I am sweating.
I am breathless.
I am in physical pain.
I am also being fried, baked and grilled thanks to a piercingly hot sun, which I cannot escape directly above my head.
Underneath me the terrain is rocky and unpredictable with moat like gutters that cross our paths and sandy sections which deceive. The wild bushes and trees which line the path have grown across the track and these smack us in our faces as we race past on a descent. Until it is time to climb again.
The incline often becomes so suddenly steep that I may as well be pushing myself against a brick wall, such is the force with which my pace slows.
On one such climb the terrain, gradient and branches all conspire against me and gravity pulls my weak body down to the ground. Staggering and struggling to fall with some grace and control I land on my right knee. The rocks scrape away at my skin and I immediately know that the graze that will soon form and temporarily live on my knee protecting my open wound from the elements will be a big one and one that runs the risk of leaving behind an unsightly scar.
And yet I am not thinking about how pretty my knees are for much longer as the sting and the throb of my torn flesh kicks in.
Still perched on the floor inspecting my wounds, I feel tears build up inside and chug up towards my eyes like a slow but determined train.
I breathe in deep. I select my swear words wisely for their force, meaning and sound.
They gain the reaction I was hoping for.
NewMan has stopped and is looking back at me and even from 10 metres away he can see the red of my blood trickling down my right shin.
"Are you okay?" He tentatively calls out in his best-boyfriend voice.
I draw in a deep breath through my gritted teeth and realise that I have two choices. I can give in and confess that this adventure is too much for me, that I'd like to go back to the hotel and my Kindle please. Or I can dust off the dirt, wipe the sweat off my brow, swallow my tears and get back on my bike.
Literally. I can get back on the bike that I just fell off. The mountain bike I hired to explore the Thai island of Koh Racha thinking that this would mean following a nice and easy, scenic, not-even-very-dirty dirt path. And indeed that is how it started out, we even stumbled upon another beautiful beach but who knows how it will end?If I get back on the bike this would mean accepting the journey for what it was: a unexpectedly treacherous jungle trek with surprisingly few viewpoints and more worryingly no end in sight. I would have to see it through.
I look ahead at NewMan on his bike and can tell that he is urging me to say "Yes, I'm okay," and I ask myself another question: Why aren't I enjoying this?
The answer is because it's hard, physical work and a little scary and it's been a while since I endured such things for any length of time. I'm also not enjoying it because I should be enjoying it, and I'm not if that makes any sense. I take great pride in not shying away from the occasional outdoor pursuit - snowboarding, wakeboarding, scuba diving - and yet here I am being defeated by a bike of all things.I stand. I dust off my knee as best I can. With my other hand I wipe my brow. I eventually pull my bike up to my side. I choose a few more swear words for extra effect and distraction and achingly throw my leg over the frame of the bike and then I perch unconvincingly on the saddle.
"Yes, I'm okay."
NewMan's smile is worth it.
"Let's go." I say and I push myself and my f***ing bike forwards.
Frances M. Thompson
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