The sky hangs low. Clouds align themselves just above the treetops, urging us to pedal faster. They seem to be in tune with the vulnerable clock of the day, trying their best to linger a little longer, but simultaneously brewing the inevitable- yet another farewell.
We ride on, rich rusty earth flirting with the wheel, flurrying in every direction, swirling up further as we bounce between the rocks and trunks. I grip tighter, welcoming a painful array of blisters. We pedal faster, rounding the corner of a steep enclave, determined to find some kind of opening.
With every turn of the wheel, I can’t shake the thought of my impending departure. I stop. Nestling myself amongst the long grass, I try to let it seep away.
Camouflaged against a nearby tree, she catches me off guard. She appears as if from nowhere, and in her quest to get a better understanding of us, twists her neck over a branch, her lashes tickling a patch of leaves with their incredible length
I expect trepidation, but find curiosity. She takes a few delicate steps forward as I pick myself up and brush away the haze. I blink. Five more appear on the horizon. They drift through the grass, forming a gentle barrier.
They stand and watch us. We watch them back. The clouds sweep by, revealing undertones of composure. We are still, enveloped by their presence, not daring to move for fear of ruining this fleeting encounter.
The most majestic of the six cranes his neck towards us, penetrating our present state of wonderment. We shuffle back, a tingle of realisation flooding to the surface- this could be it for now. We keep our eyes locked, confirming our acknowledgment of the situation, a situation that is so seldom celebrated. It appears we are experiencing something out of the ordinary. I try to grasp it.
But it slides out as quickly as it had sailed in. We pick up our red-stained bikes; they glide back to revel in the new warmth of the day. We notice one remaining. He is standing guard as if he knows something we don’t. We get closer, inching towards him with a hint of regard.
I feel distracted. The blisters prickle my palms, and the red earth that was once a sticky paste, congealed in the spokes of my bike, flakes away. I try to focus on what lies ahead. There is a look of endurance in his eyes. I, too, want to master this art of patience that he so perfectly embodies. As I ponder this, he turns and floats off to the others, already halfway down the hill. He leaves our path wide open.