Day Thirty: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

When I was a kid I occasionally faked being ill.  Mum, the truth is out.  Usually this involved waking up on a Monday morning to realize that I had not remembered to do my homework, due to be handed in shortly after nine that morning. Mum used to head down to the YMCA bookshop in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, and buy me a Beano, by which time I was better and would want to ride my bike downstairs. It was a scam that was often repeated and provided for an extensive collection of comics.

Yesterday I had the day off from training because I had the dreaded man-flu.Whilst I was stretched out on the sofa feeling sorry for myself I thought back to when I was really ill.  When I was too ill to read a Beano and riding my bike was a torture not a treat.

I was in Sichuan, China back in the early 1990’s.  I had spent two weeks cycling along dirt roads, heading in the general direction of Tibet, with two friends.  We were on mountain bikes and were enjoying living the dream.  My two friends had four weeks off work and I had three weeks off work, so at some point we had to part ways which meant I was going to ride back alone.

At the end of every day, as we headed out towards Tibet we calculated the day when I would have to turn around in order to make my flight back from Chengdu and every day we extended it by a day. It got to the point where I had two days to cover the distance we had covered in six days in order to catch my flight.

We were in a town called Kanding.  Located high in the mountains, it was formerly part of Tibet, before China moved the border and took control of the area. It is surrounded by high mountains and back then the roads were all but non existent.

On the way up the climb, which took us six days to ride, we had stopped on a low wall, at the edge of a ravine.  We were hungry and decided to east some White Rabbit sweets.  These were a milky coloured sweet, wrapped in rice paper.  We had just sat down when out of nowhere a local guy appeared wearing a tattered orange vest against his bare skin and a pair of black trousers.  He did not have shoes on.

He looked really agitated and motioned for us to move on back down the road from whence we had come.  Of course we ignored him.  It had taken us two days to ride this far up the climb.  He grew really quite uptight and finally thrust something in front of our faces.  He was flapping his arms about and pointing at the rugged cliff-side on the other side of the road, some fifteen feet away.

It was a fuse. Galvanized into action, we grabbed our bikes and started to run with them uphill.  He looked confused, hesitated, and then ran ahead of us, waving his arms like a windmill.  We had just turned the corner when a series of large explosions went off behind us, causing a rock-fall nearby.

He left us and ran down the hill shouting out to his friend, who, we could see walking back up the hill, several switchbacks below us.  It made sense of course.  It was much faster to run downhill that uphill.  There were no ‘men at work about to blow up rock’ signs and quite frankly we were lucky not to have been blow to bits.
Fast-forward a week.  I said goodbye to my friends and set off from Kanding at first light, at about five thirty in the morning.  I started to ride back downhill.  All was going well.  I was making good time and was not feeling too worried about being alone.  The idle banter was missing and the silence was strange but I was in good spirits.

I negotiated one of the switchbacks and looked down at the road below me.  To my horror I saw two guys in orange vests sprinting downhill.  I wondered what to do.  Where was the rock they were blowing up? Should I turn-around or try to catch them up? I went for it.  I changed into heavier gears, stood up on the pedals and flew across the bumpy track.  Whilst I was trying to catch them I looked at every large boulder, trying to spot a line of fuse wire.

I caught the two guys, who were still running.  They looked across at me and did not slow down.  Seconds later a series of large explosions echoed around the valley from back up the road.

I spent the rest of the descent looking out for Chinese guys wearing orange vests.  And then I got sick.  I blame the watermelon.

Hot and thirsty I had stopped in a small village to get some juicy watermelon.  A few hours later on I had the most horrific stomach cramps.  I was alone.  In a remote part of China.  My body got rid of whatever was poisoning it via two orifices.  It left me weak and feeling close to death’s door.  Mum was not nearby and I could not ring a bell for a cup of soup.  My vision was blurred and I would not have had the energy to have turned the pages in a Beano comic let alone read it.

Of course I survived to tell the tale as they say but it did serve to make me feel like a bit of a blancmange stretched out on the sofa yesterday with man-flu.

I should be fine tomorrow and I shall go for a run along the beach, the girls on their bikes in tow.

I leave you with the post that James sent me yesterday.

Footnote: The six day climb took me thirty six hours to descend.  It is to this day the longest descent I have done.

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