Monday, 5 November 2007

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside

The morning after my last blog I awoke to the sight of four vultures, perched above me, watching me. I’m sure it was with no innocent intent, without succumbing to paranoia it could only be dealt with in the best of humour. I’d love to say it filled me with foreboding, but they were powerless to deliver anything worse than what’s already happened. It was enlightening, I’d not seen them up close before; in flight they look almost majestic, soaring effortlessly for hours on end. They really are the ugliest bitches you can imagine, scraggy, bald heads and necks with cumbersome movement. Sitting atop cacti they can be seen early morning, wings outstretched, warming themselves in the sun. Hmmm, glad I didn’t sleep in late that day!

I’d been advised not to ride a certain desert trail by one person; however, another had ridden it and claimed it wasn’t anything serious. Confirmation was gotten from a local American, so we decided to follow a dirt road across the desert to take in a 300 year old mission and some rock paintings in a canyon; which was a slight detour, of a couple of km (or so we were told by the same kind guy). As it turned out the detour was a 12 mile round trip, through deep sand, which I did not appreciate in the slightest. Anyway, the trail started about 10 miles outside Bahia de Los Angeles, the mission was 20 miles into the desert; there was another ride out of 20 miles. We’d left early, so had the whole day to do it; I also had back up, in case it proved too problematic for me. But hey, the longest distance to walk out could only be twenty miles, so what could go wrong? And before you pessimists get any ideas, nothing went wrong; well not really wrong anyway.

Leaving the highway saw us being really sensible, for the first time this trip I reduced the pressure in my tyres; a recognised necessity for off road riding. One I’ve been too lazy to bother with before, could never feel it was worthwhile for my little jaunts into the dirt; besides, it would have meant having to blow them up again when I got to the highway. So with only 17 psi of pressure, off I went into the lead. There was some amount of corrugations, no problem, keep the speed to a minimum of 30mph and the bike skims over the top of them. I was taking it steady, allowing myself time to get used to the conditions, gaining confidence; it has been a while since riding any distance off road, a few weeks at least! It took shape pretty fast, I felt OK, fairly relaxed, a bit excited about riding through the desert; mixed with a bit of awe about taking the plunge into a hostile environment. We thought we’d missed the turn for the paintings, a couple of miles on a signpost showed we hadn’t. Wow, how civilised is that? With signposts you can’t really feel it to be that hostile, so with a nod of agreement I turned off, with David hot on my heels. Jeeezusss! My front wheel was all over the place, I’d been advised to paddle through soft sand, to cope with the massive weight of my bike. All this seemed to achieve was to keep my balance swaying from one side to the other, never quite getting it under control. I crawled along, doing about 10mph, trying to keep in the tyre tracks of the last 4x4, where the sand was shallower. Every time my wheel hit the deeper sand to the side it slewed off track, I had to put a foot down then, which meant swaying from side to side until I regained my balance. This went on for 6 frigging miles, I was gripped, totally!

It was such a relief to stop for a quick look at the paintings, not that they were very impressive; the setting was worth it though, and a break from the sand trail was a blessing. Only having whole coffee beans meant Davo had to turn Abo and get to grips with grinding them with rocks, ain't it nice to get back to nature? If it's good enough for generations of caffeine addicts, it's good enough for us!refuelled, we set off for the main event; the 300 year old mission, Santa Borja. The ride out the canyon was tackled in a more relaxed way, slightly faster and a couple of falls; surprise, surprise! Ain't I just glad Dave was there as backup; no sweating and heaving for half an hour on my own. Once back on the main track I could relax completely, pure bliss! For sure it was loose and rough, there were some very rocky sections, lots of steep rises and steeper drops; there was certainly no such thing as straight sections, it was really twisty, snaking around the forest of cacti.

How beautiful, what a difference the lower tyre pressure made. After the dreaded sand it was delightful, so what is a man supposed to do? Open the damn throttle, that's what! So that's what I did, it was such a surprise to look down and see the speedo reading 50mph. Cobbles? No problem! Sharp bends? Ease off the throttle a touch, until I could see what was there, and gun the little beauty. I was aware of sharp rocks jutting out the ground, easy, weave around them. Oh boy, how delightful! I was in hog heaven, dust fishtailing behind, David nowhere in sight; all I was aware of was the amazing view of trail and desert. Each time I stopped for David I greeted him with a huge grin, such fun. This was definitely the most difficult track ridden so far, and I loved every minute of it. I was amazed at how well I coped, in fact it wasn't a matter of coping, I relished every second spent riding through the desert. It was almost a disappointment when we finally reached the mission, I was just keen to get going again.

When Dave suggested we camped out in the open desert I readily agreed, what a great idea. Something I've never done independently, only as part of an organised tour. The idea of prolonging the desert riding experience was too good to resist, we had food, water and plenty of fuel. Travelling half the distance out seemed the best idea, this ensured we were far away form any other signs of habitation. With a fire lit, carefully, we settled down to a pretty awful meal of fish, pasta, salsa and sweetcorn. To be honest, it wouldn't have mattered what we ate, the experience was amazing. There was not the slightest sound from anything, there was no source of light other than our campfire; once dark the only view was a hundred million stars. The intensity of the night sky was unbelievable, I lay awake for much of the night, marvelling at the sight.

so there I sat staring at the night sky, and behold, another falling star. My only wish is that Cai did not die, a wish that can never come true. I also think of parallel universes, I hope there are such things; maybe another Cai will survive, and go on to achieve the greatness my son could have, if still alive. When I think of the future it is still with thoughts of Cai; as thoughts come to mind I need to remind myself, I can’t share these with him. I must look forward to what I can do myself, relying on myself for my hopes and dreams. If that means a lonely life, then so be it; it doesn’t have to be though, I can allow others in to share with me. I can, and should, open up to the possibility of sharing my life with others. Maybe I shouldn’t rely on that, to do so could mean living with false hope. But to ignore the possibility, is to deny myself so much.

And now, its sun time! To spend a few days relaxing, quiet beach, baking hot sun......

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