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mo·bile adjective; capable of moving or being moved readily.

My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - My Big Adventure

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 28 March 2011 | Views [746] | Comments [1] | Scholarship Entry

Clamping my lips together, I squint into the swirling russet dust. Rivulets of sweat run down my face and back. My palms grip the handlebars tightly, as my wrists and elbows are constantly jarred by jagged chunks of gravel that form this rough track. Lifting my eyes from the fist-sized rocks beneath my front tyre, I look at my surroundings.

Sheaths of luminescent green leaves sprout from sodden soil in precise rows.

A bent figure, deep in the rice field, tending to his crop.

A young, bare-footed boy herding cattle with a thin stick.

Buffalo gaze unblinkingly with inky, long-lashed eyes; jaws incessantly circling.

Cesious mist clings to limestone outcrops, looming up from the distant horizon.

Basic shelters - woven bamboo platform and roof - provide the only reprieve from the relentless heat of the sun.

This is rural, northern Laos.

Suddenly, the high pitched whine of my motorised bicycle is joined by a deep, rhythmic, thumping. Lurching toward me is a vehicle.
As it nears, I see an old man astride a single-axle, two-wheeled tractor.
Five others perch upon the attached trailer. Their faces are concealed by chequered scarves; long sleeved pants and shirts render them androgynous.
I lift my hand in greeting. They nudge each other shyly and stare as they pass. When I glance back over my shoulder, four faces peer back at me.

Approaching a tiny village, I see Dan surrounded by naked children.
"Sa bai dee!" "Sa bai dee!", they squeal excitedly as I roll to a stop. "Sa bai dee!" I exclaim, as we exchange smiles.
They cluster together nervously, dark eyes darting from our strange bicycles, to our red faces, incredulously.

"Naam?", we ask hopefully.

After crossing the murky Mekong River into Laos, we decided to follow a rough path running parallel to the river, rather than take the highway through the Bokeo province.

But now, only a few hours from sundown, we are covered in dust, tired and out of water.

"Naam?", we repeat, miming drinking from a bottle. The troupe of children exchange quizzical looks, then push one of the smaller boys in the direction of a nearby hut.

He returns, grinning, with an older boy who is carrying something: a plastic container, cut in half, full of water.

Dan and I look at each other. Thoughts race through my mind. Where has the water come from? Is it safe to drink? I'm so thirsty... Will I get sick? How far away is a sealed bottle of water?

Dan solves my internal dilemma by accepting the container. We all stare as he lifts it to his lips, tilts, and gulps the liquid. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he offers it to me. With a deep breath, I drink the dubious-looking water.

As I lower the vessel from my mouth, the youngsters begin squealing, clapping and laughing. Huge toothy grins split their faces, as they clap their small hands in delight and stamp their feet in the dirt.

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011

Comments

1

Really great story. I felt like I was right there with you on the motorbike and the dilemma of whether or not to accept water from the children sums up a lot about what it's like to be a traveller in a developing country. bravo!

  aro-tron Mar 28, 2011 8:45 PM

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