English Version 5
Fangshan 11.40 a.m.
All has gone smoothly this morning. I was up at 7 and took a last shower. Went to buy some breakfast. It wasnít exactly like yesterday. A new type of pancakes. Weighing 250 g. And the ďbreadĒ I got wasnít precisely what I wanted, but all right.
I parted with Angela once more, or twice to be exact. We kept on meeting in the yard, while we both were getting ready. She for her last day in Beijing, before she flies back to Shanghai, and I for my first day outside the city. I met an American just before I checked out, who had been cycling with a friend in the south of China. He confirmed many of my ideas about cycling here. Thought the Chinese were considerate to cyclists. The road was fine and there wasnít too much traffic.
Itís sad to say goodbye to Far East and all the people Iíve met here. You get more tied up to random people, when youíre so far away from home. Every new place turns into a home.
When I leave the hotel itís raining a little Ė very little, and it soon stops, but itís misty like yesterday. Rolling out of Beijing is a dream. No problems finding my way. The city is HUGE. After 10 km the skyscrapers are more at a distance. After 20 km the buildings thin out and Beijing is replaced by infinite road towns without names.
A couple of times I ask for direction. I am quite confident about it, but itís nice to have confirmed that they can understand my questions. The answer to if the road leads to Fangshan is a yes, so Iím on the track. When I later ask how far it is to Fangshan, the answer is 20 ďgong liĒ, which confuses me a bit, but I have to find out about Chinese measures in one of my books.
The main road is heavy from traffic. Small 3-wheeled trucks are the most common. When theyíre heavy loaded they sound like a fishing boat as they drag along.
Work is being done all over. Often 8-10 men standing with pickaxes and shovels to improve ditches, irrigation canals and what ever. And itís Sunday Ė do they never have a day off? Is it migrant workers? I definitely donít think so. It was the same in Beijing. The construction workers were doing their jobs in the hutong at all times.
Iím sitting in the cave of the Peking man. Heís not there anymore. Is probably for a walk. Pretty long one as itís more than 400.000 years since he lived here.
Lonely Planet describes it as a flop, but I think itís fascinating you can actually see the locality even the fossils have been removed into a museum, where I havnít been yet. At one spot thereís a cave where you can enter and down there thereís a hole 4 m down with a steel wire fastened so you can climb there Ė if you dare. A do, but I havnít brought my headlight only the flashlight and I find it too difficult to hold it while Iím climbing. Angela should have been here.
The continuation is not that exciting. I have to go back and turn at the traffic light.
Then comes an infinite piece, where one stone cutting factory relieves the other. Big factories where they apparently cut all the stones they are using for the rebuilding of the hutong. On some of the houses stone tiles are plastered. So they must be using huge amounts, when you think of Beijing as one big construction site.
From time to time the stone factories are relieved by ďshell townsĒ. Two endless rows of shops with nothing behind except bare land. And so it goes on, but the road is flat and with shoulders, as is the English word, on both sides for the slow traffic and itís with a nice surface even all the dirt is lying in the right side.
At last a plantation with blooming pink cherries. A wonderful change. And just after the road climbs for the first time more than just for a little while. The hill is made of some red soil, which can be used for something, because now there are companies on both sides. In the end comes the long expected exit for Shidu, which is the goal of the day. Now Iím entering the mountains which have been seen at the latest to the right when it hasnít been too hazy. When will I see the sun again quite clearly?
Sitting at a small stone table on a hard stone chair writing. Itís in a small park just beside the road. Nice place for a cyclist.
The last part of the long straight road I turned off my brain. Just the ďleg-engineĒ was running. I begin to feel exausted.
22 km to Shidu, thatís about 2 hours. Iíve found out how to pronounce it, people Iíve talked to havnít agreed on that issue. But when I see the two Chinese characters thereís no doubt. Itís like a cross: the character for ten. So itís the second tone.
The fairytaleís just started. Half an hour ago I could have cried. Now all is fine again. There were two spots where I had to choose, and I swear I chose the right one each time, if the signs were correctly constructed. So I rush ahead. 20 km to Shidu.
The traffic was almost gone.
The road started to incline and before long it was clear that a pass was coming on. Itís wasnít that steep but in the end I had to change to the smallest front gear wheel. Up at last Ė and then down again in a hurry. Stone loaded trucks with hangers on their way up in low gears. Like they have to go slow downwards. On top a minor chaos because a truck has boiled. Theyíre doing hard jobs. It never would have been in Denmark: overload.
After the descent I go on with a fair speed. I want to be there. As the counter close in to the 109 km and Shidu is supposed to get nearer I start worrying. Nothing looking like a town is to be seen. I decide to ask somebody. 3 are standing waiting at the road. ďZhe tiao lu qu dao Shidu ma?Ē No, definitely not. I donít realize where it leads, but Shidu is the opposite direction. SHIT! Even the signs were explicit, I should have asked just to be sure. Almost 20 km back and then crossing the pass and thenÖ Only then I have to start the last 20 km maybe with a new pass? I soon realize that I canít Ė and I WONíT. Iím not going much further today, itís my first real day on bike.
The gesture for sleeping is the same in China Ė luckily. They donít doubt what I mean. I have to go back, not far - then there is a place to sleep.
How far I havnít got a clue, so when something looking a little like a shop appears, I go in there and at the back someone are sitting Ė eating? Is it here?
The scene is repeated and theyíre pointing and discussing. That road right there. Go down and turn right and then go a bit, if I get his moving arms right.
On my way down the concrete road, where a name appears. When I passed it before I took it for a school, an army camp or so. There are soon houses on both sides and the road ends up in a T: a town, at least one street with houses with first floors. To the right. Roll a bit. Ask again. Itís apparently just ahead and to the left. Ií, expecting something lousy. With the risk of bedbugs and that sort of things, but no. The finest house in town seems to contain rooms for rent in the upper two floors.
And now Iím sitting here. Alone in the restaurant with two full plates with food and a bowl of rice and a cup of green tea. It wasnít what I pointed at at the menu, which had pictures, but thereís enough of it. And itís nothing Iíve ever tasted before. Never. While I was upstairs to get my PDA the first plate had arrived. I thought it looked like ďgold cornĒ, a Danish cereal, having been fried on a pan and then being stabled. It had to made of corn? But there was something thrusty in it, like glumes. Tasted good. I wasnít wearing my glasses I have to say.
Then I realized that they were small crowded shrimps. A thousand at least. I was alarmed, you have to watch out for shellfish. If youíre not close to the sea. Or is it the opposite? Ė weíll see. Before I was halfway the main course arrived: Thin slices of pork with something I believe is green bamboo shots and some red fruits, which turns up to be sour preserved. Maybe chillies but more round and not that hot. All in all my lips are burning now. I canít finish it. Wonder how much it is? A fortune?
Compared to the room it canít be that much. When they understood I wanted to stay for the night all was fine, they had rooms. I asked if I could see it? Some things I can express, but understand? Ė no not yet. The room showed to be double with private TV and bathroom! And how much is that? Eighteen says one of the girls. I try 18 in Chinese? No, it wasnít that cheep. Then 80? Yes, 80 RMB. Itís just a bit more than at Far East, but with private bathroom. Do you wonder why I accepted at once? I didnít need to ask for something cheaper, which they surely would have had. Is there anything I need, itís my own room and a shower.
I had prepared for in the worst case to accept 200. Iím not ready yet for tenting. Havnít bought gas for the heater and the area is not for it. When I stopped to pee two dogs immediately started barking.
Iím sitting with another cup of green tea in my room. Here I meet with the big thermos with boiled water Iíve been reading about. I have a whole bottle with at least 2 l. A cup of green tea leaves and several cardboard cups. So I can prepare it myself. There is one annoying thing about the green tea: They put the leaves in the cup and pour the water over. With the result that the leaves are floating on top. After some time some of them sink but not all, so Iím getting leaves in my mouth. I wonder if they drink them, eat them or what?
CCTV1 is showing commercials. They are relieved by a film with subtitles. Chinese. The language sounds Chinese too, so whatís the point? Are they for deaf people? Itís with people in old army uniforms with red stars on their caps. So itís presumably from the civil war. They talk and talk. Itís definitely not an action film. They speak very clear. With English subtitles Iíd been able to learn a lot. Now I can only catch single words.
I have entered the Hebei province. Here thereís another character to the left in the license plates. Besides itís the same: 2-3 letters and 3-4 numbers.
The license plates are blue with white printing, except busses and trucks, which have yellow ground and black symbols and the official ones which have white ground and black numbers. Maybe with a red character first?
Now a heroine in a military coat with a child is crying Ė the heroine to be exact. If itís joy or grief I donít know.
After some zapping Ė and there are quite a lot of channels Ė I succeed finding the English speaking one Angela told me about. Itís called CCTV9. It has English subtitles when other languages are spoken. Thereís a news report telling about an attack on the Olympic flame in London and a lot about Tibet. Not from the Tibetans point of view. On the other hand I wonít deny thereís manipulation with the evidences from some Tibetans. It running in the background while Iím writing.
I go back to my arrival. A number of women in all ages crowded around me. When I went to see the room some girls went with me. When I had to pay it was another one. I thought sheíd want my passport for the registration, but after having searched for it in my money cat I realised Iíd moved it to the money belt. And to avoid undressing in front of all the women I gave her my driving license in stead. Oh yes, it was me in the picture all right. And then she started copying all the right page from the license including birth registering place and police chief counselar. Well done! I almost got a whole page in the registration book.
Before all this we were interrupted by the neighbour who didnít think my bike was to be left unguarded outside all night. Of course I had intended to carry all my luggage upstairs, but it was considerate anyway. So I pushed the lot into his shop and placed it at a table full of flour. If I was to be customer in his shop I wouldnít have thought it suitable for a dirty bike. Cause dirty it is! Even in the courtyard in Beijing it started getting a thin layer of dust.
Angela thought Iíd better get a mask, which some of the locals wear. Not so many for the time being. I take it for that the particle content in the air isnít as high as it CAN be.
But you can easily clean your nose several times a day. Itís nice to have a natural filter in your nose! Even itís annoying it has to be cut.
Iíd better go to sleep, Iíve got extra kilometres for tomorrow.