Today is the seventeenth of October, I am lying in the most luxury hotel room I’ve been in for quite a while. Paul is already up and showering. We will leave the comfort of this hotel in Yichang as fast as possible. I have developed such a strong will to reach Shanghai that I can’t sit still any more. We are so close now, only 1200 km to go, I can’t wait to get there.
We left the hotel in Gaopingyen in the morning after having breakfast and installing my noisy horn on my bike. It works just like a charm.
The weather was perfect, blue sky as far as our eyes could see, light wind and temperatures that riding in a t- shirt brought back the feeling of summer once more. Soon the sun had dried the leafes on the street and they began flying around. This “autumny”, slightly rotten smell of earth was in the air and the sound, that the wind made blowing through the nearly leafless trees made me a little homesick. It remembered me of autumn in the garden of the house where I had lived in a long time of my youth. I actually loved this time of the year when it is not to cold but already obvious that winter is coming closer. All the colorful beauty that had developed and grown over the summertime would then get this monotone brown-yellow color and eventually decay to mud when the first frosty night is over.
We still had two passes to go, the first being right at the beginning of our daily ride . Not long after we started the ascend Paul suddenly brought bad news. Instead of the 50 km, in which the last pass would lead us out of the mountains (what we were longing for so
much) it was suddenly 110 km again. The navigation program suddenly denied that there was a shorter route, and so my mood changed. I accused Paul, being the only one having internet on his phone, of not being able to navigate. He denied the mistake and so we had a reason to fight, an argument that had build up during the last days, because of the pressure of hurrying to Shanghai, now suddenly exploded.
Paul ended up sitting on the ground and I drove on. I had to be on my own for a while and speeded up the pass with the power of aggression I felt against this mountains. As I reached the top in a little village I waited for Paul. He came half an hour later and, still being stressed by the argument, we rode on together, quietly.
Another problem we had experienced the last days was not finding an ATM where we could get money. All banks around here denied our cards and so we had no ¥ left anymore. We still had dollars left but no one, against our assumption, would want to change it for us or let us pay with it. The food we had left in our bag was not much and soon we were so hungry that we had to finish it. It was a really ugly dish. Canned pork with canned tomato.
It tasted a little like cat-food smells but we had to get something into our stomachs. In addition we had some honey left which we mixed into our drinking water to have enough energy during the day.
As we arrived in the next big town, Taniacun, we tried finding an ATM and after trying all banks in town we had to give up. No ATM would accept our cards and so we stood there, all banks closed, the night coming closer, in the middle of a town full with delicious food, but no money. In addition it started to rain. We started asking people on the street if they could help us. A man tried calling someone from a bank to ask if he could open the bank for us once more, he didn’t succeed. A crowd gathered around us discussing our problem and their only solution was taking a taxi to another far away town, get money and come back here. That would take at least 5 hours and would be a quite expensive ride.
Then a man came up to us and asked us how much money we would need. As we replied he began laughing and told us in broken English that this amount would be no problem. We should wait here, he will be back in a minute. And he was. He gave us one hundred yuen and didn’t even want the 20dollars change. We were very surprised by that kindness and the crowd around us began mumbling. They had all seen the generosity of him and, I could see clearly that he was enjoying the moment. What friendly and kind man. Suddenly a hand somewhere out of the crowd reached out for me and offered me one yuen, then another. The mumbling of the crowd, which now had understood our problem completely, got louder and more and more hands passed money to us. Mostly one yuen bills and coins but in the end we had gotten more than 150 yuen. Unbelievable how generous these people were and how asking someone if he could change dollars ended up in a massive street- crowd funding. No one even wanted our money in exchange, they all denied. As we already were about to leave the crowd again, saying the most honest thank you to everyone, a man stepped up to us and positioned himself between us. In opposite to him a woman stood with an expensive digital camera and took pictures of us and him. He reached in his pocket and from a staple of dozends of hundred yuen bills he handed Paul one and me as well, of each action the woman took a picture. Then he told us that there is a good hotel down the street where we should go to night. We couldn’t believe what just happened to us. Within minutes our situation had changed completely. We had enough money to eat and even to sleep in a hotel again. The crowd slowly resolved and the two most generous men showed us the way to the hotel and we left them, still impressed by their kindness. I mean, these nearly 50 dollars would be a lot of money back in Germany already, but here it is worth even more.
The hotel cost only 40¥ and in honor of the generous people, we had dinner in a little restaurant.
The next morning it was raining again like hell. We took off anyway and were wet completely after minutes. It didn’t stop raining until we reached the bottom of the valley where we sat in a restaurant and ate noodles an drank tea. We now were at the foot of the last pass of our tour. ” behind this mountain nothing lies in between us and Shanghai any more”, Paul said with a grin on his face.” Lets do it, finish the mountains”.
It was one of the steepest passes ever. Continuous uphill for 10 kilometers with ascend of more than 15 percent.
The road was winding in serpentines through the rocks of a narrow valley, sometimes even in spirals so that it crossed itself again with a bridge.
As we reached the top it was so foggy that we could hardly see where we were going. Lucky to have left the mountain chapter behind us once more
We started the 30 km descend.
Not long after the top, my brakes suddenly started making a rattling noise. Finally the last set of brake-pads was completely down. I told Paul about it. If I went on driving downhill like this I would at least ruin one of my brake disks, I thought, but decided together with Paul that walking down 30 km would not be an option as well. So with squeaking brakes I slowly drove on and savely reached the kink on half of the pass, where we, due to heavy rainfall and darkness, decided to camp in front of an empty house.
As the tent was build up already and everything was settled for cooking we noticed that we forgot to get water. This is, a I already wrote in an earlier blogpost, a reason for me to panic. It doesn’t matter if I really need it, without water and at least the option to drink I can not go to sleep. There was no house or river near so I decided to fill the bottle with rainwater that came dripping of the roof. I carefully tasted it and noticed that it tasted exactly like melted snow, although it wasn’t that clean. I first cooked it and then filled it into my bottle. In the end we even had enough water for cooking. Dinner consisted of rice with the corn we had “harvested” in a field the day before since we had no money to buy food.
Then suddenly a man stood in front of us, blinding us with his flashlight. He must have been the owner of the house. He was a very kind old man. Although we didn’t ask him for permission to camp on his ground and sit under his roof, he only smiled at us, wished us a good night and even switched on the light on the porch to make it more comfortable for us. Sorry enough he forgot to switch it off again and so we slept in the bright light.
It was a horrible night. Rain was falling so heavily on our tent that the noise it made kept me awake for hours. Also the water from the roof of the house flew under our tent and thus the mattresses and our sleeping-bags slowly sucked up the water that squeezed itself through small holes in the groundsheet of the tent.
In the morning everything was so wet that I was glad to get up. It was still raining like waterfalls but the porch of the house was an ideal shelter to pack up our stuff. In a short rain-break we jumped on to the bikes and tried reaching the top of the little ascend before it started again and we would have to sweat under our rain clothes. We didn’t make it. Just minutes after we sat on the bike I found myself panic-stricken making myself and the bike waterproof, slipping into rain trousers, putting plastibags over my feet and the helmet cover over the helmet. Like this I at least would stay dry for a couple of kilometers until the sweat would make me wet from the inside. I found Paul a few kilometers further. He had decided to hope for the rain to stop again and didn’t protect himself against it. As he noticed that it wouldn’t stop, he was already completely wet. It is always like a little gambling, do I waste time to put on my rain clothes for it will stop again, or do I run the risk of getting wet as it won’t stop again. This time I was lucky and Paul not.
Anyway, we drove on in the thought that we would check into a cheep hotel as soon as we found a bank in Yichang.
As we reached the bottom of
the valley –my brakes now making the noise of a iron-slicer– we stopped to take of our wet clothes under the roof of a police weight-control station for trucks. We were warmly welcomed by the officers, cigarets were offered to us and the chief-officer unpacked his little english knowledges. As we refused the cigarets, tee was offered to us which the chief himself fetched from a house a few dozens of meters away. He walked through the pouring rain and showed me that chines police is not all like the ones in Chengdu, but can be very kind and helpful. After we had warmed a little from the tea and the friendly conversation, we drove on, the last 40 km to Yichang.
On the way there we bought some pasta in a store were people were gambling with little cards with Chinese signs on it. These cards are only half as wide and much longer than the normal format, a little like a finger. The game they played was so fast that I didn’t understand anything of what they were doing, but it looked very professional. As we wanted to pay, the restaurant owner didn’t even notice us. He was so deep into the game that we had to tap on his shoulder.
An hour and another little pass later we were in Yichang.
The main reason why we went here was that we need new brakes and a friend of us had googled that we could get the quite rare brake pads in this town.
“Hey guys, were are you from”, a voice next to us made me turn my head. Waiting for the same stoplight to get green an American guy had notice our European faces in between the Chinese crowd. David turned out to be the perfect person to meet in this town. He was free at that moment and showed us around town, brought us to a bike store were we could get the pads and as if it wasn’t perfect enough already, he called a friend, professor King from the Three Gorges University in Yichang, who knew a good hotel on the university campus. Since he was english and literature professor there he could get us a huge room for a very cheap price. But that’s not all. He invited us out for having dinner with him and some of his students. The place we went to was a korean-barbecue restaurant. Well, to give you a picture. We sat around a huge table that had a barbecue-plate in the middle. From a buffet we could take what ever we wanted, all kind of meet and vegetables, sauces and deserts, everything a cyclist could ever dream of after days of rain and hunger. King was indeed ” the king” for me that evening. He spoke one toast after the other to us and we enjoyed his hospitality. We drank beer and liquor together and as we had stuffed our stomaches to the limit we went to a cafe on the campus and had some more drinks with King an David, that had joined us again for dinner. As the evening got later, King went home, of course not without speaking on more toast:” I love you guys”. I must admit, we were all a little drunk by then and I could only reply the same to his statement. David knew another nice bar where we could go and so we ended up talking about china and our travel until late in the night. When back in the hotel I did my laundry and was in bed at about 3:00. The next day I was a little hungover. We took the chance of an early breakfast in the hotel which was included in the price, a very poor breakfast I must say, not worth getting up at 7:00. Although we actually had planned on staying one more day, we left on midday. We installed the new brakes which took us much longer than expected and around evening we left town. A few kilometers outside the center, on a still quite rural pace we found a little city park right at the shore of the Yangtze Kiang. We ate dinner, bread with cheese that we had bought in a “European supermarket” an went to bed early.
In the morning we woke up by someone screaming like hell. Afraid that something had happened Paul took a glimpse out of the tent. But everything was alright. It was just one of these strange Chinese habits. The park had filled with people that all did different sports or training in the morning. The screaming was from a man that screamed against a tree, maybe to work of aggression, another man let himself fall against a trunk with his back again and again, a women did some tai chi, another woman did movements that looked as if she was about to start flying, others ran through the park clapping their hands or singing. If I hadn’t seen this kind of things before in china, I would probably have thought that I had landed in a lunatic asylum. But like this the different people’s funny movements made the morning very special. From time to time someone came “clapping” or “flying by and asked a few questions that we answered as good as possible.
The morning in this park had something very beautiful to it. The sun came up into a clear blue sky and shone through to us in between the skyscrapers, under a huge railway bridge over the Yanks Kiang, that looked like the eighth world wonder to me, gigantic ships slowly fought their way up stream to a unknown aim, fishermen all along the shore that in rythmic movements threw their hooks into the water and drew them back again. There was a peace in the air that I have never experienced in a park in Europe, a very special feeling and I once more noticed how far away we are from home, how special this country is.
We left early but didn’t get far. A few kilometers later Paul’s pedal-bearing gave way and so he is now back to town to get new ones. I wait here with the bikes on the side of the road. He has just called that he got the broken spare part and is now on his way back to me.
I hope we can go on soon.
A picture taken after the Korean barbecue
Powered by Facebook Comments