Water

Me, investigating the water in a well near Godinje, Montenegro.

After asking what my favourite place was to cycle during our long trip, the next question is usually what was the most dangerous place or the worst part. I never can think of anything on the spot. But this photo sums up the times when I was most concerned about our health while on the trip.

There were only a few occasions when we were insufficiently prepared and did not carry enough water. If I recall correctly, there were three. Once in Morocco and twice in Montenegro (where this photo was taken). We would not have expected Montenegro to be a problem (and certainly not more of a problem than Morocco!), but our plotted route was sparsely populated. Sometimes, we could see villages or homes which did not appear that far away but they were clearly off the main road, and usually downhill. A detour of a few kilometres in a car is nothing; on a bike, with luggage, it is a big deal. Especially if there is a steep hill involved. Or if you know the rough distance you have to travel to the next town; adding a ten kilometre detour could mean you don’t make it to the town that evening.

Before I did any long distance cycling, I met a Canadian cycling along a highway in Australia. He was cycling on Highway No. 1 – the Pacific Motorway – between Byron Bay and Brisbane, one of the busiest, craziest stretches of highway in Aus. I was driving home from a visit with my partner’s parents; he’d stayed on and I was driving back to Brisbane on my own. The drive takes me about four hours (I’m a stickler for speed limits as Limits), though many people say it can be done in three.

I passed him and pulled into a rest area to take a break from driving. I hoped to see him come past the rest area while I was there but I did not see him; he may have passed during the little nap I took.

Further down the highway, I saw him again. The road was entirely clear and so I pulled over in a stopping bay and waited for him to get closer. He came to a stop behind my car and told me – me – that I was brave for stopping on the highway. I laughed, and told him he was brave for cycling alongside it. I also asked why he wasn’t cycling either a more coastal route, or a more inland route and he told me that a police officer a few towns back had told him he had to cycle on the highway. This information I found absolutely astounding. Although there is a wide shoulder, cars and trucks are travelling at 110 kms per hour – often more – on this road. He also said it wasn’t fun and he was hoping he could exit at the next exit. I felt bad for him – the next exit was about 50 kms away. At that stage, an entire day’s cycling for me. I couldn’t fit his bike into my car but if I could have, I would have offered. Instead, I offered him the snacks I had with me: a muffin and some fruit. These he accepted but, emboldened by my friendliness, he asked if I had any water. I had just drunk most of my water, but I had a half a bottle left and this I decanted into his water bottle, he protesting that I needed it. I pointed out (not cruelly, I hope) that I would be home in a few hours, probably before he’d even reached the next exit.

We parted ways; me realising only later that I hadn’t asked his name. I hope he had a wonderful cycle up Australia’s east coast and that lots of people gave him water.

While on my own long trip, I decided that if I ever ended up in a car, on a long drive, I will carry excessive amounts of water and offer it to every travelling cyclist I see. I haven’t had that opportunity yet, but look out travelling cyclists!

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4 Comments

  1. An interesting new perspective you’ve learned, Oanh. I’m thinking of roomie and the minimum four bottles of water. I’m not sure she’s thinking of cyclists, but…. But what did you do when you were so far from villages? Did you just press on through or just did without?

    Reply

  2. But she could help should a thirsty touring cyclist stumble across her path, or her, theirs!

    Generally, we just pressed on, rationing water and worrying. I’m very good at worrying.

    We only once ended up with no water and no clear idea when we would next reach somewhere we could obtain water. Thankfully a few kilometres on, there was a farmhouse, with an open door and a lovely, helpful woman who gave us almost all the water she had boiled up, even though I tried to take water from her well, rather than from her table. This was in Montenegro and we spent the day laboriously climbing a mountain (to about 1000m) in very high temperatures.

    A few times, we pre-emptively collected water from wells or streams but we almost always ended up discarding the water as we reached civilisation and safer water, either from a tap or purchased. (We did treat the water but just decided it was best to dump it once we had access to water we knew was safe.) In Morocco, we pumped water using a water filter, including tap water, just to make sure it was safe to drink, although in the cities (Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier) we just drank the tap water without filtering. And look! We’re totally fine 🙂

    Reply

  3. Interesting post and photo!
    Water, a rather a lack of it, is going to become a major problem for much of the world in the not too distant future yet we waste far too much of it. xx

    Reply

    1. Oh, Flighty, I know. And we in the developed world are very wasteful of water, indeed. I try not to be, but I know I don’t cherish water as much now that it is accessible with the turn of a tap, as I did when I had to think about my resources, where I would acquire it and how I could carry it.

      Reply

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