A Moment in Cuc Phuong

I’ve gotten into the habit of writing my posts a couple of weeks after the events in question. Sometimes that can be a nice perspective to write from. So much changes every day that flipping through all the photos makes me nostalgic for what already feels like the distant past, even if it was really only last week. Storywise, it also helps me to write posts that have beginnings and endings.

On the other hand, casting the net so wide means that a lot of small stuff slips away. There are these little moments, few and far between, where I feel something sharply. A thought comes into my head and it seems that I’ve understood something, or that I’ve experienced deeply what I’ve only read about in books, that I’ve had some insight, perhaps strong enough to change something deep down in me, to remove a bit of the ugliness and pain and cynicism – and thus, to make me kinder, more loving, and happier. If I don’t record these moments right away, the details either slip away (whether their influence remains is a different question) or, far worse, they seem utterly trivial by the time I get around to trying to record them.

I’ve become accustomed to that pattern, because it means that I don’t have to bare too much of myself here, which itself means I don’t have to face myself.

But what am I riding for if not to give myself opportunities for insight and discovery?

And what am I writing for if not to reflect and to share?

So, this morning. We planned to spend the whole day inside of Cuc Phuong National Park, 22,000 hectares of forest with a single, single-laned, moss-tinged road running 20km up the middle of it. The road was so narrow that I could probably have touched the dirt on both sides of it just by lying down and stretching my arms out lightly. Massive trees, sagging creepers, and vines of all kind lined the road, their canopy arching over it in an all-natural trellis. [Actually, I guess it’s not “all-natural,” since without the road it we be just plain old canopy. Damn.]

I’ve ridden my share of mountain passes and breathed in deeply the vistas that they open up ahead and below – vast expanses of valley, filled with rooftops or rivers, or trees or terraces, for as far as the eye can see. Looking at the mountains looming above me on one side and the valleys stretching out below makes me feel like I’m a character in a Chinese landscape painting, just a speck, dwarfed by all the grandiosity of mother nature around me. I’m humbled. I feel insignificant – but pleasantly so, as if I’ve been relieved of some burden.

I think this was the first time that I’ve ridden at length through deep forest, and the feeling was, not surprisingly, quite different. Rather than being surrounded by sheer cliffs or rushing water, it was tangles, knots, and thickets in every direction except straight ahead. And me, and Chris, and Minseong, rushing through it, breathing in the fresh oxygen that the plants had just breathed out, panting out our own CO2 for them to breathe in. Not so much dwarfed as enveloped; tiny, but intimately connected and in exactly the right place. A part of the world, rather than apart from it.

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The view from the driver’s seat of my OMmobile.

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