Into The Deep South
A wind blows in from the sea, I try to imagine it as though it were cool, I cannot, it is like the air from a hairdryer.
A golden streak runs across the azure blue of the sea to the beach. As the sun drops the centre of the streak widens and the gold at the edges fades gradualy into turquoise and white.
I understand why people like the seasons, constant heat can become a drain. Today I began once again to feel unfit, I slowed, I checked the temperature on my computer, it is cloudy today but still I register 38º. I stop for food and the sun comes out, I return to my bike, 49º in the sun. That would be why I feel drained then.
I like these blue and gold sunsets, quite beautiful. I take a swig of my beer, there is a thud next to me. It is a beetle, one of the huge brown beetles that seem in such a hurry to get to nowhere in particular. They flit round crashing into this and then that until they crash dazed to the ground. This beetle has clearly just finished its afternoon of banging into things and has come to the beach to crash dazed into the sand next to me. I look idly at it as it beats its wings in a struggle to get from its back to its feet. A small crab scurries up to it, takes a cursory look and jabs at it with his pincers. It crosses my mind that I could save the beetle, but it also crosses my mind that the crab is quite likely peckish. Dying of starvation is no more preferable than being eaten alive by a crab. Besides, this is a small crab and a whole family would probably dine well on this one beetle.
The clouds become a show of colour as the sun now dips bellow the horizon. I glance back at the beetle, it is dead. As soon as that, in no time it is dead. The crabs ignore it, it’s armour too strong to breach.
My ride of the past two days has been lovely. I have of course been lost, in a fashion, from time to time. But following my own advice I did not become too lost as my destination was only ever loose. I ambled and meandered along small roads. Sometimes these roads led to small tracks that in turn led back onto bigger roads. Sometimes I became quite disorientated and relied on locals to send me along quite splendid rural routes that generally worked out for the best.
Following local directions can be a hit and miss affair. Local people with a car generally tend want to get to their destination as quickly as they can and so speed to the most direct rout. It has come to puzzle me of late how it is that people will spend a huge sum of money on a car they claim is a wonderful thing, and yet as soon as they get into it they seem hell bent on reaching their destination as fast as possible so that they can get out of it. Am I the only one who finds this odd?
If you ask a local person with a motor scooter – the preferred mode of transport in these parts – how to get from here to there the result will most likely be the same as my brother and I once heard when we were out on our motorbikes. On small roads and without a map we were unsure which way it was to Newbury. Seeing an amiable looking lady of a certain age we stopped. “Excuse me, could you tell us the way to Newbury please” asked my brother. “Well,” said the old lady looking thoughtful. “I can tell you the way I would go”
“Yes yes” we both said eagerly.
“Well, if it were me, I would go on the bus”.
And you see so it is here. Most people go on the bus, and alas bus drivers are not in the habit of taking the scenic route. Add to this the language problem and you can see that the itinerant wheelman in search of a meandering route is left to rely upon his wits and the sun, and if the day goes terribly awry, the stars.
The road gradualy rose and fell through plantations of oil palms and the silver birch like trunks of rubber trees. I am quite fascinated by rubber plantations. I do not know if it is there being constantly bled of sap but there is a perpetualy autumn look to these plantations. The leaves seem always to be falling, and if someone from a temperate climate passes through in air conditioned luxury it is very hard to conince yourself that it is not autumn. There is something quite beautiful about the way that the light falls through the rows of trees lain out with military precession. I can never quite figure if they were planted in vertical rows of horizontal. It looks like both and this can play wonderfully in the dappled light as you cycle past.
I come to a road under construction. The soil is deep red. The two men aboard a road roller wave as I pass. there is no cab and they are amongst the red dust. They wear pristine white polo shirts. The noise from the machine is deafening even from several metres away where I ride. One of the men is conducting what looks to be a perfectly normal telephone conversation as they rumble along. The smartness of their dress and the casual phone call amongst the hullabaloo seems quite surreal. I shake my head and blink, they are still there, it is real.
I follow the coast for a while, the road here becomes so narrow it is no more than a gravel lane. It is a Muslim area, the mosque calls the faithful to prayer, and the faithful respond, men with beards in long white robes, girls in head scarves, tight tee-shirts and long skirts cut to show off their curves. I smile, this is still Thailand.