What a difference a day makes.
The lines from the famous Dinah Washington song really couldn’t sum up my feeling today:
“What a difference a day made
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain”
The last few days have, for one reason or another seen me feeling a little on the low side but a good nights sleep and an early start where a good way to readdress the balance.
The weather continues to play a major part in this trip and my mood and I’m thankful today that I was blessed with more glorious sunshine. I feel like a weather reporter as in true English fashion I always seem to kick off my entries by summing up the conditions of the day. Some might say this is a peculiarly English trait.
Following the white line.
I was slowed a little by a front wheel puncture just out of Zhangye. It’s strange I haven’t had a puncture on the front for a while and just like that, a couple in the last few days. I was able to find a small piece of metal lodged in the tire and hope that I’ve now located the cause. As I went about repairing the puncture by the side of a field I saw another cyclist with touring bags attached whiz past me. My spirits were lifter further and I was sure that I’d catch up with whomever it was later on.
Having ridden for a few hours a huge lake beside the 312 made the perfect place to stop and have lunch. It was obviously a very popular spot with locals and in particular fisherman of whom many could be found nestled in the rushes by the edge of the water.
I found a pile of rocks to lean the bike against and tried to shade from the intense midday sun behind a huge rock. The locals interest was once again raised by my presence and I posed for more photos.
The temperature showed no signs of dropping and after applying a liberal layer of sun lotion I continued to make my way along the road. The scenery was amazing largely due to the presence of the gigantic Qilian mountain to the West. The roads were also good and for once the wind for the most part decided to be kind.
I ran into the mystery cyclist who’d passed me earlier at around 80 kilometres. His name was Mr. Chen a 55 year old retired banker from Shenzhen who was well into an epic two year journey which will see him ride around the whole of China. I was extremely thankful to meet up with him despite the fact that his English only amounted to a few odd words. He had one of those infectious laughs a kind of non-stop giggle and broad smile to boot.
We chatted for a while as we rode side by side as the road was for largely unbusy. Due to the fact that Mr. Chen couldn’t communicate in English I was forced to speak Chinese. I say I spoke Chinese, I mostly listened and made the odd contribution from time to time.
The intrepid Mr. Chen
We continued along at a leisurely pace, stopping for regular snacks of which Mr. Chen seemed to have an abundance of and to take pictures of the outstanding surroundings we found ourselves in. He pointed out a place on the map where it would be good to bed down for the night and asked if I wanted to ride with him to there.
We rode long into the afternoon and I was surprised to see that we’d covered a distance of over 150 kilometres by the time we arrived in Qingshui. He’d told me about his daily budget which obviously dwarfed mine by a long way. I’d told him about all the problems I’d found getting accommodation and he told me not to worry as he would sort it out for tonight. Within no time he’d found us a room for the night and after chatting with the manager I was also allowed to stay. Three pounds for a two bedroom room so one pound fifty each, I certainly wasn’t going to argue with that.
Dry river bed.
We went out for dinner and shared a couple of dishes and perhaps it’s because Mr. Chen had been a banker previously that he was extremely good in the art of watching the pennies and was pleased to point out how cheaply he could get everything for. After a couple of cold beers and with a big distance behind us in our legs it was time for bed.
Mr. Chen went about filling out his diary for the day and meticulously entering his spending. It was then that I noticed the cross on the front of one of his books and I asked him whether he was a Christian. He replied yes and then mentioned something about Martin Luther King which I couldn’t understand. It’s funny, a couple of days earlier when I’d been struggling out on the road I prayed to God that he send me a companion to ride with, someone who could perhaps lighten the load on me. I also mentioned that it would be quite nice if they were Christian so that we may also share in the good news together. Now it’s up to each person to make of this what they will but for me my prayers were certainly answered. Not for the first time on this trip my faith was rewarded.
We hatched a plan to ride together to Jiayuguan tomorrow.