Pineapple “Express”

By Stephen Ewashkiw | January 19, 2014

8,715 km so far.

We awoke to a cacophony of explosions. No, civil war hadn’t broken out, although it sounded like it. This was wedding madness. Chinese New Year is approaching and everyone (it seems) is getting married. I don’t know if the two are related but I assume they must be.

Wedding dress, Leizhou, Guangdong.

Wedding dress, Leizhou, Guangdong.

Leizhou was abuzz this morning with countless wedding parties, all letting off firecrackers wherever they went. As we rode out of town wedding party after wedding party passed us in their cars dropping lit strings of firecrackers pop pop popping onto the road.

Wedding mess, Leizhou, Guangdong.

Wedding mess, Leizhou, Guangdong.

Unlike the noise of a regular day in China, I didn’t mind this celebratory pandemonium, done in the name of love.

Mad Dash

We had a lot of distance to cover to get to the ferry today. It was 100 km from the hotel to the ferry dock in Hai’an, with many hills between. We somehow averaged 20 km/h for five hours straight, only stopping for snacks from our handlebar bags and bathroom breaks. For us, on loaded Surly Long Haul Truckers, this is fast.

And to keep it going for five hours is exhausting. (That’s what she said).

Normally we would have taken a break for lunch, but after a failed attempt when we pulled into a small town and saw nothing we wanted to eat, we decided to push on and try and catch the 3pm ferry to Haikou. The ferry after that isn’t til 4:30pm and we didn’t want to arrive on the island after dark. If we kept going, and skipped lunch, we could be at the dock in time.

It really feels like we are riding in the tropics now. The road out of Leizhou was lined with coconut palms, and the land is fertile. We flew past fields upon fields of pineapples, papayas, bananas, and an abundance of green chillis. We saw three huge depots for green chillis filled with millions of long, thin, green capsicums being brought in from the fields.

We made it to the ferry terminal with a bit of time to spare.

We bought our tickets, and joined the queue near the boat waiting to get on.

people getting off ferry china

Weekend hordes coming back to the mainland from Hainan.

Around 2:45pm they began to load us on. Departure time was 3pm. We’d made it. Tired and hungry we rolled onto the boat.

Some of the deck hands told us we needed to carry our bikes up the very steep stairs to the upper deck. We protested, but they insisted. Working together we managed to get them to the first landing. Taking a break there, one of the staff came by and told us we could leave them there.

No rolling, on the ferry to Hainan.

No rolling, on the ferry to Hainan.

Phew! The next set of stairs were steeper and longer, and we didn’t relish the idea of schlepping our bikes up there for no apparent reason.

The Waiting Game

Everyone in the lounge on the ferry was eating pot noodles. We decided that it would be a good idea for us to join them, as the ferry ride is 90 minutes and this would tide us over until we got to the hostel, and some real food. Strangely, as we ate our noodles, 3 o’clock came and went and we were still docked. 3:30 came and went, and still no sign of an imminent departure.

The boat kept filling up with people, which was odd, since there were supposed to be boats every 90 minutes, and we were now 60 minutes late leaving. The car deck was packed full, but busses seemed to still be bringing people to walk on.

We checked our tickets and they definitely said the right destination, so we hadn’t mistakenly got on the wrong boat. One of the other cycle tourists we had seen on the road today was also on the boat so I went and asked him if he knew what the delay was. He didn’t, and said he also thought we were supposed to leave at 3.

Finally, just before 5, we pushed off. We don’t know why the delay happened, and it seems no one else did either. What we do know is we could easily have stopped for lunch today, and still made the boat with time to spare.

But Wait, There’s More

The sailing was uneventful, and before long we were off the coast of Haikou. And then, the boat stopped. We could see the shore, we could see other boats pulling into harbour, but we went nowhere. We sat, 4 km off shore, for 100 minutes. We watched as the sun set and the sky grew dark. We watched as the lights on shore blinked on and the hotels were lit up for the night. We watched, shivering in the cold wind, and waited.

When we finally rolled off the boat it was 7:45pm, more than three hours late. All this and we had already biked 100 km with no real lunch. We had a further 16 km to ride to the hostel before we could worry about food.

We did it though. When we finally rolled into the hostel it was 8:30pm, we were tired, and hungry. Fortunately we knew we had a room as we had booked in advance.

And then the receptionist apologetically told us our room was no longer available. They were overbooked and someone had given our room away. Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up. I guess that’s why all good stories are based in reality. The truth is much more cruel, hilarious, and surreal than anyone can imagine.

They did have dorm space for us, and in our state, this was fine, and not a big deal. We just needed food and beds.

Their kitchen was still open so we ordered some pizza and pasta, which made a nice change from Chinese food. As soon as we were done, we crawled into bed, relieved the day was over and we had actually made it to Hainan.

Soundtrack: A.C. Newman, Get Guilty | A.C. Newman, Shut Down The Streets | Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique | Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two | Madrugada, Grit | Madrugada, The Deep End | Chris Isaak, Speak Of The Devil | The Dandy Warhols, The Dandy Warhols Are Sound | David Byrne, Look Into The Eyeball  

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  1. Comment by Stephen Ewashkiw

    Stephen Ewashkiw November 25, 2016 at 4:32 am

    Ha! Thanks. Can’t wait to see what adventure you choose for your own trip! -Stephen.

  2. Comment by Kevin

    Kevin November 24, 2016 at 9:59 am

    Hi Stephen,

    Good to ‘see’ what a person could encounter without any of the pain.


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