Book 2, Chapter 14

Buchannan.

No more checkpoints. Uneventful, straight tarmac all the way.

I’m starting to really get the shits with the bike; the oil level indicator or “sight glass”, which lets you look into the sump to see the oil level is driving me nuts; I’ll do identical oil level tests on perfectly level road, and one test will show that the oil sump is brimming full, the next will show that it’s bone dry.

I’ve got fuck all idea what the true, correct reading is, and so I don’t know if it’s overfull or if it’s empty or if it’s Goldilocks. And there’s oil hosing out of the motor all the time.

I need to know how much oil is left. It scares me.

Buchanan's an unremarkable port hole. I'd like to ride further, but I can't.

After shacking up in a shitty hotel (that's not a brothel) I go walkabout, and chat to as many people as I can about where I should go next.

Harper.

Two hundred clicks straight down the coast.

There are two routes: a straight line, or, a 600km inland detour.

All my maps have the straight road dead-ending at a river...

Sketchy.

And no one can tell me if there are bridges or canoes there to get me to the other side.

The 600km detour is a sure thing; with multiple people confirming it's do-able.

I’m not thrilled about turning a one day trip into a three day fuckabout.

I find a tin shack restaurant and continue my enquiries over lunch, which is mysterious meats in some sort of stew with rice.

Pretty gnarly stuff. Flies everywhere. But it’s popular with the locals so it’s popular with me.


Maybe not so popular...

As I lie in bed for a siesta my guts are roiling. They won't let me sleep.

I don't know if it's lunch, or just a Monrovian hangover.

I feel green with nausea.

I could easily chuck it all up - anytime I want - and send myself back to square one. But this feels important. I don't think I will manage if I chuck up another day's food; I'll just stop working.

So I hold it down, and give it a chance to ingest something.


Morning.

I've kept it down so far, but I've got tangy burps, and I don't know how long I can hold out.

My guts are moving in a way that indicates something violent is imminent. And I don’t mean throwing up either...

I get up and look in the mirror.

I look like I should, I guess, which is to say I look like dogshit.

I want to stay another day in Buchannan but, more than that, I still feel an overwhelming urge to escape. To run away.

I ignore the warning signs, load up the bike, and roll the dice.


My furious gut plus the shaking of the bike start whipping up their perfect storm.

In an act of pragmatism I skip breakfast; I don’t want to give myself any more ammunition.

I leave Buchannan, and take the road for the six hundred kilometre detour.

Tarmac quickly turns into a single-laned, well-graded red dirt track.


Gone are the endless rows of plantations, replaced with a sparse, green forest that creeps in on the roadside.

Sometimes the trees canopy over the track to give some shade, sometimes I'm open to the cloudy sky above.

There's the very seldom village, and in each village there are young topless women, painted white.

I hardly notice any of this.

I’m a man on a mission.

Eyes on the prize as I chop down the road, destroying the serenity as I smash around in top gear.

I’m all negativity; flying in a mad rush to get to nowhere in particular.

I’m in such a hurry that the only times I ever stop are when my bowels tell me that won't wait another second. Or I’m stopped at a checkpoint...

Never trust a fart in Africa... Or the police...

I'm not sure which I dread more.

But both turn out to be non-events; I squatted in the forest and let go of one of my top farts of all time; a spectacular ten second duration which somehow managed to stay dry, to great surprise and delight; and the checkpoint officials being all smiles and handshakes and well wishing.

No problem.


After about six hours in my head and two hundred clicks on the clock I find myself in a big enough small village to know I’m a good chance at finding somewhere to eat and sleep. Saclepea.

It's a long way between viable villages, so I call it a day.

An average speed of 33km/h doesn’t sound like a lot, but with breaks included and on a dirt road with a Royal Enfield that’s pretty good going. I’m satisfied with that.

And I didn't shit my pants, or vomit. Not even once.


Sweet baby Cheeses, they have a shower. My own fucking shower.

The shower rose is the size of a dinner plate.

I strip down and jump in immediately.

It feels like I'm caught in a deluge. Like I'm standing under a thundering, cool waterfall.

I could happily drown.

After an unknown amount of time I call it.

I go and lie down on my real mattress. With clean sheets.

And smile.

I get up and go take another shower.

Oblivious | Luke Gelmi