On the Road Again ...

Water bottle secured in the small of my back. Sony H7 hanging from the belt. Hat in hand, I step out the door and as I reach for my hiking shoes the excitement grows. Nervous stretches and yawns. Waging tails and increasing vocalization in anticipation of yet another romp in the woods. I can hardly tie my laces with all the legs and tails and tongues impeding my progress. Sadly disappointment is soon to follow. For today I am topping up the air in my tires and oiling the chain in preparation for a long bike ride. Too much distance, too many roads, too many canine territories, too many cows, just too many variables to make it prudent for the pack to follow me. I can’t imagine their confusion as my wife and the maid hold them, not allowing them to follow.

Down our road, slipping by the temple and crossing the highway to the other side of the village. I navigate the maze of lanes until I am free of houses and launch onto a dirt road heading to the fields. Now, it had been a while since I passed this way but what lay before me was quite a surprise. The familiar landscape was no longer familiar. The fields were stripped bare and the hills completely denuded. In the middle of all this was a lone backhoe excavating endless trenches. The symmetry was most foreign to this area.

Moving quickly I was soon passed the scene and into the next village. Made a note to myself to return this was on the way home and ride up a central hill where I noticed some people and activity. Still considering what I had just seen, I popped out the other side of the village headed through the corn fields toward a bridge over the river. At the turn things started to make sense. A large field had been turned into a nursery. That black netting they use was suspended over what looked like millions of little rubber wood saplings. Curiosity got the best of me and I turned in to have a look. Being near the village where my mother in law comes from, it was not a complete surprise to find someone knew me by name. I noticed an uncle working and requests for pictures soon followed. They are well aware of my proclivity to take candid pictures of local activities.

Greetings exchange and pictures taken, the trail beckoned. Not far past the river there is a trail heading to the right, off into a water storage area and on into the rice fields. It is a long bumpy ride to the next road. Debating the merits of a left or right turn, I remembered seeing an interesting side road in a village to the left. The prospect of uncharted territory and new sites was too strong to resist. Left it was, and I soon found myself on unfamiliar turf. I inquired of some children near a temple, if there was anyway out if I continued in my present direction.

They assured me that there was not but I still wanted to see for myself. Sure enough I found my path blocked by the river. Though a mere shadow of its rainy season self, with sandbanks prevalent, it was still impassable to me and my bike. A few more pictures and a cold drink from my water bottle, the ice nearly melted by now, I was backtracking to where I saw the kids earlier. I hate backtracking and try my best to follow a circular route but farmer trails being what they are often dead-end in the middle of nowhere.

A forest crematorium and a village temple found their way into my camera before the phone rang. My wife worries about her crazy husband having an accident or getting lost so insists I take the cellphone along. Hearing I am OK and having fun, she urges me not to be too late getting home. Eventually I am passing the nursery again and soon find myself in my lowest gear peddling up that hill I saw earlier. I enjoyed the looks of confusion as the workers glanced around at each other, trying to figure out who I was, what I was doing and how they were going to communicate with me. They were certain that I must be lost.

When I choose to, I can be quite charming and disarming. The workers are soon put at ease and the conversation flows. I end up pairing with the man who was obviously in charge. His Thai betrayed that he was not from the village. He was a company man and our conversation was expansive. We talked farming, rubber wood plantations, local customs, lifestyles, weather and all sorts of topics until my wife called again. The time had passed quickly, with little notice of how long I had been gone. Amidst pleas that I come visit often, I was off down the hill and headed home. My wife was relieved to see me in one piece and though I was exhausted it had been a very good day!