Excerpt from my travel memoir in progress: The Long Way Home: Cycling form Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur
I was 21 and a friend had given me her old Lady’s Raleigh.
I was 21 and I just met this guy, Rupert, at university. Always he was clad in black leggings, army shorts overtop, a mostly-red plaid jacket and a faded black backpack with a silver helmet swinging from it.
Which came first – beers in the Student Union Building and a ride home on his handlebars or my first long solo ride on that Raleigh up and down streets I did not know till my ass ached and my legs throbbed? Once the Raleigh was mine I rode it until the cranks fell off and truly she could go no more. A Giant Hybrid replaced her. I married Rupert, who rode a Schwinn. We packed up our bikes and flew to Japan.
We were newlyweds. We were flown First Class on Japan Air Lines to work for the Japanese Government as Assistant Language Teachers. We landed in Tokyo and were a little afraid as Japanese en masse spilled around us from mouths, in neon lights, on trains, it slid off menus and out of fast-talking waiters’ mouths. Busy viewing cherry blossoms, mountain biking in the back country of Thailand or cycling to Hagi, bartering for soybeans and sampling fried oyster mushrooms, we didn’t notice the gradual coming home of Japan. And then, the question of how to honour this lifestyle, this part of the world and our bicycles before heading home.
Hot and restless in a dark room with yellow walls and translucent curtain, my heel hooked on the bottom tube of my Giant. My husband breathing the breath of the sleeping.
Standing half-naked, my hair fizzed with shampoo, in an irrigation pond.
IV tube in my wrist, fluids and anti-nausea drugs drip into my sleeping body. Rupert in a chair, reading. He could look up to the window, to the rich green slope of mountain covered in tea bushes. I turn, open my eyes.
Passion, obsessions; the love of a thing, the love of a person. These things draw us out of our norms. Lead us down the long cobbled, pebble strewn, half-submerged roads of Southeast Asia.