The rest of the previous nights riding was a struggle, we knew thanks to the Germans, that we were on the right track but the road was poor and Lallo repeatedly got punctures on his skinny tyres. After dealing with pinch flats and riding with our head torches out of the dark forest we eventually found the road we’d been promised. At this point everyone was exhausted and ready for sleep so we took the first camp we could see which was right on the corner of the junction we had arrived at. It was a very dark night and even with the head-torches shining about the blackness just seemed to envelope our party and it wasn’t until morning that I came to appreciate the beauty of where we now were.
The rocky and dry coastal ground had been replaced with lush green misty hills, as I emerged from my tent I could see the moisture hanging heavily in the air keeping everything cool. We had slept longer than usual, perhaps due to the exertions of the previous day but also because we were accustomed to being chased from our tents by the heat of the morning sun which now felt much weaker as it struggled to burn through the mist.
I stood up and out of the tent, I’m often the first one to rise, and looked back at the forested mountain we had emerged from, it looked benign and peaceful as did everything else around us, we had camped on lush green grass with moguls shaped as if they were from a grassy ski slope. There were spiders, butterflies and praying mantises, the entire place was rich with life, everywhere you looked something was moving and just as that thought had occurred I saw something much bigger move; it was a flash of orange and it was moving fast, I raised my head and glanced over to the road hoping to get another look and I did. It was a man with a bald head, apart from a tiny pony tail, dressed in white with a small orange toga like thing over his shoulder, it was quite unexpected and he was marching really fast. As I looked over at him I caught his eye and he gave me a brisk and cheery wave before disappearing from view behind more grassy moguls. From that point on I had no doubt that the day would be an interesting one.
Once everyone had risen it became clear that we had very little food between us, if anyone had breakfast at all it was small and disappointing and just as everyone looked ready roll Lallo had further bike problems. At this point it was decided that a few of us would ride ahead to the next town about 2 miles away and scout for shops or any other amenities but less than a minute down the road we saw a house teeming with people and food, initially we slowly rode by but as I stopped and looked back in attempt to understand what was going on I noticed a guy was beckoning me to approach. I pulled up in front of the little white house and, conscious that the others back at camp would be able to find us, left my bike lying at the roadside and asked the half of the group that was with me to do the same. As we walked in we were presented with a plate and shown to the stalls where Hari Krishnas proceeded to fill them with an assortment of delicious foods. We ate, and thoroughly enjoyed, sweetened couscous, a kind of vegetable curry with soft chunks of potato, semi-dried prunes and some sort of puffy fried bread all washed down with camomile tea. We were told that all the ingredients in the dishes were grown in the valley we were sitting in and how that gave it a tremendous energy. In my mind I substituted the ‘energy’ and other implications of religion with taste, because it really did taste fantastic and that’s something I could believe in.
Though I’m not religious myself I did find it very interesting to learn about their prayer bags for instance; they’re little sacks that fit over their hand like a loose mitt and inside sit some beads. The Hari Krishnas shake the bag and the beads inside whist chanting, but there is a single hole in the mitt for your index finger to go through so that it lies outside of the prayer bag. The idea behind it is that the index finger is impure as it is the most likely to be used for dirty tasks, presumably, like picking your nose and ears. They also told me that the painted marks just above the bridge of their nose are used to represent their particular sect. It’s the infusion of events and people like this that make travel the valuable, fun and exciting thing that it is and this was certainly a highlight of the trip but that itself caused some problems . . .