9,141 km so far.
Welcome to the year of the horse. Or, as they say in Chinese: bang, bang, bangbang bangbangbangbang, bbbbb-bbbbb-bang.
I Say Go, Pop, Bang
I read that the government had been encouraging people to use fewer fireworks (think firecrackers rather than 4th of July fireworks) this year in an attempt to combat pollution. That should give you an idea of just how many are set off.
Also, if this year saw a decrease in use, I can’t even fathom what it must have been like in previous years. Honestly, lighting fire to gun powder wrapped in red paper is such a huge part of Chinese New Year celebrations that I assume no self-discipline is involved whatsoever.
The fire inside me, also known as Campylobacter jejuni (at least this is the most likely culprit), is also still going off. I didn’t sleep very well last night, thanks to the guest in my belly, and I don’t feel like doing much of anything today. However, we need to press on, and today is a short ride.
Rolling Hills To Rubble
From Qiongzhong to Tunchang is only 50 km, but it involved a lot of hills in the first half of the ride.
We stopped about halfway for a quick rest break at a semi-defunct deer farm.
It wasn’t clear if you can visit the deer anymore, but someone is happily selling deer-derived souvenirs, such as Deer’s Penis Wine and Deer Hamstrings.
It’s nice that once you visit the animals, see how cute they are, and get to pet them, you can leave with your own little dead piece. It’s kind of like going snorkelling and then eating sea turtle for dinner, which you can also do on Hainan.
Thump, Rattle, And Roll
I checked the elevation profile and was glad to see that it was all downhill or flat from here.
About two seconds after we got back on the bikes, the road turned to a mix of rubble, concrete, and potholes, interspersed with brief sections of smooth asphalt. There appears to be some attempt in progress to improve the road, but so far all that has been accomplished is to make it more like an off-road BMX course.
Good times for me and my belly.
We rolled into Tunchang and picked the first nice hotel we saw. We have been told countless times that hotels will increase their rates exorbitantly at this time of year, but tonight was the first time we’ve experienced it. I consider this lucky, and didn’t mind paying the over-the-top price, especially when all I wanted to do was crawl into bed.
While I slept and dreamed of feeling better tomorrow, Jane went out to see if anywhere was open for dinner, and to witness the lighting of huge reels of firecrackers first-hand. It was so freakin’ loud in the room I can’t even imagine what it was like on street level.
Playing With Fire
Maybe Jane can give you a better idea:
This afternoon we kept saying it was just like Super Bowl Sunday. The streets were deserted and all the shops were closed up tight. No one was out and about, which, for China, is just weird.
We were hoping this would change after the cheesy televised New Year celebration gala (which purportedly 700 million people watch each year) ended, but no such luck.
The only visible sign of life on the street was this:
I would catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of someone kneeling down in the dark street, a flame flickering, and then said person taking off running. A few seconds later, BANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANGBANG, a whole whack of firecrackers would explode.
The bigger of these explosions lasted for a couple of minutes and I had to hold my hands over my ears to avoid being deafened. By the looks of the discarded red paper in the streets, every household lights at least one set of firecrackers each evening and each morning. The air was filled with gunpowder and smoke.
The odd part was, no one seemed to be sticking around to watch their firecrackers go off. I saw one family duck into their shop and close the metal shades after they lit their set.
Why even bother?
Once ignited, the firecracker lets out a loud popping noise and, as they are usually strung together by the hundreds, the firecrackers are known for their deafening explosions that are thought to scare away evil spirits. The burning of firecrackers also signifies a joyful time of year and has become an integral aspect of Chinese New Year celebrations. – from Chinese New Year on Wikipedia
The search for food was a bust. All of the little restaurants that usually line the streets in a town like this were closed up so people could stay home and celebrate with their families. Good for them, bad for us. Luckily, a small corner store remained open, and I got a couple of pot noodles for dinner. Again.
Man, what I wouldn’t do for a quinoa salad right about now.
Soundtrack: Chad VanGallen, Infiniheart ♥