I will urge you to read Part 1 of this Blog to really appreciate the following continuation:
Day three – A grind, an argument
Although my body is still sore silly from the previous two days of hard peddling, I am ready and eager to catch up the deficit miles to be made up today. So, I push us into a frenzy to make up, at the ire of Sohail, who wants to savor the terrain and communities we pass and not peddle so much in the zenith of midday sun; an argument ensues. Thankfully, we get some cloud cover and we can continue.
We are now leaving the rich soils of the country and heading towards Cambodia. The terrain, though still pretty, has lost some of the lush green and the vegetation becomes sparser, with abundant coconut groves. The last couple of hours becomes such a grind, I can’t wait for us to break for the day. I am sure Allah has placed my behind where it is, else the sorry sight of it may have given me severe heart palpitations requiring medical care. Nevertheless, we are able to complete today’s quota, and some – 50.5 miles.
Day four – Dhoop / Chaaw
I nearly jump out of my skin when I look at a dark me staring at me from the mirror in the hotel bathroom the next morning. The contrast of the former pale skin and the current one, darkened to the color of dark coffee by the relentless sun of the last 3 days is frightening. Sohail has thoughtfully brought sun-blocking lotion, which helps us not turn into real barbecue meat. But the thing stinks and reminds me of pork rinds which makes me want to barf, so I use it sparingly. But I do feel like the late comedian Mahmood and want to break into a ‘ham kale hai to kya huwaa…‘ gig.
Many roadside restaurants in rural Vietnam have welcoming hammocks where we rest after lunch. Today, it is in a totally vegetarian restaurant where the owner clears and cleans up an area where we pray zohr / asr before lunch. The fresh greens for lunch are perhaps of the most flavorful veggies I’ve ever had in my life. Contrasting this to the oil and masala laden ones I sometimes have makes me shudder. The owner also throws in a plump ripe soursop fruit (ramfur) for dessert. What bounties of Allah can I deny?
The thought of tomorrow being the last day of this torture makes me peddle away in determination – almost 55 miles! Enough for our day’s target and some of tomorrow’s quota as well.
Day five – A tumble, again / mission accomplished!
We are a-smiling the next morning, completing the balance 41 miles with time to spare. But not before both Sohail and I take a tumble again! Sohail is intent on wanting to admire a bull almost ready to procreate but hits a sandy spot and tastes dirt instead; he is unhurt alhamd’Allah. I wobble in a very narrow rice paddy field and struggle with a sandy track, lose balance and go tumbling, with the bike making an ugly gash on my thigh; this will end up giving me a lot of grief over several weeks. We celebrate the feat by gorging on sweet grapefruit and crunchy mapeeras (guavas) and a feast of more seafood for dinner. At age 61, I have issues staying asleep for more than 5 hours when home. Here, after the ride and dinner, slumber sets in fast and furious, stays put and I get up so much more refreshed and energized.
It’s a 5-hour boat ride to Phnom Penh, Cambodia tomorrow for a well-deserved day of R&R before we head out to Afghanistan for another weeklong grueling compliance visit to the many CAI projects in that badbakh country.
- I err in my Part One Blog. We ride 231 miles, not 290 as stated. I apologize for this bloated fatigue induced booboo.
- Beggars are an integral part of any country/society and alhamd’Allah, I am lucky to have been to so many of them. We encounter none in Vietnam, or Cambodia for that matter. It seems everyone works for a living, including women, who we feel are much more industrious in every aspect of life.
- Dogs, too, can be a menace in many countries. Although we encounter hundreds of them in every village we ride through, the dogs here seem placid, with not even a glance my way, even when I ride close to them sleeping on the lanes.
- I have never said ‘Hello’ to so many people in my life! Children, especially in the villages, shout out the greeting in every place we ride through, the girls giggling and covering their mouths when we respond.
- Flies drive me insane in Afghanistan, and in other developing countries as well. Strangely, we encountered none in the 6 days except once. Vietnam is generally a very clean country, from the cities to the villages, with a vast majority of her people cognizant of cleanliness and hygiene.
- We feel absolutely safe and secure our entire time in both Vietnam and Cambodia, in the cities or rural areas. There was never the slightest attempt at theft of our possessions or harm to us.
- This trek was an amazing gift and opportunity from Allah; truly one in a lifetime event for which I am eternally grateful to CAI. Our efforts manage to raise over US$45,000 for the victims of war-ravaged Yemen. The entire amount is / will be utilized towards the ongoing powder milk/food grains/medicine project spearheaded by donors of Beta Charitable Trust in the UK, CAI, and others since the tragedy began. Needless to state is that the entire cost of the trip, including airfare, tour, food, hotels etc. was personally funded by Sohail and myself. I say this only because there were a couple of irritating comments from illiterates amongst us that implied CAI was funding our ‘vacation’ in the rouse of raising funds. And Allah knows best, of course.
What Bounties Of Allah Can I Deny?!