A couple of weeks ago I cycled around 170km round-trip to visit my grandma. I decided to take about the same kind of pictures I took when cycling in Asia. As in..Well, See for yourselves – in no particular order:
A nice spot to have a rest – a bench and a table at the road side welcoming travelers
Typical cattle for North-Germany – black-and-white-cows. They are mainly used for milk, so they have to get a calf every year. Mother and baby get seperated as the baby is not supposed to drink its mothers milk. The cows are killed after a few years, when their milk production decreases
Memorial site in a small village for the sons that fell in WWI
That’s a very typical modern house in North-German-style made from red bricks and having a red roof.
Old farm houses. The lower one is a square-framed one.
Memorial for a beloved person who’s been killed in a car accident
The sign reads “protestant churchservice Sunday 10am” and these kind of signs fascinated me badly as a kid. Villages and some towns have them so everyone knows what time they can go to church. Especially Catholic ones would quote more than one service a weekend – which impressed little-me very much. Like, one Saturday night and two on Sunday morning. I kept wondering, who would believe in God so much, that they would go to church so often or so early, like at 6am, on a Sunday?
I followed some beautiful, small and quiet avenues
No country-side photo essay would be complete without a picture of farm workers, would it?
And never ever any essay without a food photo. That’s my lunch.
Some crop to my right – that’s corn growing here. I also cycled passed apple trees but didn’t take pictures at that time.
Some more road.
Something surprisingly purple in a midst of grey – yes, that’s a picture where I took the same one in China. I was cycling on a rainy day, everything was grey. There were no colors at all, when – all of a sudden – a purple building appeared. So of course I had to stop to take a pictures of this purple wagoon
Do you know this game “Never have I ever…”? Thailand was the reason I had to drink on “stayed in a police station over night” I would have to get out my travel diary and count to find out, how many nights I spent there. Unfortunately I had most of my police related photos on the phone that got stolen and never did a backup on.
No worries. I never was in trouble. I was a guest. Thailand wants tourists to feel safe and the police is accommodating to that. There is actually a special tourist police around – even came past a sign once: “The tourist police – your first friend in Thailand” and a phone number. Once they even slowed down, rolled down their window and asked me and my companion if they could be on any help to us and if we wanted directions.
So for you as a foreigner feel comfy, rural police stations have a place to sit in front where you are protected from the rain. Most offer drinking water and some of them some snacks. Once I was even invited for dinner.
Some police stations would even offer wifi to visitors. And – to get back to the topic of this article which is sleeping – I was invited to spend the night and given an opportunity to shower. Sometimes I was camping near by or I would sleep on the floor next to the head of the police office and his wife.
Another safe bet for a place to sleep are monasteries. I would walk up there during dusk and friendly-smilingly underlined with a lot of gestures tell a bit about me and my tour as well as my desire to pitch my tent somewhere.
Only once I was turned away but found another place to sleep with no hassle.
I stayed with people I met as well. Even getting into the really special problem of being offered to stay by TWO families at the same night.
The down-side of this is that you don’t get to sleep in as monks, police officers and everyone else, gets up early in the morning and so do you as their guest. I didn’t mind as I appreciated cycling in the cooler wee hours of the morning.
Finding places to sleep never was as easy as in Thailand. Unless I wanted a hotel, they were hard to find. Especially the ones that didn’t have a bunch of girls sitting in front.
Getting a taxi at 5 am went so smoothly that I still wore my helmet as I was checking in – being totally oblivious about that fact. I stressed about that half of the night thinking about the troubles Yan and I had the summer before in Bangkok.
Emirates (who doesn’t charge extra for bicycles in boxes) checked our boxed bicycles without any hassle and didn’t care about the two or three kilogramm my luggage was too much. I was just confused at the confused looks the staff was giving me but as mentioned before, I was totally unaware of wearing a bicycle helmet.
Twenty-two hours later back in Hamburg
Can’t wait for my next tour!
On my first bicycle tour I was stuck there for two weeks during Chinese New Year as I had to apply for visa and it turned out to be the most amazing way I could ever be stuck in a city. Trying to describe this in a blog post really doesn’t give justice to all the amazing-awesomeness of that time!
Imagine roof-top camping for two weeks and feeling as a part of a Hong Kong family who even take you to all their New-Year-family-gatherings.
Thanks to the strong solidarity in the bicycle community, christian hospitality and a lot of luck I met Cat, Mike and her sons who agreed to have me sleeping in their living room for the first two nights and allowing me to leave my stuff there when going to apply for the Chinese visa (which is essential as there seem to be some troubles in getting visa for China as a cyclist).
Thanks to the prelude you already now where these two nights led to. And they were delighted to meet up again.
Cat and Mike had planned out a lovely evening with sight-seeing, dinner and seeing their new home. We were reminiscing about the first time we met and catching up on each others life with promises to stay in touch and see each other again. I am really looking forward to the next time!
Pre-dinner Sunset over Hong Kong – amazing, isn’t it? They took me here last time as well, but this time we had a much better view
Taiwanese-dinner at the very same restaurant they took me for dinner on my first night in Hong Kong.
Arriving in Shenzhen at lunch time, it took us only all day to get to Hong Kong. Thanks to the bikes it wasn’t too far to get to the border (maybe 10 oder 15k?) but I wanted to have a last lunch in China and finish off the mangos I bought in Zhaoqing the day before.
And I was reluctant. I didn’t want to leave China. So we were loitering in front of the big border building for a bit.
Getting through went smoothly without any hassle – and then we took a wrong turn. A turn I thought that was impossible. We were outside. I was convinced that there is no outside. There is only the metro to get out.
Excursus: The non-existing-exit
Two and half years ago I arrived in Shenzhen for the first time and asked on the Hong Kong side for the exit – I was determined to cycle. But was told by the tourist information lady “You can’t go outside. There is no exit. You can only take the metro.” I was frustrated but since she was very firm on this being the only option – I sucked it up and pushed my bike to the metro. (This is actually one of my favourite stories of my Shanghai-Singapore-bicycle tour.) And that’s were it got hilarious. I was told, I could not take the metro with my _BI_cycle.
So I was stuck. I could not go back to mainland China for not having a visa. I could not exit the border station as there was no exit. And I could not take the metro which was the only way out towards Hong Kong where I could get a visa to go back to China…
I did the only sensible thing that was to do at a situation like this – and started laughing.
For some reason this sensible reaction caused some confusion so I got explained again that I was not allowed to take my bicycle onto the metro. I explained that I perfectly well understood what I was told. And that I was stuck.
And then I learnt some magic. I got handed a tool to take off my front wheel. Because something that has only one wheel attached to it, cannot be a bicycle anymore.
So you might understand my confusion of being outside at a bus port. But since we agreed upon no more cycling than was inevitable this was not the option I wished for this time.
Only took us about an hour to find our way back to the metro, going some no-return-lanes the wrong way and squishing into elevators.
Yepp, that’s Niklas and his bicycle with all it’s wheels in it’s appropriate places on the bus. I was pretty impressed and didn’t think we would ever find a bus driver who would allow the bike on board regardless of it’s wheels.
A post in the bicycle traveling women facebook group reminded me on my first night at the road side. On my fears and my loneliness and my non-existing-appetite despite having cycled all day.
I felt lonely. I don’t think I ever felt as alone as I felt that very first night wild camping. It wasn’t my Shanghai-to-Singapore tour yet, but the try-out. I had left my apartment in the center of Shanghai in the morning and cycled and ferried (is that a word? I took the ferry. I simply love ferries when touring. It’s like free kilometers) all day towards the wet-lands. My piece of forest was technically still Shanghai.
No-one seemed to life in sight of it. No-one saw me turning of the road. No-one was on the road anymore as it only let to the wetland park which was already closed.
I chose the spot wisely. It wasn’t too obvious from the (deserted) road, no houses in sight and it was already dusk when I set my camp up.
And still, I was so so scared. I hardly dared to turn on my headlamp. I even worried the screen of my phone might give me away.
What if someone sees me?
What if someone chases me away?
What if I get robbed?
Is that a dog? Somewhere in the wet lands? With me? Yes… someone is walking their dog. I hold still inside my tent. I better not breath. Please go away, dog. Go away. I try to do some magic thinking and of course, eventually, dog and owner leave the scene.
Should I lock up my bicycle? If I did, it’s harder to steal. If I didn’t it’s easier to get away. – I actually don’t remember my decision any more. It didn’t matter anyway as no-one came past what-so-ever.
What if, what if, what if…
How do I use the stove?
Did I stomp out all the leaves that caught fire?
Nuts and a cereal-bar proved as a sufficient dinner and I don’t remember falling asleep. But I must have and maybe even early. I had a book with me as well as a puzzle a student gave me. But I couldn’t use them as I was too scared of the light of my head lamp giving me away.
Eventually I must have fallen asleep. Sending messages to friends about my loneliness as well as my fear off all the above-mentioned and more simply wasn’t enough to keep me up very long after 80k or so of city cycling.
Later that month, on the first solo-night of my trip, I simply willed myself to sleep.
I was scared. But what was I to do? I was on my tour, it was getting dark, I did the k I had to do that day (seriously had to for visa reasons) and put up my tent at the side of the road.
So, I just did it. I didn’t have a choice. I was scared first. But then I decided to sleep anyway using pure will power to fall asleep, realizing that way I would at least be rested if anything would happen.
I trusted on my body to give me an Adrenalin rush if needed so I would be bright awake if anything DID happen. But nothing ever did. Apart from once, were people were offering me a room but that’s a totally different story and nothing to be scared off.
Park in the center of a Chinese City
Park in Beihai
We felt atrabilious breaking camp in the morning.
Well, at least _I_ felt that.
Niklas was looking forward to air-con and showers and no-more subtropical-camping and being home again. And a little bit atrabilious.
We followed the G-road we followed before and slept next to. We stopped detecting the noise from the trucks.
Until we left the G-road. And enjoyed the silence. The quietness. The absence of constant cars going past and honking. Our ear-drums unfolded while we enjoyed some ice-tea.
So yummy, so happy!
And then, that was is.
Less than 20k from where we started, we checked into a fancy hotel.
I abandoned my plans on cycling or busing to Kaiping the next day. Instead I slept. Got up for food. And slept again.
I remember a bit of sight-seeing in Zhaoqing – It’s a beautiful, cute city with a picturesque lake, good air-quality and a bit too much traffic for our taste – but mainly I remember being in the hotel room. Sleeping. Being lazy. Doing nothing.
City wall and view from the city wall which was- surprisingly – free of charge
“What did she post THAT for?” is what you are probably thinking right now. Well – it looks like it’s out in the country side, right? Zhaoqing city centre is literally right around the corner – but there and then, it was quiet and felt secluded.
And then, two nights later, the bus to Shenzhen…
… with specialized bike storage spaces
Great service and great language skills by the waitress of the Kung-Fu fast food restaurant.
Freshly showered and with fresh motivation we were on the road again.
We had been pondering, if we cycle into Guangzhou and then Shenzhen. But since none of us enjoyed cycling in Shenzhen at the starts of our tour, we decided to keep west of these places and eventually take a bus. So our last stop would be Zhaoqing, Guangdong. A small city of about 4m, enjoyed by many people from Guangzhou for it’s fresh air and beautiful scenery.
Depending on the route we were 70 to 90k away from there. So this could have very easily been our last day of cycling and of no-more camping.
Last day – first(!) flat between the two of us
We set off with this bittersweet feeling you get, when you know, something is about to end. A bit sad, a bit looking forward to going home (Niklas at least; I could have gone on for… let’s say, a while, at least).
I was at ease with the kilometers we were doing – depending on the time and progress, we would camp a last time outside Zhaoqing before going in a really nice hotel.
Having to roads to choose from, we opted for the shorter one. Even though, we would leave the s-road for the smaller x-road. We saved 20k in total for 20k on the x-414. And heavens… we really worked for every single kilometer of that.
That’s the view we got – I was too exhausted to care enough to cross the street for a better pic
First, the road was full of potholes, but flat. Then it started to gradually climb before the real climb started. We got slower and slower and realized, we would be totally exhausted if we stick to the plan of having lunch once we left the x-road or in the village that we would pass pretty much at the end of it.
So after looking for a nice spot to rest, a tiny, deserted construction site served as our napping-and-picknick-spot.
Our construction site – the village was in the valley so going down didn’t seem worth the effort
This really nice car overtook us, stopped and one of the passengers got out to take our photos as we were almost at the top. So we stopped as well and I walked up to the then terrified looking guy, smiled, hold up my mobile and successfully asked for their wechat to get the photos.
Two kinds of highway, water and road – and we ‘sleep’ in-between
We put some effort in finding a secluded camp on one the side roads, but eventually gave up as every spot of land was either field, dump or a house. Camped between the river and the highway.
Looking for a camp – pretty sure, this building was deserted.
This day, again, we were allowed to stay on the roads we wanted. Lucky us, huh?
But still – after breaking camp – we just felt like we were doing something, that had to be done, instead of enjoying our time. Like, we were in need for a real rest. But we felt like we didn’t have the time, since Niklas wanted to spent some time in Hong Kong and there weren’t so many more days left of our tour.
Seriously -touring for a few months feels sooo sooo different, when it comes to rest days and stuff. I can only imagine what touring for a year or more must feel like. The feeling of independence and freedom is so much greater the longer you tour.
As it got a titsy-bit cloudy, we decided to postpone lunch for a bit and put our heads down, to get a few more k done. When we were, or at least I was, finally reminded, why I was doing this shit:
A young guy in his car stopped us to hand as some water (which happened a number of times to me) – we just gulped down half a liter each, soooooo good! – and some wet wipes (THIS never happened before… and with having skipped the improvised shower the night before due to the thunderstorm and just had a quick wash in the tent – I wondered how bad we must appear by now….). Turned out, he was a cyclist himself. Thanks to that (my Chinese skills are very low and the bit I know is very much based around bicycle touring) and his eagerness in communication with me (I really depend on the will, patience and skill of the person I’m conversing with) I was able to learn that he cycled to Lhasa, Tibet (compared to that, we didn’t experience any hills whatsoever) and tell a few details of our tour (where, how long, how far in a day… stuff like that).
Only bummer is that I forgot to ask for his we-chat.
Later, at one of our many ice-tea-breaks I told the story of our tour to some other customers that then passed it around each other and to the shop owner. She eventually asked for a photo and I got some fruit in return – I don’t think I ever tasted anything as refreshing as these dragon eyes that must have been in the fridge until then.
Best-ever dragon eyes
Stuff, we came past, but never understood – fire crackers are being laid out along side this field. Every night, we would here fire crackers going off and in the morning cycle past the remains. My theory is that it might keep birds or other vermin away from the rice.
Also, was wünsch ich mir als Radfahrerin, wenn ich endlich mein klimatisiertes, schönes Hotelzimmer verlasse?
Genau – eine Erinnerung darum, wie es eigentlich ist auf Tour zu sein. Ausgesetzt den Wetterbedingungen. Dem Verkehr. Der Straßenqualität.
Und so bekamen wir alles – die Baustelle, die auf der einen Seite in die Stadt führte, führte auf der anderen Seite wieder raus. Also viel Verkehr, schlechte, kaum befestigte Wege, Schotter und Schlaglöcher. Dazu noch ein bisschen Regen.
Nachdem der letzte Tag sich so sehr nach Kampf angefühlt hat, war unsere Stimmung entsprechend gedämpft. Ich hatte echt keine Lust mehr. Warum bitte schön, tu ich mir das an? Warum stell ich mir sowas unter einem schönen Urlaub vor?
Darum, zum Beispiel:
Unglaublich schöner Ausblick – und ein riesiger Bereich, der da, anscheinend von nur einer Person, bewirtschaftet wird.
Unser Nachtlager zwischen Bäumen – leider trieb uns ein Gewitter viel zu früh in die Zelte.
Diese Gruppe Kinder spielte ein Spiel, indem wir anscheinend den wichtigsten Part darstellten. “Wer traut sich am nächsten an diese komischen Menschen im Restaurant?” Ganz wichtig ist es da natürlich, anschließend lachend und kreischend wegzulaufen, nur um dann wieder zu kommen. Zwei ganz Mutige sind zu mir gekommen, als ich zu verstehen gab, dass ich ein Selfie mit ihnen machen möchte.
Nach 10.000km durch China und Südostasien, war es Zeit, für eine kleine, schnelle Reparatur – und dank der unkomplizierten Hilfe der Honda-Werkstatt in Butouzhen, die trotz meines kaum vorhandenen Chinesisch die Lage sofort erfassten, war auch schnell eine passende Schraube gefunden und die Tasche ist so gut wie neu.
Seriously? It’s five? It actually feels like the right moment to turn around and have another nap before getting up. But up we get, pack and hit the road before 6 am. A nice morning ride, flat, little traffic and not hot at all. Like, only 27 degrees and moon instead of sun in the sky. Rice paddies all around us.
Awesome. This could be like all day! Wasn’t of course. It got hot. It got steep. It got city-ish. Okay, at first, the city-ish part was great as we got fried noodles, soy-milk and mantou at the side of the road for energy as well as really well maintained public toilets for the morning routine even before we reached the city of Hezhou.
It felt like we were climbing so much – I couldn’t believe the downhill wasn’t there yet. Niklas claimed we had a gradual downhill but too much headwind at some point but I still claim it only looked as if but wasn’t. I was tired, exhausted, dehydrated – and then the road was blocked. A short look on the map – as well as all the motorcycles and cars turning off the street – showed us which way to go or… to climb. Well, at least it was beautiful and idyllic. Oh – and uphill. At the end of it was a look-out-point. So we would get water there and probably go up and have an even better look-around. But no – it was closed. So, no (extra-)view and no water.
“Nah, we just get water at the next village” I said after having a look at the map. We just had lunch as well as my bag fixed in Butouzhen and the next villages were marked on the map. So no problem there and we still had a bit in our bottles. We set off – and the road was closed. … The map indicated we had to go the long-way-round and no villages until the very end. I checked with Huan, who we sent pictures of the road-signs, if we really had to go around. But since that’s what the signs said (“Drive slowly” as well as “Road blocked”) and ALL the motorcyclists went around, we eventually did the same.
Appears to be a perfect road…
Of course – it was even more idyllic than the first turn-off. It would have been perfect for camping. If it was just a few hours later and we had just a bit more water and a bit more food.The road was in exact the condition, you would expect a small road to be that’s been used as a major road since May. Not-so-pristine. That and the (up-)hillyness of it – and we needed an hour for these 5k.
Please mark the road conditions we had instead.
When we finally got back to the main road, we couldn’t make if the road was really blocked by roadwork or if there were just these signs. It looked perfect and new from what we could see and a car emerged from there, right there and then.
After 12 hours on the road, we made it to Xinduzhen. I was exhausted, Niklas high on endorphines. We spent our last cash on the nicest hotel I could find, feeding Niklas some cake and me a fancy-pink-pitaya-drink, getting some souvenir tea for Niklas and a hair-wash for me.
Such beautiful, intense colours!
Before we dragged on to the next ATM. And the one after that. And the one after that. And the one after that. They wouldn’t take Niklas credit card and we just spent our cash on all the above mentioned essentials…
Eventually, we were successful and I fell into a deep slumber.
The roadworks we followed for kilometers and kilometers in the morning
The view you get for all this hard-work!
Shanghainese-style eggs with tomato and a lot of sugar. All gone, eaten by half-starved-me in 15 minutes during the end of the day.
Never ever have I taken my tent down and packed my bags as fast as I did then. We were just sitting in front of the tent, enjoying the evening, talking, blogging, waiting for the dusk to settle and the temperatures to drop at least a bit before we would crawl into the tent to sleep.
We were relaxing after a days ride – going pretty much only uphill in the morning until we had a long break at a café at the edge of Yuantouzhen. From there to Zhongshan we went fast – enjoying a long and graduate downhill that allowed us to up our average speed by more than 2km/h. Just before Zhongshan – as the name predicts – we had to go uphill again, but not in a bad matter.
Most of the day we had spent following the G-Road, with a lot of trucks, noise and dust from trucks that were carrying split and always loosing some. So we really enjoyed the times, were we left it to go along the village road.
So – here we were. Off a pathway from the smaller road that led through the mountain area, beautiful, kind of quiet – and still packing our stuff as if we were going for the world-record in speed-packing. A thunderstorm just started and whatever you would call our camp – idyllic, quiet, picturesque, relaxed, beautiful, kind of hidden – ‘safe during a thunderstorm’ just wouldn’t come to your mind.
We had 30k in the dark until the next hotels, which we were racing for. Rain came with thick, cold drops, and Niklas could see even less as his glasses got wet. 25k to the hotels, when we got to Yangtouzhen – and our new campground in front of a store. The lovely Zhong Qiuxiang from the restaurant next door organised that spot for us. It was so nice meeting her and we were really happy for a safe spot. Even though we got up at 5am so we would be gone when the store opened in the morning. Inside the tent it was hot as the concrete heated up during the day and didn’t cool down, dogs were barking outside and we were right next to the G-road, something we didn’t think about when we were just glad about not having to race through the rain anymore.
Please take in the beautiful-blue, not-thunderstormy sky we had all day!
We planned this as a short ride in the late afternoon, so we had one more day to roam around Yangshuo and it’s tourist attractions. We opted for the bus to Xingpingzhen and once there, realized we wouldn’t have to debate whether or not we pay the shocking fee of 238 Yuan per person to go down the river on a motor-driven plastic-bamboo-raft as we didn’t bring enough cash anyway.
Getting my beloved mantou and some baozi for the way, we set off along the river, past the very beautiful view that’s pictured on the 20-Yuan-Bill.
There’s a pathway just along the river almost all the way to Mashan. It’s an enjoyable and easy hike past impressive, big and green bamboo.
A bit like the fried-frozen-icecream in Hainan. But not as good as the original.
It really turned out to be a beautiful, short night-ride – about two hours for 30k. We had some steep hills, but thanks to the rest, shortness off the ride and time spent off-bicycle we tackled them easily and were able to do the downhills before dark.
We spent the night in a hotel just across the street from the bigger Hawaii-Hotel with a panoramic view onto the river and the hills – which we didn’t see too much off since our arrival at dusk.
Along the way
There he is. Up on the wall!
“To your right… to your right… just a bit higher, yes there…. Very good. Keep going. Move your left feet a bit up… That’s it. Now – get up… Very good- and now reach up. Yes. There. Keep going. You can do it….. Up up up, there, yes…” That’s Lilly, Mike and me, calling out to Niklas who is just accomplishing his first ever outdoor climb at the butterfly spring. And he made it. All the way to the top and was glowing with adrenalin-fueled happiness when we greated him back on the ground.
Just around lunch-time the day before I called Lilly – “Hey Lilly, we just arrived at your hostel!” – We found it without any hassle thanks to a lucky guess to turn right when we didn’t know which way to turn on West Street and then discovering the small sign which lead us down the alley right in front of her hostel. We checked in and once we were showered Lilly welcomed us downstairs.
It almost felt a bit like coming home and being in a bustling tourist hub like Yangshuo we were really glad to have Lilly to go to. She and here place were recommended to us by Hywel – a couchsurfer from Australia who I recently hosted and climbed with – who was just a few months before in Yangshuo for climbing. Even though he really had to struggle with the fact that our trip wasn’t based around climbing but cycling and that we would be happy with a day or two at the wall.
Lilly is awesome and a real power woman running her hostel, climbing and looking after her guests just the right way – she walked us to nice places for lunch and dinner, she also organized climbing gear for us and came with us as our guide. Oh and she recommended us nice places for our daytrip.
For climbing, she showed us a place and cracks where even people with our low climbing skills had a good time and success. So if you go to Yangshuo for climbing that’s a very good place to go and maybe even get in touch with other climbers (we were not sooo lucky, as we just missed a group and August is too hot to be main season for climbing in Yangshuo).
For the bicycle related stuff – the road from Gongcheng to Yangshuo is pretty good and we don’t remember any major climbs or downhills. The pavement was okay – not smooth, but no major potholes and not covered in split.
Fisher at work in front of the picturesque hills of Yangshuo
This day made up for the hard work the day before. The roads were paved, even though the pavement was worn and we had headwind – but hey, we had a road. All the time.
Brown tourist signs led us to Shanggangtang – an ancient village. Actually the most ancient village of Hunan Province and not so commercialized. Too bad we are totally illiterate around here and that place doesn’t cater for foreigners yet. But see for yourselves – it’s very picturesque to look at.
Sunset with bicycle
No clue about the rules for this game – but it’s played all over Hunan with eagerness, seriousness and involving quite a bit of money.
Uhm… no, google maps. This isn’t a road where we could cycle. These are train tracks. Fenced off for a reason. So, we took another way, hoping to get closer to the S-road, leaving the (back-)country roads. Slowest progress ever – 5 hours for 30kms.
One of the easier moments.
No bridge? No problem! We just go through the rice fields then.
Of course all this didn’t stop us from taking in some culture. We were in Jiangyong and therefore in Women-Script-Country. Nü-Shu is a phonetic script that’s been passed down in between women in this area for more than a thousands years – started in a time, where girls didn’t get an education. It was used to write each other letters or for decoration on fans and the like. Listening to Pride and Prejudice on the tour, where exchanging letters is a vital part of communication, the importance of this appears especially obvious.
At the museum: Nü-Shu and translation into simplified Chinese.
Writing on a fan
Mantou for breakfast! I was delighted when we left the hotel we scored steamed Chinese bread and fresh soy milk for breakfast. Which we enjoyed under a nearby bridge but outside the village as it was relaxing not to draw a crowd when we stopped. The roads were hilly but okay-ish until Dao. We debated whether or not to call it a day if we found a nice hotel.
Following the directions of a shop owner just before crossing the river we found an okay-ish place but she asked a pretty high price – more than double of what I paid elsewhere for a similar room. Across the street was a 7-days-inn for less and very nice, comfy and clean. Just… I communicated my wish for a room and even though I was understood, I wasn’t sure of the answer. The lady wanted to help me very much, that was obvious. But we were lost. I couldn’t understand what she said nor read what she wrote. And she couldn’t use my smartphone. But somehow we worked it all out, I guessed the correct questions and answers, we paid, got our room card and the staff helped us get our bikes into the elevator.
Walking around the city we found a Giant bicycle store (just next to the river close to the island with the temple on it, or follow the road down to the river from the 7-days-inn and follow it, when it bends to the right). Again, I was delighted as my brakes were starting to wear. I was prepared to use my few words of Chinese and a lot of pointing and playing sharade as usual. But we were greated in English! Wow. We agreed to come back with our bikes the next day. We were even offered an earlier opening time but 9am was just fine. You think that were enough highlights for a day? We had two more. A really nice hair wash and one of my favorite dishes – these dumplings with peanut butter sauce just at Xiao Jiang Zhong Lu.
Do I have enough to drink?
As determined as Niklas was, he got his shower and air-con. The hotel was so…. not-clean I would have preferred tent and no-shower or air-con. I stayed at a lot of places so far – and I dare say, this was like the grossest.
Anyways – the day started lovely, we passed by a hotel within the first three k and had breakfast-soup in town. And a bit later some fried stuff and soy-milk. That’s bike touring for me. This kind of food.
Heat-protection for our saddle during lunch
We were quiet an attraction again. Niklas as expected way more than I was. Niklas being taller than pretty much everyone, having a beard and being blond… really fascinates people. For size-relation, I am 20cm shorter than him and about the size of the taller men, I reckon.
As we were meddling with our bikes a small group of people gathered and a woman tried to buy my multi-tool… I got it back off her and we decided to get going and see for our bikes later.
The day was supposed to be easy, not-so-far, so we would find a hotel soon, enjoy the village, update the blog for me… It wasn’t. Even though we only went the planned 75k, it felt like we would never get there. It started easy enough, but after a while the road subsided to dirt, and we were getting slower and slower. So we ended up in the one and only place we found in that city, sleeping with the light on, to distract the night-active cockroaches.
Leaving the rent in front of the TV we left as early as 6am. Hurray for our early start – too bad, we started before the breakfast places did. Of course that didn’t stop us from riding 35k before food, did it?
The ‘coolness’ of the morning was awesome. We made good progress but weren’t sure about hotels along the way and as the roads got smaller, the hills hillier, the sun less sunny, the strength in our legs less strong… we called it a day behind an old building just outside of Yingchunzhen (where there would have been a hotel). It was a nice spot, very well hidden. Only bugger was our shortness on water as well as dinner.
So, after having some snacks we were lying there, trying to sleep, trying not to touch each other and sweating like no-one ever sweated before.
Somehow we made it through the night and Niklas was very determined, to have a shower as well as an air-con for the next night.
Nanling was a bit bigger than expected. The gate was only two k from the hotel and we were expecting the hikes to start there. Somewhere. But nope… So we biked and biked and biked. And biked a bit more. And then we locked them at the first parking lot and got a taxi which drove us another ten k to the start of the waterfall hike. Which was very Chinese aka steps all the way to the parking lot where our bikes waited. But it was beautiful! Scenic. Quiet. Relaxed. And we got a swim underneath one of the waterfalls.
This was a tough one. We had a not-to-late-start and the part until Ruyuan isn’t really woth mentioning. Little hills, sucking your energy.
In Ruyuan we had a lunch break, cooled down and hit the road again. And that’s where the real pain started. Up, up, up. In the merciless heat. Thunderrolling and threatining in the distance but no relief by rain or clouds.
So this was Niklas first day of cycling. Bloody, merciless, energy-sucking uphill. Slow, slower… The villages where I wanted to stop for a cold drink didn’t exist. Not good. And we were slow. Exhausted. Especially Niklas. It was his first ever day of bike touring. I tried to figure out the map but couldn’t tell if and when there would be a downhill today or if Nanling National Forest park was just up somewhere in the mountains.
I started to worry. Camping? In this heat? With a thunderstorm rolling in the distance? And with the little water supply and very little food supply weh ad? Didn’t feel good. Not at all. I felt ever so reliefed when I saw a hotel and a restaurant on google maps just a few k ahead. I told Niklas.
The hotel came. All fenced up. The restaurant. All fenced up. The whole village. All fenced up. Deserted. Maybe in high season? Maybe not at all any more? Whatever. Not for us. Every place we came past I scanned for a hotel. But to no avail.
At least, we came past a store. Stocked up on food and fluid supply, drank salted cold coke and went on. Niklas became mono-syllabic and I got fits of laughter. Our individual reactions to exhaustion. I was still able to talk, so I poor Niklas had to listen to me. We stayed close, so I told him, how good he was doing (remember – his first ever day of bike touring!), told him to keep going, told him, he didn’t get a cramp (he did get one but I wasn’t having anymore stopping at that point), to stop worry about his heart rate, he wasn’t going to have an attack and that we really were doing great progress (which was true. For some reason, we regained some energy and were making progress). I didn’t tell him when I decided that we were going to make it to the first hotels as I was a bit worried, he would have a fit and tell me, I was crazy and he was going to camp right there and then.
Then it came. Finally. The DOWNHILL we were working for all afternoon. Sweet joy! The last 20k were easy and we lived to see another air-conditioned hotel room and have dinner at a restaurant.
It’s hot. Even at ten am. And hilly. There were more long climbs that weren’t too steep and a really nice downhill towards the end.
Between 12.30 and 3pm I spent about one hour getting my hair washed and one hour eating. No idea how much time I spent at gas stations for the air-con. No idea how many times I put water onto my armcovers to cool down a bit while riding. I actually started reading up about mild and severe dehydration while enjoying water with salt and salted ice tea and salted coke.
I really do have a weird idea of a nice holiday… My bicycle computer informed me about the fact that it was 55°C in the sun. In the afternoon I started cycling on the wrong side of the road as that’s where the occasional shadow was. Which was needed as I was climbing again.
The downhill was awesome and long – but the air temperature was above body temperature most of the time so no coolness from the wind.
I had an awesome breakfast which included peanut sauce.
Landscape was beautiful, the sun fierce. I planed on a very short trip, only 10k to Fogang. But since that didn’t feel right I went on. And regretted it. I had to go another 40k before I found a hotel. Which was rather weird. The owner didn’t want to show me the room because it was on the third (second) floor. I insisted. Holy… I can deal with many levels of cleanliness, but this felt almost over the top with cigarettes over the floor. But no bugs. So it was an option. But next door was the next hotel – cleaner, newer and 20quai more. I was going to spoil myself. I shouldered my bags and staggered upstairs where I slept off my heat exhaustion.
The next day held everything in store that cycling has to offer. Apart from rain and headwind. But emotionally. I felt everything from joy to despair to relief and exhaustion.
I enjoyed getting lost in beautiful landscapes along the Guangdong greenway.
I did not enjoy missing the turn off on the highway.
I was not to surprised when a road I was supposed to take did not exist.
I did enjoy a beautiful sunset over a river in the mountains.
I started to worry when pushing my bike uphill in the middle of nowhere after dark. What if this wasn’t a through road after all? What if I am stuck here in the mountains? Everyone was in their houses, I didn’t see a store in ages, I didn’t have proper lunch and no dinner at all yet. So I wasn’t to keen on camping.
Shaking with exhaustion I felt relieved when a motor cyclist came my way. We tried an failed communication so we both went on.* A few k later a shopowner in a small village was able to tell me that I am three k from the next hotel.
And true – a city came up, including a hotel
It’s so fascinating how you can feel like you are in the middle of nowhere in China and BAM – there’s a city, big buildings, everything…
Weather: hot hot hot. Sunny. No rain.
*at this point I put on my really really bright headlight that the … (heavy breathing. Counting to 10…) person in the store didn’t want to sell to me, telling me that I would never ever need that and it’s too bright for cycling. I decide how much light I need. No-one else. It was not to bright. It was sufficient.
I swear I had intentions of leaving early but the hotel was so lovely and then I really had to eat before I started. So it was about 11pm when my wheels touched the road.
Riding out of the city was quiet okay. I was surprised how natural it felt and how easy I got back into cycling Chinese streets.
I followed big to small to tiny roads and just when it started to rain really bad with little warning – the smell of air changed seconds beforehand – I was literally right next to a bench with a sun-rain cover where I dunked under.
And just when I was really tired, really wanted to have a bed, i came past a lovely hotel, with a cheap, reasonable sized (sometimes these rooms are just huge and it feels like this hotel used to have seen some better times), clean (!!!) hotel with awfully nice owners.
Dinner was next door and so would be breakfast.