Rocky Road, No Ice Cream

By Jane Mountain | January 31, 2014

9,239 km so far.

Yesterday afternoon’s road gave a hint of what would come today. We started out on the same bumpy chewed-up BMX course we’d gritted our teeth through for 20 km yesterday. Worst case scenario, this would last for about 90 km until we arrived in the outskirts of Haikou.

Rattle Dem Bones

We have gone on at length about what riding on bad roads means for cycle tourists. This morning, as we bumped our way along, we discussed how much better we are at handling these setbacks than we were at the start of the trip.

In the beginning, a road like this would have immediately dashed my mood for the day, and I would have been griping and whining in the first kilometre. Now, I can just shrug my shoulders and get on with it. For one thing, my upper body is much stronger now, so the constant push and pull on the handlebars doesn’t fatigue me like it once would have.

roadside shelter china

Taking a break from rough roads, Hainan.

Plus, I’m better at staying on the bike in deep sand and over big bumps, so there’s not as much threat of actually falling over. Finally, I now know that nothing lasts forever, and once it’s over, it won’t take long to forget it ever happened.

Still, after the 50 km mark, with no sign of improving roads, I have to admit it was all beginning to get me down.

What’s it like, rattling down the road all day? Like being in a rock tumbler. Like being in the paint mixing machine at Home Depot. Like riding one of those outdated coasters at the local fair, on which, in under 3 minutes you get whiplash, achy arms, and the feeling that you want to barf.

dusty gravel road china

Dust and gravel road, hurrah, Hainan.

To add to the overall rattly-ness of it all, every time a car or truck came by, thick white clouds of dust billowed up all around us, filling our lungs and sticking to our sweaty arms and legs. Ick.

Dust-covered plants next to the construction zone, Hainan.

Dust-covered plants next to the construction zone, Hainan.

So yeah, not the best day ever, especially in a country that has so far had some of the best roads we’ve seen. Still, it was not nearly as bad as that hell day in Lithuania.

Stephen’s note: I must have thought to myself 50 times, “It could be worse. It could be a Lithuanian road.”

Hungry New Year

There were very few villages on the route today; the inland parts of this island seem to have some of the lowest population density we’ve seen in China. Because of the hard work we were doing on the bikes, by about 11am, both of us started to get hungry.

In the first village we passed, there were plenty of little places open. They were full too. But they were full of men drinking tea. No one seemed to be eating.

This trend continued in the next 3 or 4 villages we went through. Everyone was drinking tea, no one was eating. We finally came to accept that there would be no lunch for us again today. Instead, we made do with a picnic of Snickers bars and apples while sitting in front of a little house just off the main road.

bikes at roadside rest stop china

Bikes at our picnic spot, Hainan.

With Stephen needing to replace lost calories from the past few days, this was not at all a sufficient lunch, but there wasn’t much we could do about it.

After 85 km or so of dusty, rocky, corduroy road, we finally hit lovely tarmac. The ride into town was painless, and this time, when we arrived at the Banana Hostel, our room was ready and waiting for us (amazing what a cash deposit can do). We’re paying double what we did last time we were here, and it doesn’t look like the hostel is particularly full, so we’re probably getting royally ripped off. Still, it’s nice to know we have a place to sleep for the next few nights.

All we have to do now is restore Stephen to full health so we are ready for our upcoming sprint to Vietnam.  

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