Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Volcanic hills ride

I took a bicycle ride. Sunny day, road and myself. As I realized later, I
was puzzled to the core, and I needed a hard work-out.

However, this realization came later, well into the ride. It begun as an
innocent Sunday bike ride, something usual for me last months. In the tropic island, winter time is the only time good for bicycle. During warmer parts of the year, with all these hills, it would be very risky thing to do, for an European, used to rather cooler conditions. One does not want to
over-work his heart on 30-some celsius and over 90% humidity.

I went through the sur-realistic scenery of Science Park in the Taiwan Silicon Walley, with all its hiper-giga-mega corporations, enjoying empty sunday streets in what is usually a hectic industrial place. When I turned to a bit off road towards the Baoshan reservoir, which I knew offers a nice sight to the lake with the bridge accross, uphill the first slope, I knew this is one of the days. I felt the seat hot below me, as it had imprint od someone
else's presence. Someone was with me on that ride.

Sight of the lake was just a scenery and a chance to start emptying my water bottle, sun was high, and it was not cool at all. My back was wet, already. What I really wanted, was more hills. So I decided to go to the hardest I know around, today.

Road was unfolding in front of me, with magnificent, albeit foggy views, because of the dust from Gobi desert in mainland China, reaching Taiwan these days. Tops on the opposite of the walley I was encircling were not too real, seen accross the walley, and I was there only few minutes ago! I took the downhill fastest possible, cutting the sharp curves through the forest,
setting my adrenaline well higher.

I knew that in front of me, after that shadowy forest downhill, will be the steepest of the hills...waiting for me in the full sun. At its foot, in a small farm, I encountered a serene scene of young bamboo cutting - four village men worked on it, lively discussing. Omnipresent black dogs observing attentively. Drinking my water, I took my camera out and made a picture, trying to capture the moment. Knowing it is rather in vain, it was too far and all I will get will be four
distant silhouettes. But I could not resist the temptation to try to freeze the time.

Then I went up, in the lowest gears, to conquer the slope in the sun. I found it not at all as hard as I remembered...probably I became more in shape after few weekends of bike rides. Anyway, at the top, I needed few circles around, before the new, smaller hill behind, to catch proper breath and heart rate.

Already during the uphill drive, I had, again, that queer feeling of "what I am REALLY doing?", which I know from my other wanderings of a kind. Wanderings which can be -or rather, have been- along the kilometers of wild, Africa-like beaches of my adriatic island, back in Croatia, or through the forests of Zagorje in Northern Croatia, or in some of Slovenian Alps, or Carpats on the Polish-Slovakian border. Or through my ultimate hills and pastures of my grand-grand parents in the island, with the view accross the Adiatic sea all to Italy. Bicycle rides not to count, which took place at many more sites, Athens in Greece probably the most echoing. When one tops the slopes of Ymittos, above Athens, and spots the Acropolis with the Saronic Gulf and
Pirreus Harbour and its ships, it is the picture which does not leave the mind easily.

Catching the tops again, in the light breeze from the bamboo forest, I realized I am, again, playing my game of "asking the Road". One sets for the road, and along forms the question of the eternal type, rather from some book by Herman Hesse or Richard Bach, and not a Sunday ride along the Tropic of Cancer: "What I am doing? Why I am doing it? Where the Road goes?"

Downhill the next slope was through the mounain village, and I had to pay attention to eventual dogs or people on the road. But I did not slow a bit, my mind already in changed state, with the breeze from the much higher hills, much denser forests, more open seas...

Road was beating under me, its black line waving through the walleys and uphill minor slopes. My body was catching its rhytm, just enjoying it. I felt sweat going down my back, but enjoyed it, as I knew the reward of cooling off will come with the next downhill part.

Peasant was working the field, pausing to speak with someone on the bicycle. I catched the right turn in the village, but on the next bridge accros the stream emerging between the hills, I stopped and opened my bottle again, sweat is taking much water from the body in these conditions. Man on the bicycle passed near me, now I saw it is 50-some man and, with a good-willed smile around the face, yelled, passing by me, something like 'jiaaa', what was encouragement and cheering up, I understood. It did cheer me up, kind of pinning me to this serene rural picture.

Road was flat for me now, for few kilometers. Black thin line. With a white line for a thread - Ariadne, where are you, cursing me, still?

Such flat parts after uphills are the sites of non-flat thoughts, I knew, and I listened attentively to the Road. As if it would like to tell me: "after steep slopes comes green walley, comes rest and peace". Serene mountain village... but I had it, I had it to pain, I have been
professor emeritus already, in my remote village, in seclusion of my own thoughts...

I am not seeking for it, oh Road, you are not telling me this, yes? What are you trying to tell me? What are you showing me? Where are you leading me? Or am I just obusing you?

The answer came with the next uphill portion, which splitted at the top into four roads: The Road is here to go through the hills. But it is not leading. There are many roads. You are using the Road. That is, if you take the road at the first instance. But, again downhill, in fastest and most narrow part of today, where I could just get loose, forgetting about brakes, they would not stop me anyway if there would be need to stop, I knew this was MY road today, I could not "choose" another. Who is using whom?

Along the next, greener than green walley, with purple flowers all accross the fields, I knew: beauties of the scenery, serene fields, orange plantations and tall palm-like betel-nut trees, all along the road, are alread described in Scripts. In eternal Scripts. They have power to divert a
man from himself, from his inner Road, to atach him to their place and time... but if he follows the white line only, the white line of his inner Road, this remains just a gallery, a beautiful collection, but...only a collection. Zoo of thoughts, feelings and passions. The real passions are
somewhere else.

Where?

Where is that passion, oh Road, could you tell me? What is its taste?
"You know it. It is the taste of tears, the taste of sweat, the taste of
sea... the sea you know so well and love so much."

The Road was looking deep into my eyes now. I was still blind, driwing, working my way through the walleys... "But, why... where..."
Silence. I stopped above the farm bathed in sun, to drink from my bottle. Water is finishing, time to turn towards home. Sweat pouring down my neck, I felt tired, but satisfied... I worked through the nice part of the countryside,
now some ...oh, if I go back usual way, there will be many cars, no, I do not want...

I decided to take the hardest hill around, longer and harder than the one from the beginning. Just to avoid crowdy street. I wanted to speak with the Road in silence for a bit more.

When I started to work uphill, smile came to my face. I understood now. The Road is not telling me nothing. Nothing at all. I am speaking to myself, analyzing, trying to rationalize unlogical, nonhuman ways.

The Road is using more basic language. It is here, under me, timeless. Before this asphalt, before the white line, there has been a path ...

It is, yes. It is. It is not outside me. It is not in me. The Road simply IS.

Steep hill, in few long steps, was now just a work-out, I was meeting more cars, more sweat pouring down my body.

The Road answered all my questions and could now just be, follow its white line.

*************

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