green papaya’s in green forests

Is that a dying whale? Oh no, it’s my stomach. It’s ready for another doses of calories to fuel my legs and my wanderlust. I just turned right from the highway 8 and find myself on quiet roads through sleepy villages. The cherry blossoms are shining bright colors with a blue backdrop from the sky. The sun has finally showed itself after the a couple days absence behind grey skies. It’s warming up the air, which is again very humid. Not surprisingly for an island in the ocean on the same latitude as Hawaii.

As the road makes a smooth bend, I cycle into a small village, where I hope to find some fruits to eat. My food schedule is that I eat insane amounts at the breakfast table and dinner, while during cycling I tend to stick to easy digestible food. So I turn my attention to fruit stalls or small convenient stores that sell fruits. I slow my pace as I peek into the small stores that are dotted along the road through the villages. I see old men sitting comfortably on the porch, observing the scene. I see women hanging up clothes on communal washing lines that span a couple houses. I see a couple youngsters repairing a scooter. Unfortunately in this settlement along the road, there are no fruit stalls to be found so I continue my hunt from my bike.

Not even 100 meters out of the village, there are two buildings, standing along  a busier road, where this small town road leads to. I cycle up the small hill towards the buildings and I peek around the corner and to much of my surprise – and probably surprising the women working there with my surprise – I see a stall that only sell papaya’s. In my fluent hand signal language I politely ask if she would be willing to, if it is not too much of an effort, sell me two of her most delicious fresh papaya’s. Or how it actually looked: me pointing to the fruits, putting two fingers in the air, smile and then wave with a dollar bill.

A little confusion arises because of my ignorant language skills. She tries to say something in her beautiful language, but my ears and brains are incapable of processing it. She runs to the store next door and grabs another girl by the arm. She and her smartphone talk to me and explain that the papaya’s have been harvested today, so they won’t be edible until Sunday the very least. A great sadness filled every vein of my body. The mental picture of me eating a fresh, sweet papaya is ripped out of my brain by reality. I force a smile anyway. I grab my own translator and explain to her that I can’t carry her majestic papaya’s for two days on the bike. It would be too heavy, but if she has any other fruits for sale, I’d be more than happy to buy them.

She quickly discuss this situation with her neighbor, who walks into her store and promptly hands me two apples to eat. I utter the only word  that I know and that is thank you very much, much to their delight. As I grab a couple coins which should be the equivalent of what a couple should costs, they both smile and make a declining gesture. “Free, free” says the younger girl, who speaks a little English. I insist to pay, from my luxurious position it’s nothing, but they insist even harder. As I realize that this might be rude of me, constantly focusing on money, I accept the apples and utter another ‘thank you, thank you’. I take a picture of the fruit stall, turn around and head for the road leading into the forests, which is coincidentally also the road I should be taking.

With my amazing gift by two incredibly nice Taiwanese women, I smile while I continue cycling. There are 70 kilometers more to cover. While I bite in the delicious apple, the scenery changes. The small town slowly disappears and the road swirls through palm tree plantations. A orchestra of dozens of exotic birds serenade my journey out of the valley into the first mountain range. I zip my shirt open, anticipating the heat of the climb, drink extra water and prepare to cycle up the mountain fueled by apples. For the next two hours I will be puffing my way up quiet mountain roads, through intense green scenery on my bicycle. This is the real adventure, I am ready for it.

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