Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The Road Via Hell

 Peering over my broken screen
To say I was thoroughly shaken to the marrow is an understatement of my mortal condition on that road. I am not a hero. This sort of incident could spell disaster; I mean real trouble that could have become a nightmare of disproportionate scale to deal with. Our Lord at the Garden of Gethsemane was terrified of the prospects of his suffering. I had joined these ranks. I was genuinely terrified of the scenario of a certain eventuality to come. It has been days since I had communicated with anyone in the ‘civilised world’. Much as I was enjoying the odyssey, “Wake-up”, I told myself. This fleeting transition, as engendered by the fall, from the atmosphere of idealism to realism was precise and brutal. Further persuasion was unnecessary. I heard the message. 

Within the Human anatomy are hardwired mechanisms to cope with any inexorableness although the scope and degree varies for each person. As it were, in spite of my state of affair and still shaking like a leaf in the winds, I reckoned it was to my profit to ride on the crest of the wave rather than its base, for to allow anything to dampen my spirit was like to give an open invitation to Master trouble. I decided without the slightest hesitation that a positive spirit was a better and much preferred companion. It was also reasonable to reduce my speed to 60km per hour, but by the reckoning of subsequent events this was way still too fast as I would soon discover.

Unlike my first tumble, whose cause I had to figure out, I was more or less aware of the circumstances that led to this tumble. It was therefore necessary to carry out some post-mortem.

But in the interim, my mind was preoccupied with my environs. It was a beautiful morning with a clear azure sky, with huge cotton-like clouds adorning the heavens. The air was crisp, clear and clean. It was simply a magnificent countryside ideal for riding. I was entering a wooded area that was not dense with undergrowth. I slowly breathed in the air. I could feel the crispiness as the air rushed through my nostrils. I loved it; I loved the trees; I loved the birds flying across the road; although, sadly one had blindly flown into the bike and got killed. For a while, I allowed nothing to disturb this mood. This is what I needed. Besides, a great spiritual saying teaches us that while we are in consolation, we ought to gather as much of it as we can in preparation for desolation. I suddenly realised that I missed my family, my friends, my colleagues at work and my home. I checked myself momentarily. Where is this 'missing' stuff coming from?

I did not want to think of loneliness. It was not a palatable subject at the moment. Thinking of the reasons that caused my fall was of practical import to me to learn from the experience. As it were, it is rarely true that a single factor will wholly explain an accident. My first suspect was speed. Riding at 100km per hour on such a treacherous road was a massive risk although this was not immediately impressed on my mind when started this leg of the trip. I had also noticed that this red mud apart from being slippery like a mud fish, it also stuck on the tyres. This means that it clogged all the thread patterns thereby affecting traction. In addition, the Anakee II Scorpion was wearing were not suited for this kind of road conditions. I am not an expert but I have wondered whether wearing knobblies would have made any difference. That I had very little traction was an idea that was to be proven right in a short while. But before I discuss this proof, the third suspect was the general condition of the road. Like I said earlier on, this road was recently graded and there was a lot of loose earth which was turned into mud by last night’s rain. In my view these were the causes of my tumble.

I rode on grateful that the odyssey was still on. My speed was reduced even further to below 40kms per hour since the mud was now a real menace. This red mud! All my riding skills were out of the bag: sometimes standing, sometimes sitting, and sometimes my feet helping with the balance. I was grateful that my off-road Garnae riding boots were a very good investment. For the first time I appreciated their true worth, yet they had one terrible weakness: water tended to seep into the boot through some crevices I have not been able discern to-date. The predicament was a health one. If they boots were soaked and wet inside, a whole day was necessary for them to dry. Sometimes I did not have a whole day. I was obliged to wear them wet. But bacteria, leather, moisture, socks and flesh are a bad combination. The first sign of this trouble was the petrifying reek. It was so potent that it has the potential to knock you senseless by merely depriving you of oxygen.

Ammonia is nothing compared to smelly boots. I remember, in 1979, I was visiting my friend Maloba who was studying at the same primary school with me. His elder brother Wekesa was also visited by a friend who was a soldier. He arrived while we were all in the parlour playing Scrabble. That smell was like nothing I had ever come across. At first everyone was polite about it, I looked at Maloba and we knowingly looked at the offending pair of legs. Soon everyone was at the risk of fainting, for this was not just about the overwhelming acrid smell, but there was most probably a chemical reaction producing a noxious gas. Shortly, I developed a headache. The poor soldier was soon dispatched to wash his boots and feet. Considering the matter in retrospect, I think the soldier boy was not even aware of the problem.

It was while engrossed in these thoughts that I went down the third time. At least I saw this one coming. I said that I was riding on the crest of the road. The simplest way to imagine the shape of this road is to imagine the keel of a boat, albeit a gentle one. Well, there was a truck coming in the opposite direction. I always give way to these trucks which I did with this one. I was riding downhill and battled to bring the bike to a gentle stop but somehow it was a battle. I went down. It was an insignificant fall; a fall nevertheless. The tuckers reached me as I was going down. They drove around me and kept going.

I realised that I needed a healthy respect for this mud-road. In less than 15kms, I was down the second time. I was determined to continue my trip, nothing, not the state of the road was going to stop me.

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