I’ve had many unforgettable moments or minor dramas in my life. Usually they make me laugh, cry or see life differently for a while. This was one of those.
Hubby and I were relaxing into week one of this year’s jaunt around Europe in the trusty camper van. With plenty of laughs, wine, good meals munched lazily in the fresh, open air and carefree indulgence doing… as little as possible!
We’d driven through Germany and were now parked before a beautiful lake in Switzerland. The sun was blazing in the sky and the air was still. With mountains on every side – that looked as if they’d been vacuum-cleaned – all we needed was the purple Milka chocolate cow, neck bell a-dangling to complete the picture.
We decided to go for a short cycle. A courageous move on my part, given the knee problems I’ve had all year. But hey, we were on our ‘hols’ and what could go wrong I reasoned.
With hubby leading the way, I slowly and steadily puffed my way up the hill, towards the road. It was a tad steeper than I’d imagined, and the higher I got, the slower I went. By the time I’d almost reached the top I was practically at a standstill, sweat was dripping down my back and the front wheel was wobbling in every direction. “Focus woman, focus” I told myself, “you’re almost there”. I could already see the main road, just one last effort and I’d have made it…
Suddenly I heard a shout from up ahead, “stop! There’s a car coming!”. I panicked. Unable to put my ‘good leg’ down at that exact second, I lost control and crashed to the ground, the bike straddled across me, my legs askew to minimise the fall.
“Shit!” I shrieked, top of my voice, “Shit!! Shit!!”.
“Are you alright?” yelled himself from across the road.
“No, I’m bloody not alright” I hollered back, “I can’t get the bike off me!”
Bent forward, my legs clamped in and my eyes glued to the ground, I suddenly realised a pair of sandaled feet had come to a stop beside me. The ankles were bare, and as I lifted my head I saw to my astonishment that a gown-clad, Tibetan monk was standing right beside me. He reached down and began pulling at the bicycle, trying to lift it off. Terrified that his skinny arms would snap in two, or that he’d mangle my already-aching knee in the process, I gestured wildly for hubby to come help, my eyes berating him for the huge grin on his face.
Three minutes later I was free again. We all shook hands, it seemed a good thing to do. Recovering my equilibrium I talked, quietly, calmly with this gentle man. He advised me to let go of my cycling efforts, saying, “I was watching you go slower and slower, (ouch!) walking is good too“. Told me he’d lived and worked in Asia for 30 years, but was now home to recover. I asked from what. He gestured to his face, “cancer”. I asked if he was getting treatment. “Not the usual kind” was his reply. He’d returned to spend time with his sister.
It was an unusual meeting. Later that evening I held my head in my hands (while my husband laughed out loud) to think, with no small amount of embarrassment, that I’d yelled ‘shit’ in front of a Tibetan monk. In the Swiss mountains. And not just once.