“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
I’ve always been an indoor person and preferred books to any kind of outdoor activity. There’s a strange comfort in living in a world of imagination. Probably because, you can do everything that you’re scared of in the real world and don’t have to worry about the consequence of a bad decision. Bad decisions always seem to have good endings — if you’re reading the right kind of book. You can jump off an airplane and could care less of knowing how to stay alive without a parachute. Or, double up as a detective and meddle in messy business — you had no business of sticking your nose into. Or, even get killed and raised from the world we have absolutely no information about. And, don’t we all love the story of the underdog turning into a demigod? That’s why, books are a safe haven for anyone with a vivid imagination and let’s say — very little courage.
“How much I missed, simply because I was afraid of missing it.”
― Paulo Coelho
It wasn’t surprising that I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 14. I barely rode my sister’s bike for a year after learning. Since then, I often wondered if there was any point in the torture of trying to defeat gravity as a teenager. What was the point in trying to stop falling and pedalling as if your life depended on it? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just submit to the laws of nature? Didn’t we owe it to evolution to use our feet instead?
“No matter what happens, always Keep your childhood innocence. It’s the most important thing.”
― Federico Fellini
Well, 20 odd years later, in a strange twist of sorts; I’ve found myself in cycling wonderland with a partner who is opposed to anything ‘indoor’. With none of my cerebral, perfectly logical arguments matching his childlike glee of exploring the city — with the wind hitting your face; I reluctantly submitted to the outdoors. After a few trial runs last year and a brief interlude during winter — summer brought along a new season and reason to test our wheels. So, last Sunday, armed with our bikes and tent, we set out to marvel the sights along the Han River.
I’m a proponent of lazy Sunday mornings. And, I wondered: why had I agreed to start early on a Sunday morning? While I fought sleep and a strong resistance to peddle; on the opposite side, a steady stream of runners seemed to have no trouble in making the most of the empty streets of Seoul. Looking at them panting, for the first time, I was happy to cover more ground in lesser time.
The Han River splits Seoul into two halves. The cycling trail, running along the river, stretches over a total of length of 80 km — summing both sides. The trail takes you through isolated patches of green, towering bridges, and an opportunity to temporarily escape city life. With dedicated paths for walking and cycling; it’s perfect for someone like me who’s always worried about collisions. The cycling trail is largely a flat ride with a few stray patches of incline.
There should be nothing dangerous about cycling on a well maintained path. And, after camping for nearly 3 hours — after a 15 km ride; I felt strangely invincible. There was nothing to fear. At 3 pm, when the sun was shining brightly, we set out to the nearest subway station. Just as I started to enjoy the ride, a cyclist crashed on his way down a curve. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and resigned to flat ground. There onwards, the danger of the downward curve was acting on my mind. I stopped cycling and resumed — out of sheer exhaustion of walking with the bike. Things seemed to get better and just before the turn to the station, I saw a zigzag curve ahead. I held my breath, as hard as I held my brakes, for a period that felt like eternity. There was a moment, I felt I was flying as I stormed downwards. Fortunately, gravity works fast, and I made it to the other side, without Basil colliding (from behind) into me or me crashing into another cyclist. We clocked 20 km (a new record for me) and despite a throbbing arm and knee; it was a new high for me.