02 October 2008

moto terror

2 October 2008

I just finished the moto ride from the depths of yuckiness. Wow. For a first experience riding a moto, all I can say is it’d better get better from here. Gar. I’m still so shaken and sore that my handwriting is really messed up, it’s almost too bad that you can’t see it – maybe I’ll look into putting this into a crazy font to help y’all visualize.
I have to say, I never imagined that my yoga moves would come in so handy in a life-saving way. So, the story: went to Lome today to buy some stuff, use the internet and charge my batteries.
I brought my helmet with me this time so that I would be able to take a moto from Agoe to Mission Tove. Last time I had to wait around for 40 minutes for a taxi to get filled up before it would head out to Tove. Because of the wait, it was full dark by the time I reached Tove and the car refused to take me up the little road to my house so I had to walk up the muddy path, with only my headlamp to light the way, a heavy backpack, computer bag, and a large sack of groceries and clothing balanced on my head.
Unsurprisingly, I fell.
Surprisingly, I only fell once.
I got pretty muddy, but the young man who lives in the house right next to where I fell helped me get up and find a better route and I reached home without too much incident (I actually felt rather proud and cool for being all Togolese with my bag on my head. *woot*)
Overall, the experience was not something I wanted to repeat, so I planned to take a moto instead, so I wouldn’t have to wait around. Plus, I have more sway over a moto driver as his sole customer and can make him take me all the way to my house. Seemed like a good, well-thought-out idea.
But then, I left Lome later than I’d intended. And I hopped on a moto that was pretty old, with not much of a passenger seat. The driver, an older man, was sweet and seemed aware of my nervousness. It started out fine, if slightly uncomfortable. Because I had a large heavy backpack on, I had to keep my stomach and hip flexors tight to stay on the bike. I couldn’t lean forward very far because my helmet was already bonking the poor driver on the head with every bump we went over.
The trouble didn’t really begin until the sun set. That’s when we hit the sand. I’ve experienced the sand on my bike – if I’m not careful to keep to the very center of the well-worn traffic line, the loose sand causes my wheels to slip around uncontrolled.
Well, motos share a lot of the same characteristics of bikes: only two, relatively small, wheels, small center of gravity, etc. Therefore the sand treats motos in much the same way. It was incredibly frightening. I focused on breathing slowly and deeply, keeping my core muscles tight, and planning how to jump off the bike in such a way that my legs stay free of the falling contraption. I chanted a little mantra:
tuck and roll
tuck and roll
don’t use your hands
to break your fall
I became very grateful to have the stupidly heavy bag on my back – it would protect my spine as effectively as a tortoise shell. (Speaking of tortoises – I just read Small Gods by Terry Pratchett – the man is a genius. I’m so happy to have his books in our little volunteer library.)
Because of the sand (and probably my nervousness) we went very slowly on the approximately 20 kilometers to Mission Tove. We went so slowly I began to wonder whether we were on the right road – it felt like I should have reached home already. The burning in my hip joints and across my lower belly was reaching a peak. I nearly asked to stop and have a little stretch, but based on the “trop loin (too far)” grumbles coming from my driver, who apparently had no idea how far Tove was when he took the fare, I feared being left by the side of the road. At one point, he actually gestured at another moto driver in such a way I thought he might be trying to hand me over.
It took us forty minutes to reach my house, forty burning, frightening minutes. My legs almost collapsed beneath me when I stepped off the bike. I apologized to the grumbly driver, paid him far too much, and hobbled to my little house.

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