Argghh, why did I put that as my facebook status this morning? That little preschool ditty is notorious for going round and round…and round and round in your head, just as it has in mine all day, competing with the incessant honking of horns, motorbike engines and squealing pigs on the way to market (and at one stage at the market!) The wheels did indeed go round and round for all of 84 kilometres. Honestly, if I’d seen a movie of where we would be riding, I probably would not have come on this trip. But I did and I’m extremely grateful that we all (me and 25 co-riders) made it out the other side. The first and last 20k’s were hectic. Town traffic coming out of Siagon had my senses on high alert just to book my place in life for another day. Although the drivers are courteous and usually kind, there are just so many millions of them on the roads that there is little room for error and very little room to manoeuver. All you can do is just keep dem wheels going round and round in as straight a line as possible and just hope for the best.
I learnt two things today:
1. That long lasting sunscreen is not long lasting at all when its mixed with sweat and grime and
2. How to pray without ceasing. “Oh God, please set your angels around us all and grant us travelling mercies. Oh God, please keep that huge truck on his side of the road and move him off mine – quickly, Oh God, this motorbike coming out of the side road, do you see him God, please prompt him to look back and see me. Oh God please help that squealing pig tied to that motor bike. Relieve his anxiety Lord, he knows where he’s going. Oh God please bless this dear little family of four all concertina’d up on their bike. Bless them and grant them their hearts desires today. Oh God please help that old lady to make it to the other side in one piece and Oh heavenly Father please have mercy on my bum……and so it goes on an on. And God in his mercy and grace hears and answers…thank you, thank you so much.
The middle 40 k’s went by with far more ease. As we settled into the round and round rhythm of rural life, passing homes and flower farms (so many beautiful flowers everywhere), shops and cafe’s, rivers and dams, and people, people and more people, the sights and sounds, smells and feels had me high on a grateful heart, energised by what a wonderful world this. It was also broken with a 15 minute ferry trip where more than a million motorbikes and the 25 of us were squashed into a small space mixed with petrol fumes, baskets of chickens, pigs and anything else that needed to be moved from one side of the river to the other. Not much unlike Africa.
Our support crew are second to none. The buses follow closely. Men dressed in pink with red flags miraculously appear at intersections waving us on in the right direction with big smiles and Vietnamese encouragings. The bike mechanics hover in anticipation of, so far non existent problems (well one puncture today) and the replenishments at the breaks are a wonder. Fresh fruit, dried fruit, cookies and plenty of water. Its hot, really hot, humid and sticky so breaks usually entail water bottle baths and making as much as possible wet to engage wind air-conditioning on the next leg. And of course the incessant bantering…the group is beginning to settle down and into one another and there’s a special camaraderie brewing that only very sore rear ends can collectively produce. We come from all walks of life, all corners of the globe, male, female, the young and the not so young, yet there’s a bond and familiarity that comes when one of the first questions asked of each other when assembled is “Hows your butt doing?” Fun times.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the hero of the riders group – the oldest member who is arguably the fittest too, who when crossing “the line” first in each leg of the journey has the compassion to turn around and ride back to each of us to inform us exactly how far we still have to go. “Just two more K’s Alison” he’ll shout across the all the other noises “well done you’re nearly there” and really, all I want to do is get off my bike and kiss him. We all love you for this service Michael, can we vote you in as the next World Leader?
I sit now on my comfortable bed, in a nice but modest hotel room, my room mate Jacqui already long gone snoring after yet another very good Vietamese dinner. Crab and Corn soup, followed by fried squid with sweet and sour chutney, Beef Langu and french bread, Fish stewed in a pot with sticky rice, my all time favourite of sauteed veggies, brought to a conclusion with fruit that tastes like fruit – sweet sweet papaya and succulent rambutans. Yum Yum! We want for nothing…well almost. I’m as fried as the squid and in very strange patterns where my arms reached and half reached with sunscreen across my back and arms. My face, for all the 60 factor I put on it is bright red and burning hot. I want for an ice bath and aloe vera after sun, of which I have neither. Tomorrow I’ll have no choice but to wear my long cycling shorts and top, despite the heat. If I dont, it wont take rocket scientist to tell you that my skin will go from a now fire shade of red and present itself as a wrinkled prune – probablyinpurple!