Back To Reality

By Jane Mountain | January 29, 2014

9,090 km so far.

Here’s roughly how the conversation went.

“Stephen, you should put that leftover eggplant in the fridge.” “Hrm,” he replied, a noncommittal sound I foolishly took for assent.


“Stephen, did you put the eggplant in the fridge?” “No.” “Oh, I guess we shouldn’t eat it then.”


Stephen, you probably shouldn’t put that eggplant on your pizza.

The lesson? Your wife is always right.

Stephen’s note: I am pretty sure the lesson is: Don’t eat food that was cooked but has been sitting out at room temperature for six hours.

Jane’s note on Stephen’s note: Some people never learn.

Jane’s side note: I’m pretty sure I can trace my own food poisoning back to the night we ate at Pizza Hut. They served me lukewarm spaghetti arrabbiata, which for some inexplicable reason included lots of sliced ham. I picked it out, but it still tasted gross, and I was sick the next day. So, I also only have myself to blame. I knew we should not eat at Pizza Hut.

Riding Sick

So now Stephen’s got food poisoning (c’mon health, give us a break).

When one of us gets sick, that person gets to make the call about what they can and can’t handle. I always say “only you can tell how sick you are”. If you, as the sick person, make the decision to ride on, then you have to be darn sure you can handle it. Without our camping equipment, there is rarely any opportunity to stop earlier if it turns out you’re not able to go on.

After 9,000 km, we’re getting pretty good at knowing what our bodies can handle.

The big 9,000 km! We never thought we'd get this far.

The big 9,000 km! We never thought we’d get this far.

That is the problem with planning ahead on a bike tour, and the exact reason why we don’t do it. We don’t want to feel that we need to move on, that we have to be somewhere at a specific time.

But right now, that is exactly how we feel. I’m already starting to resent the New Year’s holiday, and it hasn’t even happened yet.

So, we packed up, while our four roommates were still zonked out in their beds, and left the beach.

Wild China

The ride today was beautiful.

There was very little in the way of traffic, houses, or people. Rarely have we spent a day in China that was so full of wilderness and so devoid of industry.

Gorgeous downhill. Spot Stephen in the distance!

Gorgeous downhill. Spot Stephen in the distance!

We rode up into the mountains, past miles and miles of palm forests.

The coconut palms of the coast slowly gave way to tall thin betel nut palms. Each tree is only about 6 inches around, and has a clutch of betel nuts near the top, with a sparse tuft of palm fronds like an out-of-control hairdo topping it off. We also, of course, saw plenty of banana trees, rice terraces, and fields of some kind of crop that grows on a vine – maybe grapes.

We went past a dammed area, where a wide river made its way slowly along the mountain valley. At one point, the water was channeled into a concrete canal that hugged the curve of the highway. Presumably this water ends up as drinking water or irrigation lower down the mountain.

At one crest, we stopped for a snack break and watched a bright orange bird swoop around the tops of the palm trees.

Carefully manicured palm grove, Hainan.

Carefully manicured palm grove, Hainan.

We’re out of practice on hills, and today there were a lot of them. We had a lot of up, and a lot of down, so one minute we’d be sweating in the hot sunshine, struggling to get our bikes moving, and the next we’d be swooping down the mountainside, passing the scooters who’d just passed us on the way up.

I felt terrible for Stephen. Cycling when you’re sick is not so bad, but climbing hills like this with no energy and no food inside you is torture. He did a great job handling it, and was much less whiny than I would have been!

We’re out of sunscreen as well, and all day I could feel the skin on my arms roasting in the heat. Even on this beach island, buying sunscreen has been a challenge. Most pharmacies don’t sell it at all. We found one bottle that came in a box with several other lotions and potions to make your skin glow. I saw another tube that also boasted “whitening” properties, which is a very common thing in China. Since we didn’t feel like paying for a lot of extra junk, or bleaching our skin, we passed.

Which means today, we are exposed to the elements.

What’s Behind Door Number Five?

The final downhill came none too soon, and we arrived in the dusty, noisy backwater of Qiongzhong exhausted and ready for bed. Then we had to play the hotel game for an hour.

We passed by two that looked too sleazy to bother with. The third told us a flat-out no, though they were nice about it and tried to give us directions to a place that would take us.

The fourth checked us in. But just after we’d hiked our bikes and gear up two floors and had gotten unpacked, they came and kicked us out. We pleaded and prayed and pretended to not understand, but they kicked us out anyway.

The fifth seemed open, but there was nobody working there that we could find. The sixth was obviously a brothel, with a waiting room for the men, and lots of little rooms with their doors ajar and “activity” happening inside them.

Number seven was a charm. Even though there are several mah johng rooms downstairs, which will probably proove to be very noisy later on, we are staying.

As long as we don’t answer the phone or any knocking at the door, we are in for the night.

Soundtrack: Pete Seeger (RIP), If I Had A Hammer: Songs Of Hope And Struggle | Chris T-T & The Hoodrats, The Bear | Fountains Of Wayne, Utopia Parkway | Graham Coxon, A+E  

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