Somewhere in Peru, after a long descent, I reached a narrow valley where it was hot like an oven. I had not experienced this kind of heat in the entire trip before. I crossed a tiny village Balsas after which the world started to blur in front of my eyes. I had been out in the scorching sun for hours. My skin was burning. I was sweating profusely and felt as if I had lava in my shoes. So when I saw a deserted building which provided shade on sides, my body refused to continue. I parked the bicycle and sat on the ground.
I took off the shoes which stank of sweat and dirt, like my entire body. My feet were pale but my legs, tanned dark due to the sun. My mouth was as dry as the dust beneath my bicycle tyres. The water in my bottles was so hot I could have made tea from it.
I crashed onto the ground and shut my eyes. I could hear the chirping of the birds and the small river flowing through the woods. Gentle wind tapping the leaves. A dog panting in the shade. Squeaking of the dry belt running through the bicycle cogs. A lullaby song under a starry night.
I was rolling a tyre by a river. A swarm of bees began chasing me. “Mom, I want a bicycle!” Dad carried me into an emergency ward—“my son studies at the BZ University.” A child released a paper plane into the air. “Dad, why do you have blisters on your hands?” Tears flowed from her eyes as she said, “we will never see each other again.” I dug a grave and buried my dream in the ground. A giant hand arose from the desert and crushed the sun into dust. The desert turned into a lake, and the stars fell from the sky into the lake—millions of lights, floating in it.
When I woke up, trees cast long shadows. A child from the nearby house stood next to my bicycle, staring at me.
Though born and grown up in the hot city of Layyah in Pakistan, I was no longer used to cycling in such heat. The temperature during the day was above 45°C. The mountains were wrapped in the haze. I stood up and put on my helmet and turned on the same music I had been listening to throughout the journey, the songs I had memorised by then. Slowly, I resumed peddling on the long uphill windy road that took me two days to reach the summit.