Nibali and Chainel take a trip across the Pain Barrier. Photo by Jered Gruber
Hope all is well back home. Our trip has been interesting and eventful, although not all of it so enjoyable. But I suppose that’s the price you pay for a sense of adventure!
After a long discussion within our group we finally agreed that we’d take a trip across the Pain Barrier – we’d travelled so close to the border and our curiosity finally got the better of us. Of course we’d all heard the stories; the self-satisfied tales from some far flung land, beyond even the maps of less intrepid tourists. The stories of survival against the odds, of going deeper and deeper into uncertain territory. We wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Well! What a curious place it is. One of our group had been there once before – some race he’d done, well out of his depth. Only briefly across the border before his timidness caused him to turn back and retreat to the safety of the pavement citing an imaginary injury or fictional mechanical. But as one of the locals pointed out to us, it’s necessary to stay longer than is comfortable in order to really get a feel for the place.
What struck us almost immediately was the language. No guide book or dictionary can prepare you for the dialect spoken; despite its vague familiarity it’s entirely incomprehensible and solidly based on swearing, “effing this” and “effing that”… The vocabulary may be primitive, but the combinations are endlessly inventive.
We didn’t notice much of the landscape. Apart from the few metres of tarmac and the rear wheel immediately in front of us, nothing much else registered. I’m sure there was probably more to see but it didn’t even occur to look.
And the food. Oh my God, the food! Almost everything was inedible, after just a few small bites I wanted to throw up, my stomach had shrunk like a walnut. All I could manage was a few sips of water. Another curious thing was just getting it into our mouths – no matter how hard we tried most of our food ended up on the floor, or in crumbs around our chins. Our clothes are still stained by the drinks we spilt.
The people you meet across the Pain Barrier are as peculiar as you’d imagine. Some seem quite unhinged – sweating profusely, smeared with snot and saliva, cursing loudly to themselves in their impenetrable dialect. The look in their eyes, those empty stares. If you happen to stray into their path, then heaven help you! Their flare for cursing is complimented by their fluency in rudeness.
We stayed for as long as we dared, until it felt like we’d never find our way back to Normality ever again. Despite our best efforts it’s a place where everything remains alien.
Back across on the safer side of the Pain Barrier we were all overcome by a peculiar feeling; deeply satisfied, almost euphoric. Apparently this is quite common. Perhaps it was the new found knowledge of what unpleasantness exists beyond such a thin divide that made us appreciate Normality that little bit more.
Our adventure was nothing but uncomfortable, confusing and sometimes disorienting. Some of us were afraid, there were tears, and whimpers of uncertainty. We experienced moments of pure misery. But although none of us are keen to return any time soon, we’re all glad we experienced, if just for a short time, the confusing place just across the other side of the Pain Barrier.
Send everyone my love, etc, etc…