Early morning mist hung heavily in the valley. When I climbed the first hill rivers of cool air were filling up the mountain floor as if it were a lake.
Mountain roads here were sharply inclined and long. Trucks had destroyed the corners, their heavy loads adding to the need for stern traction and in the way a drip can create a cave, once fissures form in the foundations of a road the bedrock starts to split and underlying gravel is quickly swept away. leaving holes sizeable to sit in.
The opposite to rubber ripping up concrete is a silence which out here is complete. There are no extraneous noises, not even sweet notes of nature. Sometimes the world around you is a chamber of quietness as the bush reeds sway their fronds to catch the sound. Even the wind was still asleep. Each day I know how it starts but from then on it’s a mystery. I have no plan except to cycle around the world, bit by bit each day.
It’s hard. Hills as steep as walls fall away furiously to some other side. My legs ache, my heart thumps the inside of my chest as the bike slides in the dust. No back brake, the shoes have worn and I have used my spares. I need to look for a flat country. At Muong Moc the highway restaurant has orange plastic table clothes and there is a choice of one meal - white string noodles, bits of pork, peppery, the freshly cut salad is added to the soup. I eat, fall asleep in my chair, as I wake an old lady bent double walks with her stick accompanied by someone who could be her daughter holding a blue umbrella. What tales she would have to tell - tales of the area during the war - I pay, I leave.
Soon the tarmac is replaced by stones and gravel and a mountain of dust. My wheels furrow through the soft surface hitting the unstable layers below. I am a dust plough; heaps of immaculate particles of clay and soil rising slowly to cover me, to merge with me so I disappear into the earth.
Remoteness are dilapidated stream bridges with iron work joists falling away. Remoteness are Bull Rushes standing still. Remoteness opens out to small villages, to identikit lives, to people who repair small bore motorcycles to those who sell trinkets, phone parts, iced soda from their stalls, banana and potato fritters, carbonated cold drinks, the small eating places all selling the same noodle soup. I cross the mountains along a road I shouldn't have been on but a route I wouldn't have missed for the world.
Map of the Day