The Last Taste of Thailand

The smoother choice would be to take a boat, but the shoestring adventurer in us opted for the cheap truck on the island of KoPha-Ngan, in Thailand. We were leaving Bottle Beach to catch a ferry and then a plane to Bangkok, thus avoiding violent Red Shirt protests, and to catch a plane home across the Pacific.

At the end of a five-week travelling stint, thinking we were on the home stretch, we reluctantly mulled over the hours until we were back to reality, until all our Thailand adventures were over. Our truck gently curved along a dirt road away from the beach hut, the atmosphere of the truck struck silent from melancholy, until the truck slowed. Ahead of us the road abruptly rose upward with no end in sight. Muddy ruts and grooves formed by monsoon rains and hardened in the baking sun glared at us from the hill, as if to say, “Go ahead, I dare you to conquer me!”

The hill flexed it’s muscles as our driver pointed to the four wheel drive sign on the gearshift and waved his flat fingers over it indicating it was dead, then quickly hit the gas to gain speed. The two other travelers in the truck with me braced for the worst as we hurdled up the hill. The driver revved the engine and swerved suddenly, narrowly missing three-foot deep ditches and boulders no man could move, then jolted forward and stopped. Out of momentum, out of speed, out of power, halfway up the hill. Turning his head around and muttering blasphemies in Thai, the driver pulsed the brakes and reversed down the hill, simultaneously calling in his friends who had four-wheel drive. One more attempt up the hill including a larger vehicle attempting to pull us up the hill with a one-inch rope that broke at the critical moment – who saw that coming – we once again backed down the hill miraculously not braking an axel or losing a bumper.

The driver knew he only had one more shot at the hill before it finished off his patience, so he pointed at his three passengers to get in the pick up bed to be dead weight. We self instructed to hold on tight, really tight.

With white knuckles and smiles, we waited for the truck to start, and a moment of silence ensued. The driver let out a lung full of air and hit the gas pedal to the truck and my own exhilaration. We flew up that hill at a hundred kilometers per hour, hitting divots and holes so big we flew upward in the back of the truck, landed hard, then braced for the next hit, which came soon after, again and again. Just when I thought that I and the truck would fall apart together, the road turned a corner, the bumps softened into pebbled cement, and the jarring oasis transitioned into a smooth road, as if it had all been a wild ride imagined in a traveler’s daydream.

S Kopke

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