The first thing to say about today was that it was another boiling hot day out on the bike. It’s now only the end of May and the weather is just going to get hotter. Despite the fact that I’m using a sun factor 30 cream I’ve developed a strange tan which we shall call ‘cyclists tan’ whereby the lower half of my arms and legs have a lovely deep dark colour to them while the upper halves are pure white. It’s an interesting look.
It was very much business as usual today. The scenery changed a little, the farmland of yesterday was replaced once again by a desolate, rocky and barren landscape.
Thankfully China knows how to do gas stations and while they aren’t quite up to the standard of UK service stops they certainly have everything that a passing cyclist needs. I’d love a ‘Little chef’ restaurant mind and I found myself today longing for the days of those early morning breakfasts on route to Dorset on holiday. I had some vegetables left over from Urumqi so at one such rest stop I decided to sit down at one of the tables and whip up a nice cucumber, onion and tomato salad. I decided to treat myself in Urumqi and bought a small bottle of Olive oil, salads taste so much better with a bit of a dressing. It wasn’t long before I had quite a throng of people all gathered around to see what I was doing, at one point there must have been about 30 to 40 people all standing around watching me chop up vegetables. I misunderstood the lady who was in charge of the upkeep of the area. I was sitting under a sort of archway and as it was midday so the sun was really beating down. I’d moved my bike into the area and she seemed to be shouting at me ‘liang kuai’ as in give me 2RMB. I couldn’t understand, was she trying to scam me. In Chinese I replied to her that why should I pay her 2RMB for the privilege of sitting here, everyone around me thought it was quite funny. Eventually the penny dropped with me as she pointed to a more shaded area and it was then that I remembered back to my Chinese lesson on weather and that ‘liang kuai’ also actually means cool. Later in the afternoon I noticed that the hard shoulder was littered with what appeared to be some kind of grasshopper. The only problem was that these grasshoppers weren’t particularly adept at the art of hopping and despite my best effort to avoid them it was impossible not to run over a few of them. I don’t think the hard shoulder of an expressway is really the place for any kind of insect. As the day drew to a close and I looked for a culvert to sleep under I was forced to ride an extra 10km as all along the embankment were workers who had the unenviable job to move small stones with shovels. I couldn’t understand this; they were basically scrapping the stones and just shifting them down the bank. It seemed like the most pointless job in the world. My heart really went out to these people though. Their skin had been permanently darkened by the sun. It really made me think once again how incredibly lucky I have been to have had opportunity to do so much in my life and now also be doing this. Here were young men, old men and women who will most likely never have the chance to even leave their hometowns. I’ve seen some people doing what must be incredibly tedious jobs along the way but this surely must beat them all. Music plays a big part of my days riding. Sometimes I choose to listen to nothing and other times I’ll play something. I’m sure there are people out there who will argue about the dangers of riding a bike while listening to music. I might be inclined to agree with them that doing so in a city is not a good idea where you need to have a heightened sense of what is around you. On the hard shoulder of an expressway however it’s different. I have plenty of room and I’ve not encountered any problems with truck drivers coming into ‘my space’ Some days it’s nice to ride along to some easy listening music and the beauty of modern day technology is that you can create your own little playlists. I’m not a huge fan of dance music but there are occasions on the bike when it really serves a purpose as anyone who’s done a spinning class in a gym will testify to. I have one particular mix that I often play when I’m perhaps lagging and looking to pick up the tempo a bit, it’s amazing the effect that it has. I settled down once again under the culvert today where I was joined by some rather large looking flies for company. Despite the fact that it was 8p.m. I was still sweating. Out the other side of the culvert I could see huge snowed covered mountains; they certainly made for a great view while eating my pasta and cucumber.