English Version 18
Itís a depressing morning. The weather is all grey. Thereís quite a bit of wind, but mostly from the north it looks. If so it couldnít have been better. Two dry ďI climbed the Great WallĒ-t-shirts are hanging over the curtain rod. Jeg swept the dust away first Ė which hadnít been done for a long time. My trunks have dried too, but not the socks. Iíve only one white pair left. Theyíre going to look like those yesterday.
I canít pull myself together today. Itís the socks thatís slowing me down, I have to find them first, everything else is ready for packing.
In the end Iím off at 9 oíclock. Cross the railway and go up through the town the same way I walked yesterday. I locate the fruit-man. 3 bananas and 2 oranges, thank you. When I return a young mother is there saying: Ni shi na gou ren? Literally: You are what citizen? For once I understand every word. She speaks very articulated and is nicely dressed. I answer in my best putonghua (peoples language Ė mandarin) that Iím Danish and to emphasize it I point at the flag on the rear mudguard. Come and have a look she says to her son. Heís Danish, look at the flag!
Another woman arrives and says uninvited in understandable English: Welcome to Xiangfen, and the first ask where Iím going today and again I understand every word.
We look at the map because Iíve forgotten what my target-town is called and I take the opportunity to ask how I get back to G108. A minor discussion is the result where I understand the meaning, I think. Yesterday night I saw that the road to the right here in the centre of town went over a bridge which only could be crossing the railway, so I must be able to go that way instead of going back. But the other thing I mean to understand is, that I can also just go on straight, then Iíll meet with it.
When I continue, I take the road to the right, just to be sure, but later when G108 does a big turn to the left I see a road, which surely is the continuation of the main street. So the other woman was right, and I had understood, but better be sure!
But my coming across this young woman makes a big impression on me. Her straightforwardness and self consciousness and sincere interest radiated from her. I sense in her the upcoming Chinese middleclass and its wish to learn. To demand information. To look at things from more than one side. It wonít be easy for the regime!
The road climbs immediately. Not much, but for a long time. It actually continues for the next 8 km. It ends on a plateau, which interrupted by climbs and descents to riverbeds continues for the rest of the day. By riverbeds I mean lowerings that the water in a not too far past has dug in the plateau. Maybe connected to floods.
Houma is first partly target. It starts already after 36 km and looks
big. And after 52 km itís still there. Or maybe New Houma? All the same
thereís a sign which makes me confused because the name on the signs
suddenly has got another character. After some turns in New Houma Iím
even more confused. I believe Iíve followed the road, but there has to
be a road south from here too f.ex. Dayun Expressway, which the last
time I saw it had changed its name, soÖ. Itís not possible to find the
position of the sun, but suddenly I remember my compass! And it tells
the tale: the road has swung to the west, as it is supposed to. More
ugly road towns. In a bigger one with a crossing main street I make a
short stop and a slight rain starts.
I arrive at a bridge, where a ďgateĒ stops all vehicles above 3 m. Which means all bigger trucks. After the bridge the road gets more narrow, which means one lane and 1 m shoulder in each direction. But the traffic has almost disappeared! At the same time itís like weíve gone back in time. Small insignificant villages, where men are standing dividing logs with a handsaw of the kind where you drag from both sides. Thereís a lot of minor wood industry, but I never hear an electrical saw. Itís obviously Saturday but that usually doesnít prevent the Chinese from working. In the next villages they produce water tanks (to be placed on dong-dong-cheís) by worn out car tyres. I see piles of tyres and tyre patterns on the tanks. For the first time I see vine-yards and later hops. An old man dragging a cart with a long trunk seems to be the night man. The latrine buckets are hanging from the branch ends. Later I see another one. Are they just on their way to fertilize their fields? But a family donít have that many latrines?
A sudden sound from the bicycle makes me stop. Whatís the matter?
Luckily itís just a small ferruginous piece that has stuck to one of the magnets and now produce a sound for every turn of the wheel.
Just when I pass a sign telling Iím entering Jishan it starts raining more heavily. Itís the first sign with the name of a town Iíve seen.
But itís a little exaggerated. The real town doesnít show until 10 km later, and then Iím pretty wet and strongly need a cup of tea and a cookie. In a short time I find a place. Not so nice but toilet and shower for 40 RMB.
Again one of those water containers which is supposed to produce both hot and cold water. The hot water isnít even lukewarm. I walk downstairs to ask for a thermo, which is standard in Chinese hotels. But there IS hot water in the room. And he accompanies me back and shows that thereís a switch at the back. Oh, then I could have made tea the last place too. I consider how hot it will get? It doesnít actually boil. But I estimate 80-90 degrees and that should kill the most of it including salmonella.
Not an exiting day, but efficient.
I should be able to eat somewhere in the street nearby, which suits me, cause itís still raining.
Itís a fine restaurant with 3-4 girls in nice yellow jackets. There are numbers on some doors, so I wonder if itís a hotel too? That should often be the case with these ďfandiansĒ (which actually means eating house). If so Iíd preferred to stay here.
It turns out only to be ďprivate roomsĒ, where people are sitting eating.
The phrasebook have an expression for fried rice with vegetables, have they got that? No, not exactly, but they decide on something.
I have a huge dish of something green a little like spinach which you have to chew a lot, and with chilli and garlic. The chillies are SPICY! I put most of them aside. Besides a bowl of rice, a small plate of peanuts and a beer. Now Iíll have enough C-vitamins for the next days?
Then the surprise of the day is served! A girl enters and stand in front of me saying something I think sounds Swedish. Hvad sprog taler du? I ask in Danish. No reaction. Which language are you speaking? Itís certainly not Chinese. Iím speaking English she answers in fine English and then we sit there talking the next half an hour. Her name is Yang and sheís been to Canada and is dying to speak English.
Itís fantastic suddenly to have someone to tell my experiences to who even understands my problems with traffic aso. All this confrontation of cultures which is a part of this journey.
A friend has called her telling that there was a foreigner in the restaurant. In other words: itís all over town that a mad cyclist has arrived.
Unfortunately her mother calls telling her to come home. But itís Saturday night? I say. Yes, but Ė you know Ė Chinese culture!
Her mother doesnít find it appropriate ( because she too has learned whatís going on Ė small town in the country, you know?) that her daughter Ė who I estimate being 20-25 Ė speaks to long to a mysterious stranger Ė and even a man!
When I have to leave, I think a little pity for the girls, that a stranger stole the picture, they really did their best. So I hint with my camera if I may take a photograph of the entire crew?
IF I may.
One isnít enough, and two of the girls have camera phones so it turns into a longer photo session. If you want to contact a Chinese here in the country, bring on your camera!
When I return to my lŁguan the landlord brings me a note saying: The police letís you stay at the Tianshi Hotel. It was a huge hotel reminding of the Chrysler Building in the outskirts of town. Totally misplaced for a town of this size. I rejected it at once as too expensive.
So, where is the police? Donít they show themselves? I pretend not to understand. He says something about one or two nights? and I say just one. Then he leaves. Maybe I can stay? Weíll see. Surely I have turned the town upside down!