A slight annoyance
I continued to head west today and my route for the day took me from Anlu to Zaoyang a distance of 145km. This was the day however that I reached a small milestone in my journey. We had the first 1000km so at 1609km today I went through the 1000 mile mark. I celebrated on the side of the road with a couple of chocolate biscuits but with no time for self-congratulation I continued along my way. It's much easier for me to chart this jounrey in terms of how far I've ridden from my hometown Forest Row. Riding across such a vast country as China you cn begin to lose sight of how far you've actually gone. Later in the evening I calculated that I've roughly rode from Forest Row now to Budapest. In doing this it makes me feel slightly better. 1000 miles is a long way but I know there is so much more to go.
I would say I’ve been really positive throughout the trip so far but you’ll excuse me if I have one small gripe. I can understand that people are surprised to see a foreigner way out here in the middle of China and especially riding a bike.
Some of the overtaking on Chinese roads is quite extraordinary; people don’t seem to think twice about overtaking around bends or over the brows of hills. With this in mind the last thing I need is for a car to want to pull up alongside me while the passenger winds the window down and he and the driver try to have a conversation with me while also trying to concentrate on huge trucks passing other huge trucks. Sometimes the driver will unintentionally push you a little wider onto the hard shoulder than you’d like. It’s the same with motorbike riders some of whom have actually ridden in front of me almost forcing me to stop. I’ve always reacted in a polite way not wishing to offend but to be honest it’s getting a little annoying. Especially if I do have to stop, the effort for a car or motorbike to start up again from a standing position is minimal but for me on a bike it’s a different matter.
Perhaps I should stop responding to their questions in Chinese and just pretend I don’t speak any Chinese (some of my Chinese friends might already say this is the case) The fact that I’m willing to engage in conversation with them just seems to encourage them to ask questions even more questions. A simple “I’m terribly sorry” in my best English accent accompanied with a smile should deter them a little more I think.
In terms of riding today it was very straightforward but a day of contrasting weather; pleasant sunshine in the morning followed by grey clouds and the never helpful headwind in the afternoon.
It’s still not quite warm enough I think to be camping at night so I’ve been staying in hotels. I keep telling myself this but I’m sure part of it is just me wimping out. Accomodation is by far and away the biggest cost I have on the trip. Most hotels in these small towns are designed I suppose for the passing businessman. Like I’ve said before when I arrive the last thing I really want to be doing is trudging around looking for the cheapest possible place. By Western standards they aren’t expensive at all, you can get a decent room for 120RMB (12 pounds a night)
Once again today I found myself arriving a little late at around 5:30 and as a result had no desire to spend thirty minutes riding around looking for the cheapest option, I therefore plumped for the first hotel I came across. I struck gold and even managed to bargain the receptionist down a little for a very comfortable little room. You really can’t put a price on a jet shower and big comfy bed after a long day riding. The tent can wait a little bit longer I think.