8486 km so far.
Back on the G325 again today, with a busy boring ride to report. Of course, boring is relative, and in China, even on the G roads, nothing is ever boring for long.
Can You Picture This?
We see so many interesting things as we ride, it’s hard to describe them, or even make sense of them as we go along.
Each one is worthy of its own photograph, but since we can’t stop to take pictures every three minutes, we take what we call “memory photos”.
Some memory photos from today:
- A chicken pecks in a pile of garbage, looking for a tasty snack.
- An elderly man rides his rust-bucket bicycle up the hill in front of us. It is loaded with cardboard recycling, and he is barely going walking speed on the bike. As we pass he flashes a smile at Stephen: all of his teeth are gold.
- At a construction site, a woman heaves heavy beams of wood off of a pile to her waiting male counterpart. Women work in all kinds of “male” industries here, and we often see them doing heavy manual labor right alongside the men. Just a few kilometres down the highway, I see a tiny woman hefting huge bags of cement.
- A man sits at the side of the road, smoking a bamboo pipe. These are commonplace here, and after days of guessing what might be in them (weed? opium? tea?) we discovered they’re just being used for tobacco.
- A white van stops in the middle of the highway. People honk as they swerve around the van. We realise the people in the van have stopped to get a look at us. We ride by, and a minute later, the van pulls up beside me. The woman in the passenger side is clearly amazed by what she is seeing, and shouts a question at me. I ride alongside her and try to converse, but there is no shared language. She gives me a smile and a wave and they drive off.
- A humongous brick factory turns out thousands and thousands of bricks.
- A man rides by on a scooter, with his three children squeezed on in front and behind him. We see countless families making their way down the highway this way.
- In a construction site, the soil is the red rust colour of Hawaiin soil, which kind of makes sense since we’re on the same latitude.
- The black plastic walls of a shanty town flap in the heavy wind as we ride by. We wonder if these are homes, or just sheds for animals and farm tools. By the looks of it, they serve all of these purposes.
- A small boy is carried in his mother’s arms, while his father holds an IV bag in the air, connected to the boy’s foot. We have seen lots of people walking around, or riding their scooters while holding IV bottles. This was the first small child with one we have seen. Why they all have IVs we do not know.
- A dog turns around in a wire cage on the back of a scooter. It struggles to keep its footing as its paws keep slipping between the bars of the cage into mid-air. We realise later that the dog is food, so his comfort wasn’t the driver’s primary concern.
- A gaunt elderly woman gazes adoringly at her fat smiley grandson as she holds him by the side of the road.
Unlike digital photos, I know these memory photos will fade with time. It makes me a little sad to think that soon all of the things we are seeing here will seem like something I dreamed.
The city we’re staying in tonight, Wuhuan, is just a single straight road on our Pocket Earth map, but in the real world it is a bustling city of a couple hundred thousand people, at least. We tried our usual strategy of riding on the biggest roads until we found a hotel, but the first few we came to didn’t have internet. Stephen wasn’t satisfied with that, so we stopped outside a bakery to use their WiFi and see if we could find something better.
Before long, a couple of guys from the (unofficial) Apple Store across the street came over and, using a translation app, asked Stephen what we were looking for. When we told them we wanted a hotel with WiFi, they set to work, getting out multiple smartphones to search and call places until they found one.
A couple of friends of theirs rode up on a scooter (we’re not sure if this was a coincidence or if they had called them) to lead us to the hotel they’d found. We followed them through the busy streets for a few minutes and they led us to a modern-looking hotel, called the Thank U Hotel, on a quiet side street. We’d never have found it on our own.
Sure enough, they have WiFi and, far more importantly, a soft bed. We’ll take it.
Soundtrack: 2013: The Dandy Warhols, Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia | Calexico, Algiers | Brakes, Give Blood | Bright Eyes, Fevers & Mirrors | Britney Spears, 2001 ♥