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Friday, March 16, 2012

Battered Buttocks

My bum is blue.

Let me rewind a little so that you don't mistake me for a wierdo...


It was a dark and stormy day down in Can Tou, Southern Vietnam and I was boarding a bus. A local bus. A little orange bus that had Teddy stuffed into the luggage department for the first time ever... I was headed for Saigon, a trip that should have taken 3 1/2 hours maximum. 4 hours in I had one man drooling on my left shoulder after he mistook it for a pillow whilst the woman sat in the aisle next to me had donated me one of her plethora of children - the one who I can almost assuredly say needed a nappy change - and placed her on my lap... 7 hours later when I finally arrived I found myself lost and confused in the biggest city I'd visited in a while, swarmed by motto drivers that both wanted my money and my bear. While lurking the streets in search of anything English, I swore I'd never take another Vietnamese bus.

... This is how I found myself the proud owner of Percy, my 97cc fake Honda Dream lovingly referred to as the "Family Vehicle" in Saigon. Little Percy raced over hills and rice paddys and carried me the 2254 km to Ha Noi, the capital (I think) where I handed him over to Australian Ian who I hope is treating him with all the love and compassion deserved by such a humble [slightly gay] steed!!

It was only after he was out of my life that I discovered that there is only a bus towards Laos - no trains or boats or ox wagons - only busses!! I began to panic. I mean it was unbelievable - how dare they limit their transportation options? Dangnabbit. I wasn't taking any of it!

It dawned on me that hitch hiking was probably my best option but I was sternly warned not to do it alone so I began the hunt for company. I plastered posters around the city and on-line and became that annoying person that joins your table and disturbs your meal to pester you about things you couldn't possibly want.

I'd been in Ha Noi for almost ten days already and needed out. The only other person I knew who wasn't taking the bus was Rohan and he'd just purchased a bicycle...


It was over lunch on Tuesday that his friends led me to contemplate the cycle - no mention of course that he had actually done long distance cycling before or that he fitness levels resembled that of a Kenyan olympic sprinter. But the idea was there...

On Wednesday I awoke sold on the idea and roamed the streets in search of a worthy steed (I was hoping for pink or green or rusty), some luggage carriers and a bell (you can't have a bicycle without a bell). And then I was set - what more do you need??


Thursday (Yesterday I think) was departure day, and I woke up excited-to-the-point-that-you-almost-wet-yourself only to realise that there was no physical way to strap all my earthly belongings to my bike let alone pedal them over mountain ranges. Departure was delayed as I shipped 11.36 Kilograms of useless hogwash to mum in China and then delayed again as I discovered Teddy missing. Perhaps I shouldn't have put him in the shower... now everyone wants to cuddle him. Whore.

Post officing... enjoy mum!
About 34 km into yesterday's cycle Rohan taught me that bicycles have gears (I'm still a little perplexed by them though) - but after 80 something Km we pulled into Ho Bihn and celebrated life with a quality feast involving copious amounts of Com (rice) and tofu.

Today was a bit of a different story. It was about an hour into this mornings ride that I realized why most people invest in cushioned bicycle seats and why everyone obtains some level of fitness before attempting to cycle through mountain ranges and why you don't see anyone else with a giant Teddy bear strapped to their bicycle. I of course had acquired neither and of the latter I'm not too fond at present. I'm proud to say however that after today's 71 km cycle (At least 65 of those uphill), I've become a skilled walker of the bicycle and with my knees refusing to bend and my bum an unhealthy shade of whale skin blue, I've got to do it all again tomorrow. And the next day. And the and the one after that. Potentially for the next very very long time.

I said it before in the days of lonely motorbike breakdownages, but this is why most people take the bus... 

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