12,284 km so far.
Some days we don’t like each other very much.
That’s probably not the nice way of saying what I mean to say. But the fact is, when you spend all day EVERY DAY with another person, no matter how much you love them, there are times when the desire to not see their stupid face for five minutes is quite overwhelming.
This quote about marriage from a recent episode of Girls strikes a chord.
Someday, you will look at him, hating him with every fibre of your being, wishing that he would die the most violent death possible. It will pass.
Things didn’t quite reach that level today. But still.
We sniped. We blamed. We barked. We bit. Mostly metaphorically.
We’ve been talking for a while about how we both need a “me” day, and it was supposed to happen in Ayutthaya.
Somehow we forgot.
So this morning, not long after we left the hotel, we were on each others’ nerves. This manifests itself in several boring ways that, if you’ve ever had a relationship longer than a few months, you’ll know all about.
We rode as far apart as we could without completely losing sight of one another (see, we still care). In this way, we kept our grouchies to ourselves, and avoided spending the day in a lot of unproductive bickering.
A New Skill
Late yesterday afternoon, I got a flat. A pesky little thorn had found its way through a weak spot in my tire. I left it until this morning to fix, since I didn’t want to be wrestling with a dirty piece of rubber in the sweltering afternoon heat.
This is only my second flat of the trip, and Stephen fixed my first way back in Hungary for reasons I cannot remember. (Stephen’s note: Love.) I tried to convince him that he should fix this one too (sometimes I am a terrible feminist), but he was having none of it. (Stephen’s note: Tough love.)
So this was actually my first time fixing a flat! Kind of amazing considering we’ve been riding for more than a year.
In my mind, I knew how to do it, but I assumed the actual doing was going to be really hard. Guess what? It wasn’t hard at all. It was even a bit easier than it looks when Stephen does it. So far, the air is still holding, too, so I’m pretty sure I did it right.
All Thoroughfares, All The Time
I’m not a fan of many of the roads in this part of Thailand. Any road larger than a country lane seems to have a giant median down the middle of it. U-turn spots are few and far between, even if said road runs straight through the centre of town. Not too dissimilar to much of North America then.
Such is the case with the 33 through Ban Na, where we stayed last night. The result is that scooters, cars, and even touring cyclists, end up riding the wrong way down the shoulder of the highway, looking for a place to cross.
Since cars also park in the shoulders, people stand around chatting in the shoulders, and scooters going the right way also drive in them, you end up feeling like a salmon swimming upstream.
Plus, on these bigger roads, there is a lot of large truck activity, and they go really fast, so no matter what side of the road we’re on, the woosh of trucks at my elbow is a constant annoyance. It’s not that dangerous (probably), but it’s not that fun either.
We had several kilometres of wrong-side driving this morning. And every time I thought we were about to turn off onto a small road, it turned out to be another giant artery. Finally, we came to our turn-off into the countryside.
It was a dirt track. We had to haul our heavy bikes across the median to get to it.
Gifts From Strangers
The ride was pretty, but if you don’t like riding on dusty, bumpy, dirt paths through the middle of dry fields, you should probably take another route.
The fields along this stretch of road were filled with neat lines of twisty-stemmed watermelon plants. Many of the fruits were still tiny and on the vine, but there were also lots of shade tents set up with recently harvested watermelons piled under them.
“Maybe someone will give us a watermelon today,” I thought to myself.
Now, here comes the chief benefit of riding on dusty, bumpy, dirt paths through the middle of dry fields (besides avoiding speed-demon trucks of course).
We were riding down the left side of a canal, and I heard a shout. I looked over, and on the other side of the canal was a man waving half a bright red watermelon at me.
Free watermelon? Yes please!
I immediately slammed on the brakes, turned around, and, bringing Stephen with me, went to the other side of the canal. Stephen grabbed his bamboo spoon from his handlebar bag and started digging in while I took a few pictures.
There were about ten people sitting around in the shade, and they’d obviously just been snacking on the other half of the watermelon.
I was briefly concerned that we shouldn’t eat too much, lest we seem piggish or offend someone. But, after that first cool sugary bite, I no longer cared. I was going to eat as much of this melony gift as I pleased. As we were eating, another man walked up with a whole watermelon, and I thought with relief “ah, more for all of these people to eat”.
But no. It was a gift for us to take on the road! Amazing.
A Python, Two Fences, And An Iguana
Our dirt track did little to improve as we approached the town of Prachin Buri, where we’d decided to stop for the night.
As most of the roads around here do, it split into two and led down either side of an irrigation canal. Usually these split roads rejoin each other over small earthen bridges between the sides, so it doesn’t really matter which one you choose.
Sadly, the one I chose quickly became less road, more jungly trail. So we backtracked a little, taking the path on the other side of the canal. This one ended in a lumpy, crusty field.
To our right was the only possible route forward, but between us the trail was a lot of scratchy undergrowth and a wire gate.
To the left was the carcass of a python, nothing much left but a spine, some ribs, and a pile of withered skin. Still, it was reminder of what could be lurking in the ponds and undergrowth around us.
Let the record show that I wanted to do the sensible thing, which was to backtrack once more along the path we’d just ridden, to return to this spot on the other side of the gate. I was not in the mood for adventure right now.
Stephen, as per usual, wanted to use brute force to solve our problem, so he dragged his bike off through the undergrowth and around the gate. Rationalising that with all the racket he was making, any deadly snakes would surely have been scared away, I followed.
It ended up being easier than it looked, and all I suffered were a few minor scratches from the thorny branches, and a severe case of dirt all over my legs and in my shoes.
We continued along the little dirt path with confidence, since PocketEarth showed that a real road was coming soon, and we could see cars in the distance travelling along it.
I was in the lead, and as tree branches reached out for my face, and large rocks and potholes jumped in the way of my tires, I pretended I was an intrepid explorer, so as not to succumb to the darker side of my thoughts. Namely, it’s effing hot, I’m effing filthy, and the last place I want to be is on a bicycle on this crappy path with my husband who I am mad at.
Suddenly, I heard a rustle in the bushes to my right, and looked over just in time to see something make a giant splash as it leaped into the pond about 20 m away. Since snakes don’t tend to run and jump, my best guess is that it was one of the giant lizards we’ve seen around (dead and alive) lately: the water monitor.
Soon, my exploration fantasy was put to and end, as we arrived at another big gate right across our path. We were now about 20m from the road, and luckily, the fence next to the gate had a barely bicycle-sized hole in it. So we unloaded our bikes, and working as a team, dragged all of our heavy stuff through the small hole.
Ever had to work as a team with someone you are mad at? It’s not always fun, but sometimes, when you spend a little time solving a problem together, you end up liking each other a little more.
By the time we had eaten lunch and found a nice little bungalow in which to spend the night, our earlier transgressions had been forgotten.
We still need a day off from each other, but I think it can now safely wait until we reach Siem Reap. ♥