My road trip to get to the interior location for the second translation check turned out to be much more of an adventure than I expected! The first 2-3 hours after leaving the city at 4 a.m. was fine, but the farther interior we came, the narrower the roads got. We had one near-miss with an oncoming truck who was passing a vehicle coming downhill. Then the road ran out of pavement, and we were on dirt roads that were being prepared in several places for asphalt. The driver had a relative of his in the back seat so that he would have a companion to keep him awake on the long drive home, but unfortunately his relative gets carsick, and the narrow, winding, pothole-filled roads didn’t help him enjoy his trip any. He had taken motion sickness medicine but still had to hang his head out the window a couple of times. We bottomed out the shocks several times and scraped the undercarriage quite a bit as well. After going through several towns and small cities, we arrived at the end of the road for the vehicle.
Waiting at the end of the road were three young men from interior with their motorcycles. They set to work loading the food and medicine orders on the three beat-up cycles. I had two small carry-on size suitcases plus a backpack with my laptop. There was a fresh order in two full-size coolers, two other boxes, plus a medical order and a rack of eggs. One of the bottles of cough medicine had cracked on the rough trip, and the red syrupy liquid oozing out gave the box of medicines the distinct appearance that it was wounded and bleeding. Using rubber straps (possibly made from rubber harvested in this very region) they somehow stacked and strapped down all the coolers, suitcases and boxes on two of the cycles. Then they asked me to put the unwounded medicine in my backpack and carry the flat of eggs. Since I figured they would certainly crack if they were strapped down with the rest of the barang, I agreed, although I knew that would only leave me one hand to hang on with.
The motorcycle gang was ready to roll at noon, so I straddled the back of the third cycle wearing my backpack and hanging the eggs outside my thigh. The first thing I noticed was that the left foot peg was broken, and only half of it remained. That required me to angle my leg and foot so that the toe of my sandal could grip the remaining two inches of metal. After following a dirt and gravel road for about 20 minutes, the real adventure began. The 8-foot wide bridge ahead was out and under repair, so we went off road over very uneven terrain that nearly threw me off the back of the cycle. That was the first of several times I offered to get off and walk, but my driver assured me that we could easily get around and back to the road. Sure enough, someone had built a temporary bridge about two feet wide over the narrow part of the river, and we were back on the ‘road’ soon.
But the road disqualified itself of that label very soon, and we were on a trail that was sometimes gravel, other times slick clay, with the occasional 18-inch wide strip of concrete for the wheels to follow. Where there was no concrete but a need for traction, boards had been laid out end to end. Most of the boards were nearly a foot wide, but of course some had deteriorated and cracked, and in several places the driver had to keep the tires on wood that was only three inches wide. We also occasionally crossed little streams and ponds. At some point I asked how far it was to our destination, and I was assured that they usually make it in less than an hour. A couple of times we stopped for a minute or two so that I could switch the eggs to my other hand and straighten my legs, because my thigh muscles were complaining. On the third stop we decided to weave the rack of eggs between the rubber straps holding the coolers in place so that I could use both hands to hold on to the back of the cycle, because they told me that the trail wouldn’t be as nice ahead as it had been up to then. Yikes!
Sure enough, soon the terrain got steep, and several times the driver had to use full throttle to pull us up the narrow path. But the most incredible stretches were the long uphills where the rain had softened the clay, and frequent motorcycle passes and water run-off had created mini gorges with a tire-width channel about six inches deep at the bottom. I was amazed at the skill of our drivers as they kept the tires in the channel, splayed their feet to push off of each side wall of the gorge whenever necessary, and still keep us going up the steep terrain. In some places the ‘gorge’ walls were as high as my head, and I could have brushed my fingertips against the walls if I were foolish enough to let go of my handhold. Only once did a tree root stop our progress and cause the tire to spin, prompting me to get off and hike up to the crest of the hill before getting back on. I remember thinking that someone who likes to sky-dive or feel that adrenaline rush from other dangerous undertakings would love the ride I was on. Unfortunately I am not one of those people, and between the lack of a helmet and knowing the precariousness of carrying my laptop on my back, I wasn’t eager to sign up for this ride again.
Then, of course, I realized that in about 10 days’ time I would have to go back out to civilization over this exact same Motocross obstacle course. My only comfort was the knowledge that my heavenly Father was watching over me and I was here for the purpose of getting more of His Word into the Sekadau language. Thankfully not many of my trips are this much of an adventure.
By the time I reached the house I would be staying in at 1:15 p.m., I literally just about had to be pried off of the motorcycle. My shoulders were sore from holding on so tightly to keep myself from sliding forward into the driver with all the jolts of the trail, and my thigh muscles were threatening to give way when I tried to stand. Fortunately the soreness only lasted a couple of hours, and I was able to get out of my sweat-drenched clothes and get a dipper bath / shower to cool off a little.
Maybe I should start carrying a helmet in my suitcase, just in case there are more unexpected adventures on the horizon!