It’s never a dull day on the road. So far on this road trip days have refused to sit quietly in the corner and go unremarked; be it getting lost, dazzling scenery, breakdowns, delicious food journeys, priceless cultural insights or Viet traffic, a day on the road never seems to pass without a noteworthy event. Today will be the day it changes, we are heading for Hoi An and trying to skip beyond our planned stop in Pleiku and onward to Kon Tum; the boys will behave today, they must. So with Ari and Jamie ready to launch into the day I throw up a bit of Gypsie magic declaring that if Greg starts first try we’re blessed with good fortune. The crowd leans in, breaths are held, the moment is here; success!
With the grace of Gypsiie mystique we set off and it’s a cracking pace to start, we veritably chew up the road with all four chargers firing and in fine form. With 260km’s in front of us on wobbly steeds that can barely crack 60km/h at best it’s a long day ahead but my morning conjuring seems to be doing the trick, in a blink it’s time for lunch. Summoning the age old rules of street food selection we stop at a basic place by the road that has a crowd of local faces. Bingo, chicken and rice goes with a squash soup to fill the stomachs and hearts alike. With not a care in the world we’re ahead of schedule with a great lunch in our bellies saddling up on well behaved bikes: Rob, Greg, Cat Lady and Dragon fart all deserve gold stars for good behaviour.If you’re a mystical person you might say that the universe delivers lessons along with blessings; if not you might just say that you can’t have it all your own way all of the time. Drama free was my proclamation this morning but I was admittedly referring to the bikes, drama can take many forms. So often in our lives shocking events are delivered to us in slips, clips and hints only; the flash in the corner of your eye, a scream that alone chills the blood or the near miss that passes before you can feel the gravity of its consequence. So often these dramatic moments sit in our memories unlike a story, with no clear beginning, middle and end, just a flashing hint of something that happened to someone at some time with some sort of consequence that remains undefined. It seems the Gypsie gods have a wicked sense of justice.
As we straddle the bikes the screech of the tyres doesn’t catch us from a dark corner beyond sight, it’s played out in front of us as a late model silver Toyota swerves and snakes on screeching tyres just ten or so metres from us. This dramatic event isn’t disjointed into a fragmented sliver, the beginning of the story is so awkwardly full of all senses and in plain view. There’s a bus coming the other way full of people travelling to another place no doubt full of excitement and anticipation sharing a lane with the screeching Toyota in a space only fit for one or the other. This story develops it’s plot to a body of work and we can’t consign it to a caught glimmer, each gut wrenching twist is so horribly unavoidable.The screeching wails at us, this instant is stretched like a piece of bubble gum to extend far beyond the bounds of time it should occupy, grabbing us in a vice like grip to ride the terror with it. The plot develops like a slowly unfolding story: the screeching continues beyond the bus drifting onward with dreams of excitement and anticipation still intact for the destination ahead going the opposite way. Those stories live another moment, it’s now a thriller refined down to the silver Toyota as the pace picks up to the crescendo of this story we see unfold so completely. We wish we were able to hear the last screech or just see a flash like is so often the case. But no; brutally, cruelly we stagger forward fixed on the slow motion drama that we weren’t banking on and so jokingly blessed ourselves from. And still it screeches, the echo reverberates and disappears leaving nothing of itself beyond the cramp in our stomachs and the snaking scar so unavoidable on the road, a stain our wishes just won’t wash away. The hopeful journeys pass us now in the bus on their way to wherever their aspirations already lie, this story has now passed for those lucky few. The story that just won’t end tones down from a screech to a scuffing rumble as tyres leave bitumen and continue their scarring yell on bare dirt. A thud replaces the scuffing scream like a muffled victim finally erased from the world, a crunch ensues with the silver Toyota rolled ungraciously onto its roof just a short way down the road.
Jamie is the first into a run, my dazed legs are soon behind him after jettisoning my bag in favour of pace; we’re running to help but what are we helping, and exactly how? We’re first on the scene battling the dread of possibly staring into dead eyes that no longer see with the obvious need to help; this story won’t stay confined to a fleeting impression, we must live every second drawn out in spiteful detail. Yanking at door handles and banging on windows there’s no response from inside for what seems an eternity, or is it just a moment? Others arrive now and kick at the toughened windows to no avail, a second of hopelessness chimes forever like a tuning fork in the vacuum of shock. The tuning fork rings and in the moment of despair that will not end a window opens slowly; joy at the movement is mixed with relief for not having to stare at eyes that don’t see.
despair masks relief and turns to astonishment, Jamie and I are both crowding the window fruitlessly fumbling in lieu of a valid alternative when a frail elderly lady crawls over the ceiling upholstery with nought but resolve on her face. I’m closest and I help her to sit a few metres away as a sharply dressed young man and a pretty girl emerge also full of resolve even if the girl is clutching her shoulder in pain. In a wave of calm I now hear the engine running, the crows turns to look when I scream to Jamie who selflessly launches into the upturned car to turn the key and call a dramatic end to this story that has gone on too long. In truth it was mere seconds of a story that is so rarely witnessed in completion. Charlie emerges with my bag I’d called him to watch and Ari is slowing traffic, we’re all desperate to do something but none of us really know what.
Shaken and equally alarmed at the calm resolve of three people that were not watching the story, they were the story we sit astride our bikes to attempt to resume a road trip free of drama. An ambulance and a crowd of people that speak the right language releases us from guilt, there’s nothing more we can do here. The Gypsie blessing does its trick, history will tell that all bikes behave and we make good time to Kon Tum and a debrief over beers. For some time though we’re not stuck in the story, just dealing with its scars left on more than just the road. We’d jokingly asked for a mystical blessing for a drama free day and in a way we were granted it, we however didn’t appreciate the price for the deal we struck.