A Stolen Ego And Another Naïvety Story

On my first night the lady that looked after the lodge was kind enough to leave out some cushioned chairs when she went home in a village nearby that is where I spent the night. For a long time, I barely slept and when I did, it was with an eye open. It was an unfamiliar place. The roof of the lodge’s veranda (patio?) looked shaky. (It wasn’t. I took a good look at it in the morning and found it was definitely very sturdy). However it was covered with a palm thatch that was rotting away at the beginning of last century and not much was left of it today.

What you expect of a structure whose roof is a compost heap is a rich ecosystem, but since I pride myself in optimistic denial, I only hoped for small insects- mainly small ants. The ants would later turn out to be some 2cm vicious, fast-moving, red and black things. And pale giant spiders 4 inches long that one of which ran as fast as I when I chased it across the floor to crush it. The ants made a short work of the meaty smudge in a few minutes.

At around ten o’clock, I fell asleep and woke suddenly at around midnight. I am not sure what woke me. Whether it was the abrupt sobering realization that I should have but had not seen the usual bad boys around here- snakes and scorpions, or whether it was the drone from the engine of an approaching boat. I grabbed my spotlight and scanned the floor. Two shrieking cats raced from near the pile of my luggage down the terraced patio. Reassuring.

Meanwhile, boat stopped at the shore in front of the lodge. I thought, wrongly, that I was going to cross the lake tonight. Not a comforting thought but in my impatience nevertheless entertained it and took myself down to speak with the murmurs that came from it.

The usual boring niceties put forth, I inquired whether they were going my way upon which they answered in the affirmative. “But not today”, they said. They were going the following day at noon. I thought, relieved, that noon was good enough. My light fell accidentally on a bike in the boat. A touring bike with large,dirty, bruised pannier bags around it and an equally unkempt heap on the floor of the boat that I rightly concluded belonged it belonged to. I summoned alot of might to resist the temptation to wake him up for “questioning” and was aided by the unsolicited information from the faceless voices (for I never shone light upon them believing it rude), that they were going to stay put until the next morning. So I went back relaxed to where I was before and slept soundly until dawn when I was woken by loud German-accented English spiced with well-placed curse words. I am attracted to colorful language like a miser to a sermon on frugality. I went down to the boat.

“I tell you… Fuck! I almost fucking died!” he was saying.

He was a short, middle-aged loud Swiss who was always willing to talk, and for the short pauses did it non-stop looking desperately for a way to insert a curse word. He frowned amiably and sounded like yours trully- like a person who had discovered the rare joy of being angry at the world! We could get along quite fine, this gentleman.

“So, you are on a cycling tour?” I interrupted his rant. No fake greetings to people like him, or me.

A short pause. “Yes”. A shorter pause. “Who are you?”

“I’m going on a cycling tour myself, but I’m going across the lake where you came from. How…”

“Hhah! You are fucked!” he (almost) shouts. There’s an honest man. He then proceeds to explain his ordeal lost for two days the heartless desert looking for a way to the fishing village called Moite (moh-ee-teh). Of foot paths that lead to nowhere. “Nowhere?” I seek for clarification. Fucking nowhere, he insists. You’ll find a well beaten path and follow it for hours only to lead you to a “fucking palm grove” and you retrace your steps to the starting point. By then you’ve spent five litres of water, minimum. His, by the way, was a truly exceptional bike made to carry litres upon litres of water.

By nightfall, he had spent eighteen litres out of twenty of that precious stuff that he had started with by the second night when he decided to put up till morning. He had a printed map, but no compass. I guess even if he had both, they would have proven useless in a place where the total number of reference points is zero.

Come the following morning, he sighted the hills near the lakeside village from a distance and made his way there and in unbelievable luck found this boat that had been late to leave now starting its engine. They stopped for him.

And here he was, his hallowing ordeal over. “I feel like I have been fucking born again!”

(Continued in the comment below…)

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One Response to A Stolen Ego And Another Naïvety Story

  1. (Continued…)

    He then asked to see my bike to make sure that I wasn’t “fucking gambling” with my life. My bike could carry a maximum 6 litres on its cages and I felt as I might have felt showing my old man a bad report card. He looked at it with that look normally reserved for stinking heaps of uncollected beshitted rubbish dumped outside your door by a thoughtless prankster.

    “You are fucked!” said he, which I had know it for a few minutes now and rubbed it in some more. “You are really fucked!”

    “Well, I plan to travel by car for most of the way up to the border”, I lied and hoped.

    “You do that,” he said. I had disappointed him – and myself. “But for God’s sake look for a way to carry more water, or don’t fucking do it” and he walked away shaking his head muttering a string to curses.

    “Didn’t catch your name there, sir”, I said.

    “Hans” he said and stopped.

    “Name’s Thomas,” I said.

    “Look”, he started. “I’ll give you my email address and when you get to Addis alive, you can tell me or email me about serious stuff – no jokes.” His back always to me, he wrote it down on an ancient piece of paper, and turned to hand it over. He took a few steps back.

    “Stand right there, Thomas”, he ordered as he fished out his tiny camera. “Right there where I can see your bike in the background. I want to remember this joke!”

    And there, I, looking like the shy errant schoolboy paraded in front of his class, he added the sum number of things about myself that I dread seeing displayed publicly (on the internet).

    What I didn’t not know up to the second evening, was that the sailing schedule of the boats was at best whimsical. Unbeknown to me, these people were not leaving; they had not even planned to leave that day. Not even the next or the next, but I shall tell you about that later.

    More sunset and a further tutoring on patience followed by a supper of noodles and bugs that bomb-dived into my plate and spotlight. A second night on the patio, but tonight no luxury of cushioned seats. Just a wooden ‘thing’ with one cushion.

    Until morning.

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