This picture was taken a few moments before we almost died.
The day was March 21st, 2008. We were biking across Iran with our friend Bijan, on our way to the holy city of Mashhad. By 7am, we’d finished breakfast and packed our bicycles. We picked up the camera one last time, snapped a quick shot of our camping spot from the night before, and rolled our bikes onto the road.
On the face of it, the cycling conditions that day could hardly have been safer. The road stretched out straight ahead and far behind us. Visibility was excellent. There was a shoulder, and no traffic at that time of day.
We took the first pedal strokes. Up, down. Up, down. As we eased into our rhythm, Friedel contemplated crossing the road to take a photograph of Andrew passing by.
Then it happened. We heard the squealing of tires and saw a blur in our rearview mirrors. Bijan shouted something. A fraction of a second later a car flew by our left side at incredible speed. In front of our eyes it rose into the air, rolled a few times and landed upside down on the other side of the road.
Silence. Terrible silence. The kind of eerie calm that only happens in the face of tragedy. In all honesty, we aren’t sure if it was truly silent or if we were just in shock. We realised that someone had just died in front of us and we were mere seconds away from being part of that accident; another statistic on the roads.
Three people died that day. Three children were left without parents. We could so easily have been among them. If we’d been cycling in the other direction on the road, if the car had veered right instead of left, if Friedel had crossed the road to take a picture….
That night, we wrote in our journal:
By the end of today, we felt even more pleasure than usual in the simple things in life. We stopped to camp by an irrigation channel, dipping our toes in the cool water and being happy only because we’d lived to see another day. You just never know what tomorrow will bring.
The next morning we got up and carried on, cycling down some of Iran’s most beautiful roads.
We continued on our world bike trip for another 18 months, crossing Asia, Australia and North America. We kept cycling because we realised that turning tail and heading home wouldn’t save us from an untimely death. Such events are simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thankfully for us, on that day we were (just barely) in the “right place”.
Not so for Peter & Mary, who sadly died earlier this month on Thailand’s roads. Like our experience in 2008, however, their fate only encourages us further to continue doing the things we love, with the people we love. We’ll do our best to stay safe, of course, but ultimately we also realise that death is a fate that awaits us all and we don’t want our last moments to be the closing act that follows a lifetime spent on the sofa. As the famous quote goes:
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’
So if you’ll excuse us, we have a cycling trip to plan….