Monday, 8 February 2010

The Road Via Hell

Bogged Down 45 minutes extricating Scorpion

I lifted Scorpion onto her feet. There were no damages this time given that I was riding below 40Km per hour. I mounted her and road like nothing had happened. I had no cares whatsoever in the world but at this rate, this strip of the odyssey was in for a long haul. I submitted to my mundane fate; it was better for the health of my mind.

I need to emphasise that I experienced different weather patterns on this day. I started the journey with the day promising to be a great Mediterranean sunny day. But on entering the forest, the sun disappeared, which was replaced by sporadic rain. This dual-dance between rain and sunshine persisted for most of the morning and early afternoon. Thereafter until I reached my destination Uvinza some time at 10:17 East African Time, it was rain ― sometimes in buckets and sometimes just a drizzle.

One of my major losses the previous evening some place between Simbawanga and Mitumba, my Assault rain suit fell off the bike. It was the first thing I lost on this trip. Yet in spite of this set back, my Firstgear suit was quite adequate in protecting me against the elements.

By this hour, I was riding in Katavi National Park. The rain had stopped. This portion of the road was firm with neither sand nor mud. I was in a sanguine mood and adjusted my speed to 90kms. I recall this because I glanced at the instruments and the needle on the odometer looked like it was stuck on the digits 90. I burst into a clearing where the trees were more or less 100m from the road. I came round a fairly steep bend, and then hell simply broke loose. First it was the yoyo motion of Scorpion, and then she was galloping away, or shall I say she went berserk. I remember crying “dear Lord what is going on!” I was both surprised and very frightened. My heart was racing away too. There were times I was literally airborne: the bike jump to the right side of the road and then to the left, I had throttled down but was terrified to use the brakes given the slipperiness of the road left behind. I applied all my energies in controlling the direction of Scorpion; I wanted her to remain on the road. She swung back to the right into a trench. I succeeded to I wrestle her back onto the road and lo and behold I saw myself acrobatically airborne flying over the handle bars. I don’t know how long it took but I felt my head connect with the ground. I don’t know how many times I rolled; however gravity did not give me the luxury to roll forever. I finally came to a stop. Just when I thought it was over, in a fraction of a second, I saw Scorpion flying as if she had decided to somersault over me; but how? I closed my eyes. At that moment when I should have moved, I didn’t. I was frozen to the spot by what I had seen. I thought it was over. But only God knew the ending. Sometimes you do your best; other times you let the Higher powers take over. It seemed like an eternity before I heard the crush, away from me. How Scorpion’s 250kgs missed me, is something I ponder every day.

I lay there; how long I cannot tell. I knew I was crying because I could feel the warm tears flow over the side of my face. Slowly I sat up feeling my legs, my arms, my spine; I couldn’t be sure but it seemed okay in the interim. Then I just let go. Whoever said men don’t cry. I let them tears wash my cheeks. Well, I had the comfort of knowing I was alone. I did not know why I was cry; but it felt good to cry. I cried even more. But then something was burning; I quickly turned my head and saw smoke at the rear side of Scorpion. I climbed onto my feet so fast that I nearly toppled. My mattress had ‘untethered’ and come in contact with the exhaust pipe; it was that part that was burning.
It was not always easy.  Some of the toughest roads here.

Meanwhile, I noticed that the topbox was flung out of sight. The mirrors were broken, the right indicator was severely cracked, the right hand-guard had snapped off the handlebars, and the panniers had taken much more beating this time acquiring almost a new shape. An accident may seem a long time in happening but it actually happens in nano seconds. The realisation that I was in a forested game park, got me working quickly. It was about late morning ― three tumbles in a row were a painful torture to say the least. This state was exacerbated by the loneliness I was experiencing. Indeed, this was a very lonely road. Since morning, I had come across one truck going the opposite direction and none my way. There were no human beings in sight for miles. I was also feeling very tired, not just physical tiredness but that of these tumbles. I was quite certain that this last one was not my fault. There are things you can be dead sure of in life; this was one of them. A form of depression was creeping over me like a bad spirit was taking over my life. Understandably, after these morning events, every stimulus was surely in place to send me into a severe depression. But with sheer will power I refused to go that route. I was thinking about resuming my journey. But first I had to raise Scorpion.

She was loaded slightly more than 250kgs dead weight. Raising her each time was a pain and at feat: the former because I dreaded it, the latter because I looked forward to advancing the odyssey. I check her for further serious damages; there were none. The crush bars and the panniers had absorbed most of the shock. This was by far the hardest fall I had experienced. It was now that I removed my Arai helmet. It had quite gash on the rear side. It must have been a stone since this part of the road was littered with them. The helmet would simply have to be replaced. And where was my topbox? It was twenty meters behind a bush. I do not doubt that for the second time the topbox nearly killed me. It was time to give it a permanent solution in the next town.

An hour went by before I had everything secured onto Scorpion. I hit the start button and again, she yielded. I shouted “Scorpion” in absolute joy like a ten year old boy. I was still smiling when I pulled away. I was very grateful to God that I was shielded from ending the Odyssey prematurely and unceremoniously. In a pensive mood, I rode on for another 30kms before reaching Mpanda Ndogo Mpanda still shaking, dusty, hungry but alive and well. It was a very close call.

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