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.
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.