Week 2 Road Recap

Yeah, so much for that plan of doing food on Mondays and Road on Fridays. It looks like my writing schedule will be determined by external factors, such as: a) how sweaty and nasty and generally uncomfortable I am after a long day of riding, and thus whether or not I can be bothered to sit in my tent with a piping hot netbook on my lap; b) how many days in a row we’ve camped and whether or not I’ve been able to charge the laptop in the meantime, and c) whether there’s an internet connection available, and d) whether or not I know what day it is. So far, I’d say that on any given day the probability for both c) and d) [independently] is under five percent.

Unfortunately, there’s an e)th consideration, which is my level of jadedness. Well, perhaps it’s not jadedness, as I’m not tired of the trip by any means. Every day brings new vistas, new people, new foods, and new insights into the Chinese language. Despite that, our days are repetitive enough that they don’t often offer us much insight into China itself. The roads are for the most part good; people are friendly; there’s nowhere to throw out your trash, except everywhere*; farmers here grow lots of corn, and sometimes some peanuts and other things too. Most of the wonderful things are the little ones, which I still haven’t quite figured out how to write about again and again.

Anyway, pardon the meta-stuff. I’m trying to cut down on it.**

So, with no further ado: The last week first saw us take the big turn at Yingkou and start heading southeast along the coast after several hundred km of trying to get off the peninsula. We camped a couple of times, then got stuck at a giant hotel (rant below)*** Then another several hundred km down towards Shanhaiguan, where we had our first rain delay. Once the weather cleared up, we spent a morning exploring the easternmost section of the Great Wall, which actually runs all the way to the sea, and then yesterday we turned inland. As we move away from the Bohai sea, the land is becoming more and more mountainous; today was the first day that I had to drop down to my low gears to make it up the steep, strenuous climbs. Still, a hard day hear is easier than an easy day in Korea. The only seriously tough part is the tunnels, some of which which have either no or very little lighting and no ventilation and thus make for a rather frightening ride. Particularly if they’re also busy, wet, slippery, and poorly paved. Certainly the most nerve-wracking part of the trip so far. Well, aside from every time I see a farmer walking along the side of the road holding a scythe, and I imagine him deftly, smoothly, nonchalantly chopping my head off as I ride by. I wonder if I would keep pedaling, chicken-style?

Anyhow, we’ve got about 180km (hopefully two days of riding) before we hit our way to the old imperial resort city of Chengde, where a couchsurfing host awaits us. There are no more switchback squiggles on the map, so I think we ought to be fine.

We’re averaging 72km and 79 Yuan (13 bucks) a day. I think I see a new goal: more distance ridden than money spent!

*in an awkward reworking of my new blog title….

**The irony of that statement (and, indeed, of this one, ad infinitum) is not lost on me.

***Hotel rant: the big hotel in Huludao that cost us more for one night than the total cost of our four cheapest days put together. To be fair, it was only fifteen dollars each, but still… The reason we chose such a luxurious place – with an ensuite bathroom, an air conditioner, and a flat-screen TV (we didn’t use either of the latter two) – was that, in big cities in China, some hotels are allowed to take foreigners and some aren’t. We have yet to run into this problem in the countryside**** , but in Huludao we got shot down by about six small, cheapish hotels until some cops finally redirected us to the “Huludao Grand.” We tried to negotiate for a discount, but they weren’t having it. Having the internet just meant that I spent all night doing crap, and then Mingyu wasted the entire next morning, so that we didn’t even hit the road until after lunch. We therefore reserved to camp as much as possible.

****There have been instances of hoteliers with great big worried looks on their faces making a big x with their arms as soon as we approach, but I’m chalking those up to all the dirt plastered all over our clothes, bicycles, and faces.

Traditional market in Huludao.

 Modern Huludao.

 taking a break less than 5 meters from the highway

 Took a break in the shade of this house, not knowing a little girl and her mom were inside.  The girl kept peeping out at us through the window and curtain-things.  Adorable. 

 Pre-camping mischief.

 Noodles and salad, dinner of champions.

 Great Wall!  Psyche! 

 Not the cleanest restaurant we’ve visited.

 Spent the rainy day studying, watching movies, and enjoying some fine fare. 

 Also not the great wall.

 But this is!  Twelve meters tall here.  This is Dragon’s Head, the eastern tip of the GW, which actually extends almost all the way to the sea.

 Entrance to the ancient walled city center of Shanhaiguan

 A gate.

 He’s guarding my bike,

Just a few km from Old Dragon’s Head, the GW runs into and up Jiaoshan mountain.  It’s steep.

 Yup.

 Biking doesn’t do much for the chest muscles, clearly.

 Dad told the son to come pour me some OJ.  I then went over and pretended to pour the kid some beer.  Dad didn’t laugh.

 Ancient city. 

Camping spot.  This one wasn’t very good, but we were desperate, as it was getting dark.  Actually, we slept here without permission and hoped the farmer wouldn’t mind.  He came up at about 6 and was actually quite friendly and cheerful.  Phew.  

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The waitress at a small restaurant called her brother to translate for us.  What sweet people!
Aforementioned warm-harted waitress

 Free shower, coming right up!

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2 Responses to Week 2 Road Recap

  1. Looks like you need to make some space for the warm-hearted waitress on the back of your bike! She’s cute! Also plz stay with my buddies in Beijing! You might just convince Jonathan to take off with you guys.

  2. Sounds like fun man. Pending on when u return to the states I’m getting a bike fixed up for a trip out west if you want to keep the wheels spinning.