Travelling on foot and by bike is an experience of absolute vulnerability. It is the act of recycling as many fears as you can and transforming them into a certainty that is: what you get is what you have and that isn’t going to change unless you break your environment and your perception of it. Anything can happen, anytime, anywhere, without any guarantee that someone or something could save you. Fear, then, is useless. It’s a burden. A weight that one carries on his shoulder, forever. The more benefits you take from the structural parameters of comfort, the more fears you accumulate. The less you use it, the wilder you are; the less fear you get. Paradoxically to extradite your fears from yourself, you need to catch them, face them, live with them. They are the demons who have never really gone away, no matter how many thousands of miles of nomadic life you have had.
Yesterday, during a round trip through roads I haven’t been to yet I was on Route 275 southbound when, in the opposite direction there comes a blue car that, at first glance, wasn’t in its best condition. Arms pulled out of the passenger window, maybe arms and legs. When they came across me, a very young girl yelled a taunt, breaking the harmony of the surrounding. Next to her, a young boy clinging to the wheel, his eyes wide open, driving recklessly. There may be more occupants in the back seat, I’m not sure. Young people in their weekend hangover, killing their boredom from Saint-Odilon, a little further south. I follow their maneuvers from my rearview mirror. The car slows down and stops at the side of the route, approximately three hundred meters away. I keep calm, walking and pushing the bike, almost reaching the top. My plan was to enter the next attached road, on my right. I was aware of my sudden, arid state of alertness that I used to activate during my long journeys. I was enjoying a peaceful journey up until now, being short 7 kilometers away from my place. I couldn’t believe the ideas that just started to cross my mind then. What am I going to do if they decide to follow me, to rob me? Or, for instead, to kill me, for no reason?.
As I descended the downhill, I was gradually losing sight of them. Then quickly, as if fleeing from someone, I turned towards a rough mountain backroad, on my right. An overwhelming sense of fear floods me. Suddenly I am an intruder who enters in an excessively quiet territory. A cool wind blows, moving the branches of the fir trees, exuding a little the density of the shadow in the middle of the creepy forest. I pedal the gentle descent slowly. The noise of traffic on the paved road gradually fades, until it disappears. All signs of so-called civilization disappear. Now it’s me and the forest. Absolutely alone and in great exposure.
I reach a T-junction, looking carefully at all three sides. To my right, I see a very steep uphill in the distance with the surface flattened with red bumpy gravels to avoid vehicles to slip dangerously. A crystal clear watercourse flows over the yellow, gray, orange stones generating a calming yet slightly murky sound of running water. Any insignificant sound of nature is disturbing at the moment.
“You’ve let too much time go by without traveling”, I thought.
Anyways, here I am finally on my way home, walking slowly, pushing up the hill. Every now and then I stop and look at my rear-view mirror imagining if at some point the blue car was going to make its presence. If they decide to follow me, they will have a difficult time with this very steep red stone backroad. Today I left as soon as I got out of bed, without preparing or planning this trip. I didn’t bring my knife, my odd trailer, my flashlight, my sleeping bag, not even my coat in case I have to spend the night outside. My phone barely had coverage. By now, the feeling of fear was making me nervous. I needed to relax.
At the beginning of the steep road, I stop and pull the stick of my bike. I grab the camera and start taking some photos. To the north, signs of cutted trees in selected soil patches mixed with growing fir trees. To the south, the path stretches to where the horizon ends. I sit on the floor and drink some water. My half full bottle doesn’t allow me to sip water in quantity, as I usually do. Then, I lie on my back and look at the sky. I see the clouds swinging slowly with the elusive rays of sun. I take a deep breath.
“Relax”, I said to myself. “Everything is alright”.