110km Nanchang to De'an
It was with mixed emotions that I left Nanchang. The first city I’d visited on the trip and I suppose I had been looking forward to getting out and about a bit and taking in some of what it had to offer. Alas this wasn’t meant to be and as is common knowledge I spent my two days there confined to my sick bed.
I must have been keen to leave as I was out of bed like and shot and on the street at around six in the morning. It’s always good to try and get and jump on the traffic and I’d made sure I’d worked out my exit route from the city last night. I’ve always found the task of leaving a city the hardest part of any journey and it’s made doubly hard when one has to deal with the masses of early morning traffic.
It wasn’t long before I had negotiated my way out of the city and onto the correct road that would lead me to De’an. The road markings in China aren’t too bad; there are usually kilometers marks on the side of the road which tell you the road number and the kilometer point that you are at.
It’s always a good idea to memorize the Chinese characters of the place that you are heading to. Lots of signs show both English and Chinese but some don’t. It’s also useful to have a picture of them too. With the advent of modern technology it’s now easy to zap a quick picture of the characters on your phone and then it’s easy to show to someone if needed.
I’m still amazed by how precise Chinese pronunciation of things has to be. Ask any foreigner who has lived in China for a long time and they will concur that one of the most frustrating aspects of life here is the inability of some people to decipher the word you are saying. Take today for example. There is a town located near De’an named Yongxiu. A relatively simple word to say two syllables; the first Yong and the second Xiu which roughly would be pronounced 'sh ee uu' Asking for directions can be a real lesson in patience. So here is an example conversation I often have.
Me: Yongxiu zài nǎli? (zài nǎli? = where is?)
Passerby –Wǒ tīng bù dǒng. (I don’t understand)
Me: nǐ zhīdào Yongxiu ma? (Do you know Yongxiu?)
Passerby – Wǒ bu zhīdào. (I don’t know)
Me – Yongxiu? (slightly changing my tone and intonation)
Passerby –Wǒ tīng bù dǒng.
This can usually go on for anything between 3 and 8 times before I finally hit the pronunciation of word spot on which is followed by a lot of “Wǒ zhīdào Wǒ zhīdào Wǒ zhīdào Wǒ zhīdào” (I know I know I know I know) What follows next is a rapid fire set of extremely detailed directions in Chinese to which I usually just simply nod. All I’m usually looking for is some kind of hand direction which tells me I’m on the right road.
Today was unfortunately the first day I managed to get lost. It was a simple case of missing a turning over a bridge and then having to backtrack which added an extra 20km’s to today’s total. It was an easy mistake to make as there was no sign telling me to turn. Things like this are obviously a little frustrating but I tried to take it all in my stride.
All was going rather swimmingly, no rain, some very friendly locals along the way and then I hit ‘the road’! With De’an in sight a mere 20km or so away the road once again went from smooth concrete to a mud track. My bike is designed to take on some pretty rugged terrain but riding through this was just a joke. I personally don’t see the point of riding at 5km per/hour and placing a lot of extra strain and pressure on the bike when I can just as easily get off and push the bike at the same speed therefore reducing the risk of anything mechanical going wrong.
What a sight I must have been, big, tall, white foreigner pushing his bike through the dirt and mud while cars and trucks bounced their way awkwardly along this horrendous road. I greeted those I passed with my customary ‘Ni hao’ and young children with a regimental salute.
After a while pushing the bike the road finally became roadworthy again and I got on board and pedaled into De’an. Upon arrival a young male Chinese cyclist decked out in full cycling regalia pulled up alongside me. I told him I was looking for a hotel and he told me to follow him.
One of the assumptions I’m sure that people make when they see a foreigner is that we must all be rich. The first hotel he took me to was quite possibly the most grandiose in all of De’an I told him I was looking for something a little cheaper and off we set again. The next, while affordable was still a little to plush for my liking. It was at this point that I tried to explain to him I was looking for something very cheap. He obviously got the message as I was finally directed down a back alley and to a place which I suppose could just about pass for a hotel. This place had rooms ranging from 40RMB (4pounds) to their deluxe suite 248 (25 pounds) As the 40RMB room was on the bottom floor, which would mean I wouldn’t have to unclip all my luggage and haul it upstairs; I went for this one. On reflection you might say 40RMB was a little overpriced but it had the necessities; bed, toilet and shower. This was very much a case of ‘no frills’!
All the same it was a place to rest my head for the night before heading off to Jiujiang tomorrow.
One quick final note; this was also the day I passed the 1000km mark.