170km The Long Haul
Unknown Village – Fuzhou
I decided that today I’d try and make the long run to Fuzhou. I hadn’t made it to my intended destination Le’an yesterday so with an early start I believed it possible to cycle the one hundred or so miles to Fuzhou.
This was a day for simply getting the head down and riding. It started well and before long I’d jet propelled myself to Le’an. Once in there I decided to quickly check the GPS for the best route to the next stop on the map Chongren. In addition I also asked a couple of locals yet they gave me contrasting directions. This was a tough one, the GPS was telling me a shorter distance but it would take me back onto the country roads and I knew how they often worked out. I was caught in two minds. So much so that when I stopped to ask another group of locals gathered outside a shop one the men instantly recognized me and said “I’ve already told you the way to go” With everyone talking at me and at what seemed like one hundred miles an hour I managed to make out one woman’s voice who said “sànbù” which I know means to walk. I think she was saying something along the lines of if you take the country road you will probably have to end up walking due to the quality of the roads.
I felt like I’d wasted a whole lot of time and my great progress from the morning had been lost. My mind made up I saddled up and head off on the slightly longer route to Chongren. Once again there wasn’t too much to say about this leg of the journey. A constant fog seems to have fallen on this part of China which means taking photos seems rather pointless.
I reached Chongren at around 4 o’clock and faced the second dilemma of the day, stay in Chongren or cycle a further 37km to Fuzhou. I was feeling good, there was energy left in the legs so I thought why not. I began to rue this decision some 10kn down the road as the lashing rain returned with vengeance. This was certainly the worst rain of the trip, the kind of rain that comes at you from all directions. Despite having ridden just over 100 miles I didn’t feel that bad when I arrived in Fuzhou. My main problem was that I couldn’t see anything. The fog I mentioned earlier had now engulfed the whole area and what with it being nighttime visibility was almost at zero. This was the first time I’ve felt lost on the trip. I simply wanted to find a hotel and crash for the night. I appeared to be at “Renmín Guǎngchǎng” or people’s square, which usually signifies that you are in the centre of the city. However all I could see apart from the very impressive state buildings were what looked like some very lavish hotels who I’m sure would take one look at a rain soaked, worn out cyclist and usher me along the way.
Another thirty minutes wasted I began to now ride aimlessly around Fuzhou. I finally came across what looked like a hotel and a bunch of locals having what seemed to be an argument outside. Enter the peace keeper in chief, no sooner had I rolled my bike up beside them did the argument stop. On a side note I’ve never quite worked out whether Chinese people are arguing or merely having a conversation. Sometimes the default volume setting will just be loud. One guy from the group pulled out a camera from his pocket and started taking pictures. As I was somewhat drained from my days riding and failure to locate a hotel I politely asked him to stop but in true paperazzi fashion he just continued. I’ve heard that compared to other countries such as India cycling in China isn’t that bad. You may get a small group of interested bystanders come and observe proceedings but usually they give you a little bit of breathing space. Most people just want to know where you’ve come from? This is usually followed by the question, ‘did you ride here?” and the third question is always ‘why?’ I’ve given up explaining to people that I’m on a mission to ride back to the UK as most Chinese people seem to think it’s impossible.
I finally managed to sort out a room and before long bike and I were settled nicely in our new home for the night. With sleep on my mind I was a little disappointed to hear plenty of shouting outside my room in the corridor. A group of businessman appeared to also be staying in the hotel but they seemed to be engaged in a rather strange game of shout loudly, bang doors, open doors, shout loudly, bang doors etc.
Despite the goings on outside my room and with over one hundred miles under my belt for the day not much was going to stop me falling asleep.