"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
Have you ever had your imagination captured when you see a jungle road in the movies? Like when you see Indian Jones hacking through vines with a machete, making his way toward the Temple of Doom, or when the officers trudge through the steamy jungle on The Bridge on the River Kwai. Those kind of jungle roads.
In April of 2007, in Cambodia, I encountered such a road. My group was in the area serving in a humanitarian aid capacity for 3 weeks before moving on to Thailand. That particular day as we left our lodgings in the city of Campong Cham, we split into teams of 3 or 4 to visit some of the smaller outlying villages in the jungle. Our transportation of choice? Motos. Better known as underbones here in the U.S.
In Southeast Asia they have mastered the art of cramming people into vehicles, or onto them as the case may be. I’ve seen around 35 people squish into pickup trucks, and motos, I’ll never forget seeing a family of 7 squeezed on the seat. For us poor Americans who aren’t so good at cramming on tiny seats, we were only able to fit 3 of us plus the “moto taxi” driver.
The overtaxed, poor, 50 cc motor whined in protest as we headed out of the city limits of Campong Cham and within 5 minutes we were bumping along a dirt road through the jungle. We whirred past the Mehkong river on our left and on our right we would periodically pass bamboo houses on stilts. Palm trees spread their fronds overhead. Chickens would be pecking for bugs along the side of the road and in a rush of feathers and angry clucks would run for the grass as we putted past them. Mothers stooped over large basins with washboards, scrubbing their family’s clothing. Kids would point and holler at us and we would wave with big smiles as we bumped down the road. And I caught sight of temples nestled back into the jungle, standing stoic and darkly against the bright blue sky. We clung to each other for dear life with each rut in the road and the sweat was running down my back from the heat and humidity. Even the wind that breezed past us as we puttered along was hot.
And then there it was ahead. I think our driver hoped that it would move out of the road in time but it stood its ground as we drew closer. Finally it tried to cross the road but too little, too late. The lanky calf bawled in shock and irritation as the front tire of the moto nestled under its belly, between its fore and hind legs! We had been travelling at around 35 mph when we came across a small herd of cattle standing in the road and now that miserable 50 cc motor was undone by the addition of one extra body. The noise, the chaos, the smell of musty cow! Our momentum carried the calf on the front of the moto with us for about 25 feet before we all crashed into a heap on the dirt road.
The calf lurched up and walked away rather indignantly while the rest of us lay in dazed confusion, a tangle of arms, legs, and moto. And with only a few bumps and bruises, we remounted the moto and continued to putter down the jungle road to the village.