes, the corrugated tin creeping onto houses, the brick houses etc-- change. The paved ways improving infrastructure but the villagers aren't moving their houses- back... the road is just going through.

So all that to say- what a day! I don't know if in the telling I did it justice. Deep breaths, some bumps, some panic, some successful shifts as the sun was setting and casting deep shadows ahead of us as we returned- exuberance at living life and learning and going beyond. We got back, and I braked a little hard. And a truly lovely german couple got talking to Tom and me (as they wanted to ride with him the next day)- and couldn't believe I'd just learned not 4 hours ago. She even kissed me goodbye with a warm handshake after we walked over the more stable bridge south of town talking of travel and the loves and passions of life... Before I left, I gave Tom a hug and almost cried I had such a good time. I was truly reluctantly sad to leave such a transcendent moment.



almost anonymous said...

A nice addition to your list of adventures!

somebody's mom said...

I can imagine the chain of events if the road was paved.