What I hadn’t counted on was the fact that all the nooks and crannies of the old Kawasaki had filled with water over the course of the last two months of it rusting in the jungle.
The bike was heavy, and had two flat tires from lack of use, but I was pretty sure that we could get it up the hill and push it into town to get it running again.
The night before it had rained, again, unseasonably hard for this time of year. Bodhi and I had driven the low slung scooter back from his friend’s house through foot-deep water, which was fun and adventurous until I noticed that there were small tree branches starting to float by us, and a current was developing. The rain was coming down in thick sheets, no respite in between the drops. The rain poncho had almost no effect at all, as the wheels of the scooter were submerged, and even with our feet pulled up, so wewer our legs.
Turning up the canyon after the river crossing, we had passed a temple with the doors pushed open by the water, it was pouring down the steps like a waterfall running from an endless source. A vertiginous feeling overtook me as I turned this way and that, following the pavement, but the water flowing in cross directions all around us.
I decided then and there that we needed to be higher off the ground, and have a little more weight to our advantage. That and some more acceleration power when we are passing trucks in the rain would be helpful.
So, when things dried out, or more accurately, stopped coming down for a few minutes this morning, and the sun cracked through the huge, high cumulous clouds, Bodhi and I got to work.
My flip flops were slick and slippery, I couldn’t get any traction at all on them, and the hill was steeper than I had counted on. We pushed the bike, me from the side, and Bodhi from the back, it moved a foot, and I put on the break. We re adjusted, and pushed again. All those chatarangas for the last three and a half months were beginning to pay off.
The bike rolled reluctantly upward, until my foot slipped out from inside my flip flop. I thought about what it would look like if some local guys were doing this, as my friend Edi had suggested.
“Pay the gardener 10,000 rupiah, he will push it to the service station for you.”
But I knew I could do it. Bodhi and I could do it together.
If the gardener was doing it, he would be barefoot. I could see his strong, thick feet, caloused underneath, spread and gripping the limestone road. I took off my flip flops and put them on the seat. Bodhi followed suit.
“One two three PUSH” I said. The bike rolled forward, the earth dug into my feet, but the months of running around barefoot have paid off, I can feel with my feet but they aren’t tender any more. They are becoming strong, like the rest of me.
On our third heave, the bike gained a little momentum and started rolling. Now about halfway up the hill, I held the brake so we could take a rest. This is when we discovered the nest of hungry mosquitoes that had been living peacefully in the carburetor. There was nothing we could do other than let them feast, the bike would roll back down the hill and each inch had been hard won already. We were both sweating, and I looked down at my shins, covered in the little beasts.
“Bodhi lets get out of here.” I said. He nodded and we got to work.
Together, we pushed that bike the remaining 30 feet to the top of the hill. As soon as we crested the road, Bodhi ran into the bole where I do massage and grabbed the Anti Namyuk oil. We doused ourselves and the cloud of insidious Dengue laiden beasts left us alone.
Covered in the stuff, we high fived, re positioned and began the push out the driveway through the rice fields. The rain had made deep pools of slick, muddy water, and we tried to carry our momentum through them. My toes sank into the mud and gripped the ground, Bodhi was laughing at me, hot, wet mud all up my legs. We were both sweating to pieces. But we were going to make it.
One more short hill, out in the baking sun, and we would be home free. We took it three inches at a time. At the top of the hill sat a tall Australian guy on a scooter. He was watching our approach.
“How’s it going?” he called out.
“Fucking fantastic.” I called back.
He sat there watching as we continued to push, watching our sweaty ascent from atop his clean perch. We made it, retrieved our shoes, and exchanged pleasantries, me covered in sweaty mud, Bodhi smirking at the guy. The Aussie took this as a great moment to invite me out. “What are you doing Saturday night? I’m in a band, we could really use your energy at the show...”
I smiled at him. Why not. Nick and the Aii Viberz at the Betelnut Ubud on Saturday night. I said goodbye and we rolled the bike down the other side of the steep limestone hill to the paved road. Victory. Or at least the first part of victory.
Bodhi skipped ahead of me, about 50 meteres down the road was a service station, and I pushed the bike up into the bay. Air for the tires. I don’t know how to say this in Bahasa. A marginally hilarious pantomime ensued in which the mechanic, who looked about twelve years old, asked if the inner tube was blown and I explained through a form of interpretive dance that no, the inner tube was intact, it just needed air from lack of use.
We filled up, hot-wired the bike like Edi taught me, as I have no idea where the key is, and its owner is at some sort of a rave in California, and hopped on. First gear. Stall.
The twelve year old mechanic (who is probably in his 20s) and his four year old son laughed good naturally at me, and we had another go.
It kept dying. I was sure this couldn’t be operator error. I’m not great at shifting yet, but I’m surely not THIS bad.
The mechanic hopped on and took the bike for a spin. He brought it back in, and his son handed him the proper tools for adjusting the fuel intake. A few screw turns later, and we had an idle of sorts.
Bodhi and I hopped back on, flip flops muddy and hair flying in the breeze, we were off. Freedom. The open road, and a really steep loose hill to climb. We made it halfway back up toward our house before I stalled the bike.
Bodhi got off, I found neutral, and we pushed again. Flip flops on the seat, toes gripping the earth, we heaved and finally crested the hill. Leg over the seat, the bike roared back to life, and we made our way through the puddles and slick mud. We had wheels.
Bodhi ran to get the helmets. “Where do you want to go, kiddo?” I said.
“Anywhere!” he replied. “But can we go to Seniman and get coffee first?”
I smiled. Kid after my own heart.
The rain stayed away, the warm Balinese breeze cooled us off, all of our effort paid off in laughter and giggles as the road rolled away under us, and the jungle parted ahead of us.
And then we stalled out at the traffic light in town. Well, we are still learning.