Mr. 56 is a big poopy. He tried to kill us!
I’ll get to him in a little bit after I tell you the story.
Me and the bossman were headed up to see the family. I love cycle trips because I get to see the countryside for real instead of hanging from the back of a car, or, gross! Seeing nothing from inside the trunk. We were going to take it leisurely from Calgary up to Castor Alberta, which was about 300k. That’s nothing to me even though bossman huffs and puffs like a chubby baby.
We didn’t bother to look up what route to take we just checked the maps and decided to choose the yellow roads instead of the black ones. Easy right?
Our first leg took us on The Man From Country Hills’ road. He was not very nice. There was no room for my two wheels and the big oily grease trucks looked at us like we were flies. We panicked for a second and then turned onto Mr. RR8165 (I think that was his name). That was better. He was old but not well travelled and old-man-doesn’t-know-the-world-grew-up hospitable. We stayed on him until Mr. 567. He was gentle and even cleared most of the rocks away.
At the end of the first day we were headed north on Mr. #9. He was our friend immediately. He had lots of room for us and offered water and shelter. He even invited us to stay the night! I hugged him with each rubber rotation.
On day two we left the human photo town of Beiseker where I was chained to a tree for the night like a dog. The town looks like one of those postcard towns from a Stephen King movie and the people seemed a bit too normal. We left early but 60k along Mr. #9, the sky started crackling and spitting so we hunkered down in a dinosaur town.
Day three was our nightmare. We woke up; I greased and cleaned because I knew the wind would be slapping us all day, then took off towards Mr. 56. On the map it looked like the logical choice. We were wrong.
Mr. 56 was trying to kill us. He put deep rumbly strips on the side of the road and only left us 2 inches to maneuver in. The drop to the right was 6 inches straight into the moat and oily trucks sped passed as though they would die if they didn’t break the sound barrier.
Then it got worse.
Sure, there were no rumbly strips on the next section but that was because there was no room for them! The rigs increased their speed and numbers and we had to pull over a couple of times when there were two at once. I sweated lube and bossman pooped a bit. We stopped and had a chat.
“Should we go on and risk death? Or should we turn around and make the trip longer?”
Just then an oversized money rig blasted passed us and shook our pedals. If we were rolling at that moment we would have been clipped.
We turned around.
Soon after we turned toward Mr. #9 a people ambulance drove by us from behind. Maybe there is someone looking out for us in case we decided on doing the stupid thing!
Mr. #9 welcomed us back with open arms. “You stay with me young men. I’ll take care of you.”
We laughed and drank gatorade and biodegradable lube. Yum Yum.
Jake the Snake (2007)
I’ve never chosen to cease driving because of 20 km/h winds before but three minutes of wobbly bobbin on the Trans-Canada highway in the 1978 Ford truck underneath a massive camper with the words “you suck” scrawled over the horse logo made stopping the only option. We might as well have attached a sail to the top and taken it out on the lake. Every cross-wind gust just about tipped the ol’ girl into the ditch.
Some might think that choosing to drive for 1000′s of km’s in a $500 camper/truck set is a tad foolish. Perhaps, but it’s better than not doing it when it’s an option. What would be better? I’ve already awoken-worked-worked out-hung out-slept-repeat for years while thinking of my next safe-ish vacation. The two-tone brown unit represents a plunge into the unknown.
Aside from a bewildered look from a border guard and a nasty knock in the engine in Montana that was cured by adding oil instead of turning up the music (who knew), the freedom cruiser rolled along like the ocean liner it is. There is a letter that needs to be written to the city of Denver however, stating that the roads through that high city are not brown-boat friendly and need to be flattened. The Bronco just about fell over on a few unsuspecting motorists.
Hopefully this is just the beginning of many more kilometers for the ’78. Not knowing if we are going to make it to the next gas station or town is a test in patience and faith that there may be something else pushing us along. What is there to worry about? Probably nothing.
When I looked down at my feet today and saw what salt and melting snow can do to dress shoes it reminded me of what my t-shirt looks like after it has been dipped in the ocean and left to dry in the sun.
That was a fleeting thought. I was jumping puddles and avoiding the splash of a Hummer’s tire as it sped through the slush beside me the rest of afternoon. A Calgary chinook is a blessing albeit a messy one.
The salt stayed on my shoe and the allure of the Hawaiian ocean stayed on my mind: the breeze, the smell, the pace. I can picture it now…
I will step off the plane on the Big Island into an open-air airport and perfectly humid air that makes me feel like I can grow my hair back. The Hawaiians won’t bat an eye when I hitchhike to Kona. The two shirts and two shorts I will pack will suffice for the high of 25C and the low of 24C. I will surf at Pine Trees, I will climb the Mauna Kea, I will kayak to Captain Cook.
There is a shirt in Bangkok that you can buy that says “Good men go to Heaven. Bad men go to Bangkok.”
That might be true.
Here is a list of Bangkok:
1. Don’t leave your drink unattended. You don’t know what the f someone could put in it.
2. Don’t let someone buy you a bucket. You don’t know what they could put in it.
3. Don’t pass out on the street. The local cops would love to take you in.
4. Don’t breathe. The pollution could kill you.
5. Remember where you’re staying.
6. I asked a guy in 7-11 how he was. He said “It’s Bangkok”. I learned what he meant two days later.
7. There are a lot of suits for sale.
8. Read one of the many “Bangkok Hilton” incarceration books written by the wrongly accused.
9. Don’t insult the guys selling suits. They remember.
10. People want to touch you. You don’t have to touch back.
11. Don’t say yes to anyone.
12. Wrap it up. (this was the only tip a dude who lived there shared with me in Laos.)
13. When you leave, things get better.
There is a lot to ponder in Bangkok but you may have to leave and ponder them later because the city will take you. There is no time for ponderance (new word?)/reflection during your time in Hellkok.
**Just realized I don’t have any photos of the ‘Kok. Just videos. And they need considerable editing. Sorry about that.
The ferry ride from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket, Thailand was a puke fest. Before we set off, one of the workers walked down the aisle offering vomit bags but not very many took them. What would we need them for? It was calm in the harbour.
After meeting another boat after departure to pick up 5 girls who got on the wrong one we set off. 10 minutes in I saw why he was handing out bags. It was rough! After hearing the “Oooh’s” and “Aaah’s” of the passengers the worker came down again; this time people took bags. We crashed and tilted about as though we were being driven too fast on the road from Port Alberni BC to Tofino BC with our eyes closed and no seatbelts on. I thought I was going to be sick.
I cranked my music so I couldn’t hear the heaving and moaning but some folks overrode and sounded like they were trying to sing background vocals to Dave Peters of Throwdown. After a while I fell asleep. Maybe the trick is to just take it like a baby in a cradle?
When we arrived in Phuket after 2 hours and filed off we could see dozens of bags of puke tied up neatly under the seats. I’d estimate there were around 300 people on board and that at least 100 left some of their mornings eggs and noodles behind.
I was hungry when I left the boat.
I witnessed a horrific moped-bike crash today in Pakse, Laos. It involved two bikes about 15 feet away from me on the main hostel strip in town. I heard a screech and turned towards the sound to see two bikes begin flipping and throwing their drivers. One drivers’ wipeout ended quickly while the other drivers’ continued about 50 yards down the road.
The image I can’t get out of my head is the motorbike vertical and the driver parallel to it with his helmet-less head about a foot from the pavement. There was one flip flop still on his left foot, his eyes were closed and his hands by his side.
I had been talking to a nursing student from France a few days before this and she had recently volunteered for a month at the hospital in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. She had said that it was good to experience how a medical system SHOULDN’T operate and suggested that if someone were to get hurt in Laos they should just ask to be treated in Thailand. Pretty harsh indictment and I can only take her word for it.
There were people on the scene immediately but nobody did anything. I was about the third person there to see the guy laying unconscious on his back with only the wheel of the motorbike touching his leg. At first it seemed like he wasn’t breathing so I moved closer until I saw his stomach rising and falling. I literally had no idea what to do and felt very useless. No blood was visible and I knew he shouldn’t be moved because he may have a broken neck.
Finally someone made a call so I waited just staring at the guy with about 30 other people until a tuk tuk driver showed up in just over 5 minutes. What did they do? Chucked him in the tuk and drove off towards the hospital.
Have you experienced any medical difficulties in Laos? Or seen anything like this?
Normally I can sit for hours in one position and not feel a bit perturbed but today was a different story.
I was travelling from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap in Cambodia by bus and I knew that some of the companies were to be avoided if possible. So I made my choice, checked the times and booked a tuk tuk. I thought I was set to go.
Then things went wrong. I’m going to number these things because I like looking at lists with numbers.
1. The tuk tuk driver drove past the bus station that I thought I was going to and stopped at another one down the road. I said “Is this the Capitol bus company?” He said “Yes”. I bought a ticket. Then the bus showed up and it wasn’t Capitol. I asked for a refund and the guy said no refunds, you will be transferred to Capitol in Phnom Penh. I was pretty mad but got on the bus because it was too late to get the other one.
2. I had heard to avoid the Paramount Angkor Express at all costs. In Phnom Penh they put me on a bus to take me to another bus
station. I brought my ticket to the window and the new one said “Paramount Angkor Express”. Poop. These guys are known for driving recklessly (while slower than other bus companies), stopping for no reason, overselling, no air conditioning, breaking down and plain old sucking. I thought “Well, maybe it won’t be that bad?”
3. I was sitting in no air conditioning beside the seat buddy from hell. He spread out like a crane, dripping sweat all over me. He got off once and got left behind so we had to circle back for 20 mins to get him. He brought the foulest smelling substance with him to dip his apples into with his little stick. I dry heaved twice then put my hat over my nose. It suspect that the reason he took so long at the stop was because he had gone looking for cat feces, sugar and vinegar to make a dipping paste.
4. We stopped for no reason.
5. We got a flat tire.
6. The driver yelled a lot into his cell phone.
7. They had more people than seats so they sat on the floor and it smelled like melting humans.
8. The 6 hour trip took 9 hours.
The bright side is that I learned to just wait for the next bus if I’m not certain. Where have I to go??? Plus I made it. There were a few moments I thought I wouldn’t.
Canadian artist k-os says “The lonely ones are the only ones who fall in love”.
That may be true, it may not. It is true that traveling alone can be very lonely and makes you want companionship. There are moments when I realize just how far away I am from my friends and family and where I left my heart. But what happens when I stop being lonely?
A lady named Aida Calder wrote a blog called “The Gift of Aloneness” and she talks about how becoming comfortable with yourself and getting to know and accept yourself leads you from loneliness to aloneness. Aloneness, she says, comes after you accept that you are alone, love yourself and give yourself freedom to enjoy life.
Yesterday I almost started traveling together with a Frenchman named Alex. We were on the same shitty bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. He was a good dude and we were going the same places so it would have worked. Then I thought “I have to hang out with him”. I realized that I wasn’t in a place where I could coordinate my times and plan with someone I really didn’t know. I’d rather do it alone. So we parted.
That’s when I stopped whining about it. I chose to travel on my own for this time. No sense in pining about lost love or pondering why me.
This time is for me to ponder my faults, strengths and the things and people I love. Was k-os right? Do I even know what I want? Who is Love?
The Black Keys say “Let’s go to a place where nobody gives their heart away.”
Maybe that place comes after loneliness. Maybe I’ll travel there.
Here is a picture of a kid dancing with some monks.
Just found the middle of nowhere at the end of the world and there is a pool there. At the furthest end of Otres Beach in Cambodia (a 30 minute walk by beach) is a place called The Secret Garden. It is quite a bit pricier but if you’re looking to get away from it all, I mean all, go there. If I could afford it on this trip I would. But I’m a cheap Mennonite.
I would’ve taken photos but I thought I would only find cows down there so I just brought a book. Shame!