TRAVEL GUIDE FROM THE UNDERBELLY------6
A volcano caldera is a sight to behold
and Lake Maninjau was all snuggled up in
cascading peaks belly-punching the horizon.
Mother nature flaunted her natural grandeur
on a mammoth scale.
I woke up in a viscous mist,
all grey and spooky and quiet.
Sound was sucked up in the soup.
I was lost in a milky sauce
floating on nebulous dream clouds of pre-dawn.
Sun broke the caldera rim with a
flood of morning light which slithered
down the canyon walls like a snake on the prowl,
sweeping away the murky condensation in merciless delight.
The lake was revealed in the dissipating shroud.
It was long and dark and dominating.
No sun reached below the surface
to those unfathomable depths where the gods
hold council in the center of the earth.
It was a living fairy tale from prehistoric times.
I looked around my hut.
It was a bamboo construction
under a thatched roof, with the bed
raised a good height from the floor.
Not high enough though, to stop the snakes
and poisonous centipedes from snuggling up
in your bedding.
Time to get up, “Shanga La” here I come.
I saw some people gathered
under a large communal hut down by the water.
The hut was the same as mine,
only bigger and missing four wall’s.
I went down to meet my neighbors.
I had breakfast with several tourists and the boss while devouring strong Sumatran coffee.
The boss's minions had already eaten,
and were busy working down by the water.
There was a Swedish couple and a big Canadian boy.
He'd come to learn Silat (a form of marshal arts which originated in the Philippines), which was practiced here in West Sumatra.
The Swedes were traveling home
on their way back from Kalimantan (Borneo).
They were explaining to me
about a rebel situation on the island.
Borneo has a lot of natural resources
which have attracted multi-nationals,
who are doing what they seem to do best.
They were digging up, and cutting down
anything of value, while making
their stock holders happy.
The natives got squat,,,, nada!
They were angry of course (the natives),
and prone to violent attacks.
There were assaults on tourists
who were ignorant of the local social conditions,
and who ventured too far out into the forest.
Gang rapes, horrible beatings.....
It didn’t sound to appealing to me.
I thought I’d take a ride up to the caldera rim.
I`d remembered riding down a steep and treacherously sharp series of cobra-bending turns the night before.
I was too tired the time though,
to appreciate the ride.
My chariot glistened in the sun like an arrogant goddess (ha ha, just kidding).
I went to my hut and grabbed a backpack
with bottled water and a load of bananas.
I waved to my host and rode up a slight incline to the main road circling the lake.
It was early but the day was already hot
with the promise of more to come.
I rode past a few men sitting on a wooden fence.
“Hey mon, where do you go, come here”
I rode on.
I soon came to the serpentine road
which snaked it's way up the caldera
and out to the world beyond.
The incline slanted radically upwards.
This was not an impediment though
to the multitude of motor scooters,
and taxi's and trucks which buzzed by me.
For a bicyclist it presented a daunting challenge.
It was a real gut-buster.
As the caldera walls were too steep to build a straight road, from top to bottom, they built
a series of sharp looping curves instead,
one after the other,
stretching out to the rim above.
Forty four, in all.
I began pumping the pedals,
buoyed along on a high adrenaline wave
of strong Sumatran caffein.
Pedaling strenuously through the first dozen curves extracted my coffee rush through
bloated pours like a magnet sucking sweat.
I pulled myself ever upwards
by grabbing my handle bars
in a viscous tug of war,
while standing on my pedals
and violently expelling the air
from my straining lungs,
only to inhale it all back in ravenously,
and in the shortest amount of time.
Spit, sweat and phlegm spewed forth
in hyperbolic grace from my distorted face.
Time began to stretch, before collapsing
in upon itself and drawing me in with it.
The world beyond the point which lay
directly before my front tire ceased to exist.
My worldly connections froze in a pedal stroke;
I had no family; I had no friends.
There was no past and no future.
There was only the unrelenting "NOW",
rolling steadily beneath me.
I was in a mortal combat with gravity.
My universe was defined in my straining pulse.
I don’t know how long it took but like a virus which is repulsed by our anti-body’s,
I too, was ejected from the caldera as a sweating, slimy lump of moving exhaustion.
My legs were trembling and my wrists burned.
I stumbled off my bike collapsing
like rotten jelly.
My gasping wretched breath bellowed forth, corrupting the peace around me.
I had to piss, but I had not the strength,
so I spit instead.
I slowly crawled out of a senseless stupor
and pulled myself up assisted by a vine which stretched down from the heavens above.
I surveyed the heights which I had conquered.
It was glorious.
I communed with the clouds,
which hung from my sun browned knees.
I shook hands with the sun,
which tickled my shoulder blades.
I laughed with the angels,
while telling devilish jokes.
I was high up in the place
where the god’s play croquet.
I was at the top of the world.
I was intoxicated.
I was also quite low on the blood sugar scales,
and stood shimmering in a heat exhausted euphoria.
I walked around slowly.
I regulated my erratic breathing while
devouring fruit and slugging down liters of water.
In short time I was steady,
and ready for my return trip to the bowls
of tropical hell from which I had just come.
I mounted my trusty steed and like a ski jumper peering over the precipice before my downward plunge.
I paused briefly, awed by the throat stopping drop before me, before relenting to the inevitable descent.
I let gravity do it’s dirty business as it propelled me down the steep mountain walls.
I leaned into the curves like I was hugging a high speed slip-stream.
A vision formed in the back of my mind
of a plan for the rest of the day.
It took the form of a delightful swim in the lake, and a cold beer in the shade of my hut
while swinging lazily
from my slow moving hammock.