Friday, 22 January 2010

Four Seasons in One Day

My day started off like any other – wake up (5:30am), stretching (till 6am), packing/preparing my bike and setting off (6:30am). But today I had mixed feelings.

We had spent the past two nights camping at Pong Duen National Park, a beautiful spot at the end of a very steep track, approx 6.5 km off the main road leading to Pai. The main attraction here was a very unique volcanic geyser which pumps steaming hot water into some beautiful natural hot spring pools. We snuck into our campsite in the dead of the night, in order to escape paying the 200THB entrance fee for foreigners (it’s only 40 THB for Thais) and enjoyed the pools and sauna pretty much to ourselves each evening.

It may have been the fact that I hadn’t had breakfast (anyone who knows me well understands what I am like if I don’t eat in the morning), or it was perhaps the realization that I still had three big mountains to climb before a final 25km of downhill which would lead us into Pai town. Or maybe it was the fact that I was about to embark on the final leg of my journey to Pai Straight Up – a two month, 2500km bicycle ride through 21 provinces in Thailand – one that I am not sure that I ever believed I could do.

I put in my headphones and waited for the shuffle setting to predict which song would stay running in my head for the remainder of the day. It was Crowded House, Four Seasons in One Day, a song that I used to listen to when feeling homesick in Bangkok.

“Four seasons in one day, lying in the depths of your imagination...”

As I left the campsite my bike decided that it was only going to allow me to use 6 out of the 24 gears that I am used to. The boys were already in front of me so there was no time to argue and I set off feeling lucky that I still had the lowest gears to play with, which is fine when climbing mountains. Within minutes I was pushing my bike up a very steep part of the road, dreading what was to come later in the day. But I kept going, alternating between riding and pushing, and eventually reached the main road where I found the others.

“...finding out that everywhere there is comfort there is pain, like four seasons in one day...”

To say I was overjoyed when we stopped for breakfast would be an understatement. Only one mountain down and two more to go, but with food in my belly I couldn’t be happier. Again we started to climb but this time the gods were more generous. The road to Pai is infamous for the number of hairpin turns (762 from Chiang Mai) and we must have encountered most of them in the next two hours of riding. Eventually we reached the summit and enjoyed a short downhill before climbing again. I put my head down, clipped in and kept humming the tune.

“worlds above and worlds four seasons in one day”

On the way up I realized that I was in front of the others, mainly because they were stopping regularly to take photos and video footage of us all going up the mountain. There was a sign saying that it was 1km to the next police box so I knew that there would be a food place nearby. I felt a sense of excitement at the prospect of being the first to arrive at our lunch stop
(this has never happened in two months of riding!). With a burst of energy I cruised along the ridge of the mountain and round the next bend, where I found another hill. As I made my ascent I heard the familiar “click click click” of Chris’s bike as he sidled up beside me, followed closely by the others. “Noooooooo” I screamed (along with another expletive), not knowing exactly why this outburst had occurred. It was not the fact that I was going to be last, or that they were stronger than me – but something inside of me felt disappointed.

“ all the things you can’t explain...four seasons in one day”.

I have tried really hard to keep up with Chris throughout this trip and at times I felt like my slower pace bothered him. He has never said so, nor has he ever given me reason to think that he didn’t think I was up to this trip. It was all in my own head, and I realize now that the only person who ever doubted my ability was me.

When I pulled up, I watched as the magic words come out of the policeman’s mouth in slow motion “it’s all downhill from here”. Later, as I made the 25km descent, I had a revelation. The tune ringing in my head was my reality. I am a mixture of emotions, up, down, up, down, like four seasons in one day. I cried and when I reached the bottom I stopped beside Chris and apologised. We shared a few moments to reflect on the adventure, and how much I had improved over the past two months. We decided to ride the last 3kms into town together.

“Only one step four seasons in one day.

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