Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’

By Stephen Ewashkiw | January 7, 2014

8,008 km so far.

We are rolling the rails once again, heading back to “The Mainland”. It’s about 1,200 km from Hong Kong to Chibi, so we are in for a full day of travel. Between Guangzhou and Chibi there is a bullet train, so at least we don’t have to travel through the night, and should be back to our bikes, and Fine Yoga Retreat, around nightfall.

Plan? What Plan?

It was sad to leave Hong Kong, and Teresa, behind. We have come to really enjoy the city, and Teresa has been an incredible host. We have only discovered our favourite bars and cafes in the past few days, but this just gives us more impetus to come back before too long.

Fancy bike in Hong Kong.

Fancy bike in Hong Kong.

Partly because you can’t book Chinese rail tickets online without a Chinese bank card, partly because we have to take seven trains (including 4 metro lines), and partly because it seemed there were trains frequently on our route, we didn’t book our train tickets in advance.

I love travelling like this, but it isn’t Jane’s favourite. She prefers to have things more planned out, more concrete. This is especially true when we are relying on others for our transportation.

In typical Chinese rail service fashion, when I first tried to buy tickets, the woman working the counter said “All sold out.”

“No they’re not,” I said, knowing there were hundreds of tickets available just two days ago when we looked online. Sure enough, when she actually got her co-worker to check the computer, there were tickets for us.

We were able to buy two tickets: one to get us to Guangzhou, the other to get us from there to Chibi. We had just missed a train leaving for Guangzhou, but by the time we bought tickets and got ourselves organised it wasn’t long until our train was departing.

The interchange in Guangzhou was particularly long. It involved two metro lines, and we travelled about 20 km across the city to get from the East Railway Station to the South Railway Station, where the bullet train leaves. It was fortunate we had almost 3 hours between trains, as it took us almost this long to get lunch, and get to the train.

Smooth Sailing

We spent the next few hours on a fancy, new train travelling at 300 km/h north through smog-filled countryside, farms, mountains, factories, and rivers. Being on the train really was a slap in the face of “hey, you’re back in China”, with throat-clearing, people yelling into their phones, and beautiful countryside flying past the train windows with thick smog covering everything we could see.

When we emerged into the rainy Chibi night, we were greeted enthusiastically by Mr. Xiang, the driver from Fine Yoga Retreat. It was so nice to see a friendly face at the end of our day of travelling. Mr. Xiang had driven us to this very train station six weeks ago when we left the retreat for Shanghai, and here he was to take us back.

Hong Kong street.

Hong Kong street.

We stopped at a noodle bar in Zhaoliqiao, the town closest to the retreat, so Jane and I could have dinner. It cost ¥6, another solid reminder that we’re not in Hong Kong anymore.

Then we drove the final few kilometres to the retreat where Mr. Xiang handed us off to the security guard, said goodbye, and we were shown to our bamboo cabin. Twelve hours after leaving Teresa’s, here we are, settled in for the night amongst the giant bamboo forest.

It really couldn’t have gone better if we had planned each leg of the journey. In fact, had we planned it all, we probably would have missed our train in Guangzhou.

Sometimes it pays to be laissez-faire.  

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