The bike ride.

Trip Start Dec 01, 2007
Trip End Mar 27, 2010

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Back in the hut.  I am tired. Was living ever such a chore before?  I just got back yesterday to find my hut covered in a layer of straw dust.  The termites have multiplied on my newly painted walls and the mice have dug several holes for easier access to my habitat.  I swept, sprayed and will soon cover the holes.  This is along with heating water for a bucket bath, cooking eggs over the same charcoal and unpacking.  But that is not the true purpose of this blog entry.  Technically, I live in the Forest Region but according to the Peace Corps it is part of the Haute region.  That is the closest regional capital.  So they've named our region "Lower Haute Guinea" making us Lower Hauters or in English Lower Uppers- the oxymorons, our country director calls us.  Who is us? There are now 4 of us as we lost to the draw of America the first week at site.  We are Melissa, Sarah, Zach and me. There are 16 of us total in the Haute region but the 4 of us are separated from the other 12 by a long distance so we each other a lot more and we've become a pretty close family.  Well, Melissa, who is the farthest away from me had her birthday on April 2nd.  I knew Sarah was planning on visiting but one person is hardly a party.  So I convinced Zach that we needed to visit as well.  Gas prices have gone up in the last week; they have almost doubled in price per liter.  That, along with the desire to practice for a much longer ride helped us to decide to take the bikes.  So April 1st I left Gbangbadou with a camelbak on my back, 2 water bottles, a backpack and a hammock strapped to the back of my bike.  I made the 15 k ride in an hour and somehow hurt something in my hip.  I obviously don't know what or how but it hurt.  I spent the night in Kissidougou and at 6:20AM the next morning Zach and I were on route to Layassando, Mel's village.  The road is paved the entire way which is nice and unusual.  But it is also hilly.  Actually, that's all it is, hills.  If we weren't zooming down a hill we were slowly pedaling up another.  Well I was slowly pedaling, Zach zoomed up the hill and rested at the top while waiting for me.  Our biking stylesmeshed well.  He likes to go fast and take frequent short breaks and I like to go slow contineously.  So by the time I got to the top of a hill he was rested and we continued to go.  I refused to get off my bike because I knew I would not get back on.  Most Guineans walk their bikes up very large hills but I refused.  On one particularly steep hill I had my bike on the lowest gear and I was pedaling away when a Guinean walking his bike passed me.  He looked at me and said "Anta" which means "Let's go" in Malinke.  I looked at him and huffed out "Oh anta yourself, " gritted my teeth and kept pedaling.  He got to the top of the hill where Zach was waiting and told him I was tired and we should rest.  That wasn't the only time that happened either.  It never failed that each village was at the top of a hill.  So Zach preceded me by about 5 minutes and quickly passed through the village.  I brought up the rear going painfully slow.  All the children that had run to the road to yell "Toubabou, i ni ke!" at Zach were waiting for me already prepared to hurl cheery hello and how are you's in local languages.  My lips pressed tightly together, sweat dripping into my eyes, my shirt plastered to my body, did I look like I was Ca va?  Zach's chipper responses built up their expectations for me which were sorely disappointed when I either completely ignored them or yelled "Ca va un peu!" to their "Ca va bien?" inquiried.  We didn't stop for the first 3 hours or 40 k.  We had some breakfast made of banana and honey sandwiches.  My sandwich had a bee in it.  Guinean honey keeps its bees dead in the honey.  They have to be strained out.  After 40 k my butt was aching from my hard, skinny seat.  My hip was now in agony and my knees were stiff and hurt with each bend.  And 9AM is when it started to get hot.  Really hot.  My camelbak was a God send.  The water in the bottles became boiling hot but the water insulated between by back pack and my back stayed relatively cool.  My body heat kept the water cooler than the outside air.  That is how hot it was.  I thought Banian, Sarah's village, was 62 k away.  But 62 came and went.  72 k came and went. An interminable amount of time later we came over the peak of a hill and there was the mineret of the mosque that marked the beginning of Banian.  It's amazing how much energy you can summon when you feel the end is near. I pedaled with a new vigor to the unfunctional gas station where one of Sarah's friends lives.  She fed us rice and sauce which I was too hungry to refuse. While eating I turned to Zach and said I can't do it anymore. My body was about to collapse and we still had another 30 k to go.  So we found a cab, strapped the bikes on top and were dropped off 6 k from Melissa.  That 6 k was blessedly flat and so possible for my tired muscules to handle.  We made it there by 2:30 PM.  Melissa was so surprised to see us and Sarah, who knew we were coming, couldn't believe we'd actually done it.  I felt like I'd aged 50 years.  My knees would not bend, making squatting to pee quite difficult.  The 4 of us hug out in the hut which is bigger and more guest friendly than mine.  We soaked in American company enjoying our English.  I went to bed in my new hammock early.  The next day I was feeling better which is why I agreed to bike to Tiro to look for a cab back to Kissidougou. Well we waited.  We were surrounded by children just staring at us.  We weren't doing anything particularly weird or foreign except I was wearing shorts and thus showing my knees and eating akeikei (smashed manioc) out of a platic bag brought to my face instead of eating with my hands.  But there being 4 of us we were able to make them a little uncomfortable by starring at them and talking in English.  After waiting for a couple of hours with no cars having passed through Sarah and Mel biked back to her village and Zach and I decided to bike the 21 remaining kilometers to Banian where there was more likely to be a taxi.  It was the hottest part of the day and I was not prepared to bike so I just had one water bottle half full of orange cool-aid.  I won't go into details but it was hard.  My resolve not to walk left me. I walked up 2 hills, my muscules being too shaky to pedal anymore.  We made it to Banian by 4:00 and found a cab within minutes.  I actually felt sorry for the Guineans stuck in the car with our stink.  But no one seemed to mind.  So that was my first real biking adventure in Guinea.  It is definately the farthest I've ever biked even during my days as a hardcore Mountain biker, or as hardcore as possible when your are 9 and 10.  All my sorenedd and stiffness is a distant memory. I'm enjoying my skittles, the BBC and the wonderful feeling of having nothing to do today except live. So until next time: peace.
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