Steadily I keep pedaling and pedaling. My progress is slow but there is progress. I let my mind wander. I count in my head in a meditative manner and repeat my mantra “It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you don’t stop”.
I want this to be my last day of cycling – and then I don’t want it to be my last day of cycling. I want to arrive but I don’t want it to be over yet. I have the strong urge to arrive at a place. To sleep. To rest. So on I go. Up and up this hill. At a speed so slow I can’t play my favorite game of checking the map for the remaining distance without stopping. It doesn’t really matter. I set my mind to arriving in Damaidi, close to Shigu, close to Lijiang where I started this
The road goes up and up and up, along fields, landscape that almost feels empty. I fix my eyes on something ahead – anything. A tree. A flag. A stone. I only plan to reach this next stop. Only the tree. Then, my eyes search for the next landmark, 100m, maybe 150m further ahead. That’s all I think about. Only the flag. Until I reach it and on to the next spot. The stone. I play this game for about an hour, emptying my head from all thoughts as I feel I need all my energy to simply keep going. And so I go. Just don’t stop.
Until I have to stop. I reach a small village that stretches along the road where some cars stopped inconveniently. So, how much further do I have to go? I managed about 5k with this mind-set since the turn-off. I actually didn’t think I would have to go up-hill for such a long distance, but hey. Can’t do anything about it. I check maps-me, as it allows me to judge how much further I have to climb.
The turn-off the Chinese map “a-map” showed me was wrong. I worked very hard for one hour to go the wrong way. At least… I didn’t descent. I turn my bike around. Stone. Flag. Tree. The landmarks fly by. 20 minutes later I am where I left 1h 20minutes ago.
So, it’s still a long way to Damaidi. To the Stone House. My bed. My dinner. But the down-hill comes. I make good progress. I make great progress. Soon, I will have to get my head-lamp out. The last 10k, maybe only the last 5, it will be dark. Joy fills my heart as I zip down the mountain. Take a right turn at the gas station at the bottom. A tiny village seems to live from the passing traffic. Not only the gas station, but a couple of restaurants, two hotels and a garage.
A road-block. A woman waves me to get my attention. The road to Shigu is closed. There is only this road. I can have a bed for 60 Yuan. Tomorrow, they believe, the road will be open again.
As I hesitate she calls her daughter who refuses to talk to me but uses her phone to translate Chinese to… Gibberish. She understands that it’s becoming Gibberish but refuses to use my phone for communication. Or to speak. I start getting frustrated. No, I AM frustrated. No new information is gained during these 30 minutes. By now it’s dark. Too late to keep cycling even though Reuben who runs the Stone House pointed an alternative route for me. So the blocked road is NOT the only one that goes to Shigu. By now, I am frustrated and pissed off at these people lying to me. As I turn my bike around the daughter keeps telling me the other hotel is more expensive before running over to talk to them. In my mind, to make sure they don’t give me a better price. But I had had it now. Frustrated, angry and overall tired I look at my options and decide to set up camp. While I do that, the restaurants close and I miss my option for dinner.
I don’t care. I am tired. And simply fall asleep.