Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Biking to Cuandixia

Well, i stayed in BJ for the whole of Golden Week, so still had itchy feet. i decided to cycle out to Cuandixia, a tiny spec of a Ming dynasty village. Although i've been there once before, taking a bike the 90 km there would be a whole new adventure.

My bike. Which has its frame and forks misaligned, after (i suspect) a car backed into it. No gear shifters or cables. Broken seat. A bit of a ramshackle machine, which i love nonetheless.

Headed out at ten. i figured i could get there in about 5 hours. i was wrong. i was def into the mountains when some cyclists heading the other way asked me for directions (ha). Upon hearing my intended destination, one girl exclaimed "Cuandixia is still 40 km away!" This was a revelation. My feeling was that it was 5km away. So not trusting her, i happily poked my head into a tourist office, i passed soon after. "Cuandixia... oh maybe it's 50km further on," said the lady, along w/ some other stuff I couldn't understand.

I was in fact, getting a bit tired already, but figured i'd keep going, and see how far i could get. If need be, i could probably find a hotel somewhere.

I was elated to eventually see a sign reading Zhaitang- 19 km. Zhaitang and Cuandixia are the same place. i pumped those pedals with newfound vigour, and allowed myself more rest stops and pauses to shoot the scenery.

But it turned out that Cuandixia is just a part of Zhaitang. Arriving in Zhaitang means that there was only about 10 more km to get to my destination. i plodded on. Traffic and people were nil. The sky was totally black. Street lights were few. Luckily i had a bike light.

i arrived in Cuandixia at 6:30, took the first room available and pigged out on the overpriced meal that the guesthouse offered.

i figured i deserved a day of rest and to explore the area a bit, before heading bk to BJ. i spent the next day attempting to summit a mountain, giving up both times after getting tantalizingly close. But it also dawned on me that i'm not covered by insurance, and the one mountain face was getting pretty dodgy. the next time my scratched and scarred body gave up in the face of 300m more of dense thorny bushes and trees.

So instead i found a spot to sit, had a toke, and sat there for a long long time enjoying the quiet.

Then went back to town. Ate dinner. Smoked more. Got a beer. went back to my room, and studied mandarin, then watched a show about raising camels. That was a great evening.

Apart from a flat tire, riding back was like lightning. Fast Times at Zhaitang High(way). Five hours return. Plus stops to eat and poke around.

Lessons: Don't calculate distance based on 20km/hrs. Climbing mountains is more like 5km/hr. Install gears on bike before next long trip. Don't forget your patch kit on the stairs at home, dumbass!

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