Catch the book Tina and the Bear by exciting new travel writer Paul Emery. If he doesn’t manage to kill himself on some wild adventure in some remote part of the world, he has a very promising career ahead of him.
I came to rest at the head of a dirt track, my GPS said “Go left, go down the trail, you know you want to”.
So left I went, leaving behind the very rare Siberian commodity of smooth asphalt. I was close to completing the day’s ride of nearly eight hundred kilometers and I was tired, eyes drawing closed and the cold rang from the inside out making my muscles tense and my spine ache.
The dirt track was about twenty feet wide, hedged by small pine, the road was made of mud but it seemed fairly dry as far as I could see with nothing worse than what I had covered since leaving Vladivostok. I was in the zone and gave no thought to the idea that this was the wrong track and that a brand new road, all smooth and paved sat a kilometer round the bend that led down into Svobodny, the town where I’d be staying that night.
I looked back over my shoulders, twisted and started down the track. The mud was wetter than it looked and the bike squirmed readily as I went. I pushed the throttle further and stood up onto the balls of my feet with Tina straightening her tail. We trundled on down the track when, without a thought, Tina stopped dead as the front wheel sunk three quarters into think glue.
I pitched forward and, with no effort from me, was flying over the handle bars. I didn’t even have time to extend my arms as I flew merrily through the air. My headphones were yanked down through my helmet as my head hit the dirt and body cartwheeled after. I slid forward on my back for another twenty feet when my heels sunk in, flipping me to my front where I came to rest face down in thick honey mud. I laid there waiting for some pain receptors to fire. I focused my thoughts on my left foot, then my other, then my arms and shoulders, spine, wrists and chest.
Nothing came back, I was fine.
I pushed myself up and looked down my body, over the dirt packed trousers to Tina. She sat on her side, silently covered in mud. Further back I could see one of my panniers and both of my bags, I made my way over to the bike and righted her, I went to push her to the side of the road but I couldn’t get her out of gear as the gear shifter had bent flat against the crank case. My clothes were heavy and cold with all the extra mud, with everything weighed down it was an extra struggle to hump Tina to the side of the track. With her upright I collected my panniers and saw that the hooks that held them to the frame were snapped off. I put all my bags in a neat pile on the other side of the track opposite the bike and looked around, I need to figure out what to do, I had no number to call and for the life of me I couldn’t get Tina started. I took a quick stroll making sure nothing else was lay hid in the mud. I went back over to Tina and tried to get her started again, nothing came.
The evening started closing in, with little cloud cover the days warmth quickly dissipated. An hour or so passed when up the track came three men. I could see they were all staggering heavily.
My heart sank; all three wore cold faces and filthy clothes. Blondy, the one in the middle, stood quite a bit taller and broader, he held a bottle of Vodka and it was nearly empty. The other two looked like brothers, dark haired with hard eyes. The one to my right held a broad scar running from his ear lobe down the side of his neck. all three wore only jeans and a t-shirt yet the cold did nothing to bother them. They muttered amongst themselves as they staggered straight to my pile of bags and panniers on the other side of the track. They had not spoken a single word or even a nod in my direction but the pile of bags and boxes seemed to intrigue them immensely.
They discussed what was at their feet for a solid ten minutes before turning to walk in my direction.
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