As I approach the Cambodia/ Laos’s border crossing, I emerge triumphantly though a blazing forest, my wheels spitting out fire bolts, Pandemic The Magic Bicycle’s rubber tread left behind for anyone brave enough to follow. The road ahead, behind and all around appears to be on fire. Flames emerge from the
forest as the wind ignites another fire and I pedal forward into a mighty head wind. This 60 km (40 miles) stretch of deserted road is arid and dry, thirsty for the rain season that has long since past. I ponder whether I should continue pedaling forward as I squint through the asphyxiating air at the charred black tree stump formations off in the distance. I begin to hallucinate. The black charred images dance before my eyes and mutate into insane jumping monkeys in red shirts and running dogs. There aren’t monkeys in this province, is there? Well if there are, why the hell are they wearing red shirts? Running dogs? But there isn’t a house in sight. I may have finally gone over the edge. I have really done myself in this time. I wonder if strait jackets come in my favorite color of chocolate brown? Umm, chocolate, I like chocolate. I wonder where the closest mental hospital is? Perhaps they will speak English there, I bet they will feed me, I wonder what lithium tastes like? I question my sanity for most of the morning as I dance on the line between courageous and crazy.
Granted the air quality and lack of oxygen are sure to be the contributing factor to my suffering delusions of grandeur and pedaling my way into the cuckoo nests. However, as the barricade between Cambodia and Laos opens I explode forward into the country of Laos unsure whether I will be discovering a lunatic on a magic bicycle or a Laotian with a fire extinguisher.
I am not met by a Laotian with a fire extinguisher but am met with the ‘snuggle close to the fire’ warm spirited people of Laos. As the smoke clears and the forest returns to lush green rice fields, the Laotian children greet me with Savade (Laotian for hello and peace be all around you) as I board a wooden raft to cross the Mekong River to the island of Don Det, Laos. By the evening, I am swinging in a hammock, staring at the sun as it dips into the Mekong River through a fire born orange sky as delusions of grandeur and the Cambodia/Laos border crossing smolder into a distant memory.