What I Call the Roughness of the Road

Jan 9th, 2015
Suddenly, a small pick-up truck stopped and out came an old man with glasses, who looked very Chinese. I walked up to him immediately. Before I asked him anything, he first pointed to my sign and said in simple English:”You want go to Chiangmai?” Before I answered yes he already continued:”You can go with me” with a mild smile. I instantly sprang in the air with endless joy:”Thank you thank you thank you so much! Great!” Both he and the staff of the gas statkon laughed at my exaggerated move.
This kind Thai man lived in Chiangmai so he was on his way home. In the driver’s cab there were only two seats. One for him and the other already occupied by a big hairy restless dog of him. Therefore, he said if I did not mind, the whole trailer was mine. So was it! I jumped int the trailer in no time, seemingly in fear that it was not real and I had to grab it before it suddenly disappeared like vapour. The truck started roving and the terrain under the wheels became higher and higher, The sky was turning dark cyan and for a while the intimadating clouds seemed to finally light up a bit! That gave me the false feeling that my bad luck had come to an end and now I was driving towards a bright future. I have to tell you something special about hitchhiking a pick-up truck. One hitchhiker friend of mine once said that to her pick-up trucks were the “holy grails” of hitchhiking. Supposedly, it’s the possibility to have the open view of the wild environment with your eyes, to touch the rushing wind with your cheeks and to feel the bumping rhythm of wild adventure that made it so special. I saw so clearly all the trees, houses and the road itself flashing backwards in high speed just in front of me, irrestibly shrinking into strings, dots and eventually invisible nothingness, giving me such a magical feeling that I had the illusion of leaving behind all my past, all my memories and all my burdens, leaving myself only “locked” with the ruthlessly forwarding road! All these plus the raging wind which brought me the smell of the nature and local households, gave birth to a feeling with the eternal name of FREEDOM!
Thailand had relatively good roads, by “relatively” I meant if you compared it with Laos, especially Northern Laos where I literally almost died (https://wordpress.com/post/84172958/67/). It was late afternoon when I shoveled my ass on the hard metal ground of the trailer. Bit by bit it became dark. The temples and houses I used to see shrinking into the road became white vague entities of some abstract shapes, like objects in those paintings of impressionism masters. Eventually even the vague shapes were devoured by the dark gigantic curtain, leaving nothing visible but only dots, light dots of households near and afar.
I was enjoying every minute of the magic of the cool evening ride until it started to thunder. I looked up, the sky had a grumpy face and it was shouting. Soon the shouting enlarged into screaming. I looked up again, the wind had become cold from cool — bad omen. Soon the cranky sky started to cry. It must have had a hard day, perhaps a lot of work, its boss shouting at it and holiday plans brutally cancelled…… The drops fell on my clothes. I put on my jacket, tightened it and curled up in the corner formed by the trailer wall and my backpack. “It would be ROUGH.” I thought. Grey dots of dropping rain patted my backpack and first stimulated refreshing noise of minor collisions, then the noise disappeared and dots soon became strings and it did not take long for the strings to knit together into a complete big piece, into incessant DOWNPOUR. I prayed to God of Travelling and Goddess of Hitchhiking at the same time, ”Please let it soon be Chiangmai”! :O I crossed my arms on my chest, holding them even more tightly. I did not have any rain gear by the way…… The water first only disappeared on the surface of my black coat, leaving no noise, no trace. Then I felt my coat heavier and heavier, more and more watery and eventually water started to trip down my sleeves and fall on the ground without any stop. My face started to feel the coldness of the water. I did not know how I exactly looked but I must have started looking miserable. Soon I started trembling. I tried to shift my attention from the coldness and wetness to the roads, to the shinning villages that flew away, to the promise of arrival, but oh friends, it was hard to ignore the coldness and the uncomfortable feeling of having something wet on myself. I took out the rain cover of my backpack and covered it as well as possible, then I tried not to move. I stared at the rain drops firing at the orange-coloured rain cover and thoughts started spontaneously flowing in. I thought of the metaphor of backpackers as snails, roving snails. If you put out a world map, a backpacker was so much like a snail! We moved slowly, very slowly on this map. It took days and even weeks to cross one country and we moved slowly because we enjoyed every bit and stayed here and there. Above all, we carried our HOMES – our backpacks on our backs! The backpacks were all we had and from which we lived our life. The only difference was that in the “home” of a snail there was its comfort and destination while in the backpack of a traveller there was our DREAMS!
Suddenly we stopped at a service station, which was surrounded by a line of restaurants. God! We were already in Chiangmai? Not likely…… It should take hours and now it would take even more time because of the rain and the darkness. The driver came out of the cabin and asked if I was ok. I scraped the water running under my nostrils and said miserably:”I am ok. When will we arrive in Chiangmai?” “In about two hours, I think” was the answer. He wanted to have some snacks so we went inside a fast food joint like KFC. He asked me if I was hungry. I said I was ok and had to save some money for the real dinner. “I would eat when we arrive in Chiangmai.” I said. I sat down with him when he was eating. For the first time we finally had the chance of having a proper conversation. He told me of his job. He did not have any children and lived with his wife. He asked much about my travels. I told him of my nomadic adventures and I still had the energy of expressing my passion for hitchhiking in an exaggerated way. He laughed. Obviously, like most people, for him it was rather hard to accept such a way of travelling and he saw little enjoyment in it, but the Thai was a gentle and polite folk. He did not express any blunt disagreement with my way of traveling, which, however, I could detect that from his facial expression. Well, I was already used to that. Nonetheless, he was a kind person. While waiting for him, I looked around to see if there was a chance of table diving, but there were really only a few customers there. I knew that 90% chance was that he would get totally embarrassed if I did table diving in front of him. Therefore, I waited for the proper chance to come. He finished his meal and said with a mild smile:”Let’s go!” Then he stepped out towards his truck without looking at me. I calmly stood up, grabbed the French fries which were left on the table, put them into my pocket and went also towards the truck.
I found the truck (I thought so at least), threw my backpack inside, and already got into the trailer. Then he came near me, with a serious face. Suddenly this serious face turned into a big laughter:”What are you doing here? My truck is there!” I suddenly realized that I was in the wrong truck and also burst into laughter.
I was now in the back of the right truck. Knocking on the back window of the driver’s cabin and thumbed up – “ready to go”. Then the slow and old truck roved into the rainy night again.
I had lost the impulse to curse this weather and actually I did not mind the rain anymore. It’s uncomfortable but comfort was not the thing I was looking for on the road. On the road there were only dust and mist, hot air and cold rain, surprising joy and unexpected disappointments, and what I called “the ROUGHNESS OF THE ROAD”.
To my surprise, about one hour later the truck stopped again, the kind old man stepped out and said to me with his regular mild smile …… (to be continued)

Oh Thailand! Oh the Roughness of the Road!
Oh Thailand!
Oh the Roughness of the Road!

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