Having done all of what Savannakhet had to offer (a scantily
filled dinosaur museum and the monkey forest) Ricky and I decided that we would
leave today. We filled up the bikes and
the spare gas can (which took nearly all the money in my wallet, which wasn’t
much) and paid our bill for the room (which took nearly all the money in
Ricky’s wallet, which was quite a bit more). We still had money, because we
never leave a town empty-handed. We had enough for a couple of food stops and
more gas should we need it. This was to
be a long ride, and we thought we were pretty prepared for it. We had water,
money, toilet paper, all the essentials.
Well, we weren’t really prepared.
See, since our trip to Monkey Forest, my bike had been
feeling a bit wobbly, like the steering was a bit loose or something. We got out onto the road and things were
fine. After about an hour or so, my bike started feeling a bit looser still, so
I slowed down from 80 km per hour to about 70, thinking I was just going a
little too fast. Ricky was still going fast, so distance grew between our
I had just crested a hill when disaster struck. All of a
sudden I lost absolute control of the bike. The front and back wheels seemed to
be fighting for control and I swerved out into the middle of the road. It felt
as if some unseen hands were pulling the handlebars back and forth while
someone else pulled the back tire in the opposite direction.
I was going about 70 km per hour still and didn’t know what
to do. If you recall, I’m fairly new to the motorbike scene, having learned to
ride them just over a month ago. I didn’t really know how to handle this. My
hand was off the accelerator, but I didn’t know if I should brake, and if I
should use the front or back brake, so I think I may have eased both of them
on. To be honest I don’t really remember. I remember saying “oh no oh no oh no
oh no” over and over as I swerved out of control. All of a sudden I was at the
side of the road, unharmed but in shock. I pushed myself off the bike and
immediately burst into sobs.
I turned to face the road as I saw Ricky’s bike climb a hill
and disappear over the top. I knew he would turn around as soon as he saw I
wasn’t behind him, but all I could do was shake and cry as I waited. Eventually I saw the glint of the silver
front of Betsy Black, and then Ricky was parked behind me.
Before he had properly dismounted the bike I was on him,
still shaking, holding onto his neck while he attempted to disentangle himself
from his headphones. He looked over me for scratches and asked if I had fallen.
All I could say was a simple no, and keep holding on.
When I had composed myself a bit, I told him what had
happened, and that my steering might be loose. After a short inspection,
however, the truth became clear. About 6 or 7 spokes on my back wheel had
snapped off, which had caused all the wobbling. The wheel was frighteningly
loose when we tested it; it was amazing that I hadn’t gone careening off the
road and fallen off.
We tried to figure out what to do. The bike was all but
undrive-able, and we didn’t know where we could go to fix it. We also don’t speak Lao, so we also had that
Ricky flagged down a man on a bike and mimed that we had a
problem. The man pointed the way we had come, so Ricky hopped on the bike and
was led to a repair shop. Or repair shack.
He came back and I took his bike to the shack while he drove mine. He
ended up having to push it (uphill) because the back tire soon got flat with
all the wobbling. He arrived drenched in sweat, panting from the exertion and
the heat, ever my hero.
|The repair shack that luckily wasn't too far away.|
After some work and a little more miming, I ended up with a
new wheel and tube. The price came to 175,000 kip, about double what we
actually had with us. I was cursing
myself that I didn’t go to an ATM before we left. The nearest ATM was in
Savannakhet, the town we had just left. We had already had a late start on the
long drive, and adding a couple extra hours would leave us arriving well after
dark in Paxse. And after the fright and the trouble, neither of us wanted to do
much more driving. Instead, we told the repairman, and half the village that
had come to gawk, that we would go to Savannakhet, sleep there, and return in
the morning with the money.
|My old wheel with the broken spokes, next to the tire.|
|Pictured: Instant Death|
They agreed, and we left them working on the bike and put
our huge backpacks in another building as collateral, and also because we
couldn’t take them with us back to town with only one bike.
|My new wheel leaning against the bike.|
So here we are, back in Savannakhet. The lady at the
guesthouse was surprised to see us, but gave us our old room, without even
making us re-check in and told us to relax.
We took her advice and will depart for take two of the drive
to Paxse in the morning. Wish us luck!