The Worst Journey of my Life 4


Hired the bike, shiny silver ,basket on the front, what could possibly go wrong, and set sail from Hoi An.
Paddies,potholes,buffalo,bugs. Not having been on a bike since my teens, i was pleasantly surprised, how well i had adapted to this almost obligatory Vietnamese form of transport.
I stopped at an altar, set somewhat improbably, in the middle of a field, porcelain and incense sticks
the corrugated iron protecting the flammable instruments of devotion. Unaware of the faith, but struck by the sincerity, somewhat evaded in our world.
I pedalled on , why i had done this all my life, the sun beating down on my Western , T shirted overweight frame. Where i was going, i didn't know, didn't care, but had to get there.
And then the bridge, a wooden construction, negotiable enough, but today,bristling , bristling with barbed wire, enough to make a raiding party in WW1 blanch, together with copious signs, which probably said maintenance in progress, but i was guessing. Assessing my chances, i turned back,
and the rain came. Came is perhaps an inaccurate description of the South China sea falling on my head, at least it was warm. I took shelter, under some trees.
Whoosh, my ear felt the disturbance in the air current, as a coconut the size of a bowling ball,
buried itself into the metamorphic mud at my feet, i looked up high above,at a collection of round green instruments of terror discussing amongst themselves, who would have the honour of staving my skull in, and opted for the rain.
A farmer with his buffalo, surveyed me from the neighbouring field, bloody idiot , he was thinking ,
the waves hitting me thankfully more accurately , than the coconut.
Well, dusted down , now that river, the Thu Bon, a ferryman loaded me and my bike onto his frail conveyance, Incessant South China continued it's attack, unholy to me, but par for the course to the boatman. We got there.I proffered 100,000 dong, the lowest note i had, " about 3 quid", he was out amongst the village getting me change, these people. Tough, quiet, poor and good.
I offered my profuse thank's and i was off, on the Cua Dai road, through the puddles concealing six inch craters, that threatened to send me over the handlebars, and then the sun came out, it had never rained, dry in minutes. And there in front of me across the t junction lay the beach, the golden sand stretching all the way to Danang, and the sea, so appealing in it's rightful place, in the sea.
Pretty ladies, clad in the graceful white Ao dai, giggled as they cycled pass, it had been worth it.
I wheeled my new found ally into the sand, lay down , and fell asleep.
How long i dozed, i have no idea. But long enough for the sun, to wreak it's strange magic. My outstretched arms, sodden for most of the day, had accquired an almost Dulux two tone effect, scarlet on the receptive side,caucasian ghastly white on the other. My face however had recieved the full benefit, and judging by the burning sensation, had gone off the colour chart. The sun was sinking , lower on the horizon amongst the Cham islands out to sea, famed for swallows and birds nest soup, but alas had already done it's damage.
A bottle or two of dodgy Evian, and i was at least partially revived, my bike amazingly still where i had deposited it hours before, "try that in Clacton".
My trusty steed was uprighted from it's resting place, the polished steel , even hotter than me.
Hotel,coffee,ice bath, my only thoughts, i gingerly pedalled, back the way i had come. I have no accurate description of my appearance, but as i was passing a village, parents were bringing thier children forth, to take a look, a once in a lifetime opportunity, akin to Halley's comet.
And then, from a lifetime ago, the bridge, the opposing end, just as barbed as the other. I couldn't wouldn't contemplate another boat across the damn river. Surveyed the wood, pristine, that wire was a personal affront and had to be tackled. To my newly tenderised skin, i added further red , as i negotiated each lethal strand, my shorts and shirt, shredded for the cause, as i twisted the bike through the maze. Bloodied, punctured but unbowed, i was walking to Hoi An.



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