D54: 阳西→茂名 - Oh Hai - CycleBlaze

December 6, 2019

D54: 阳西→茂名

Ivan and Catalina are an Argentinian couple who contacted me on warmshowers. Planning on cycling in Hainan for their very first cycle tour ever, they had not yet arrived in China when they got in contact with me and, after a few delays on their end, since I'm on my way to Hainan, it was determined that they would come and meet me on the road. That way, although they wouldn't be getting quite the loveliest weather or quite the best traffic conditions, they would get a soft intro into the whole "riding with luggage" thing by having someone who already knows why you stop before you are tired, how to find the roads that aren't truck infested, and--most of all--who speaks Chinese.

We pick Maoming as our meet point because all the towns between Yangxi (where I am right now) and Maoming are places that you can't really get a bus to from Guangzhou. Besides which, until I get wherever I'm going tonight, I can't really be sure where I'm going to be tonight. It almost seems the more planning I put into these trips, the more on the fly changes I make to my plans.

I figure I'll most likely be spending the night in Lintou Town [林头镇] some 20 kilometers or so east of Maoming. AMap shows three hotels in the town center and a fourth on the outskirts. It's also a good distance from Yangxi so that I'll be nice and fresh when I get in, can work on updating this journal (when was the last time I bothered with pictures?), have a proper lie-in in the morning, and then get to Maoming at about the same time as their bus is arriving.

Of course, despite today being almost exclusively provincial roads of the variety where going fast is not a problem, this doesn't happen.

Getting into Lintou on the cusp of sunset (because headlights are awesome and I was a fool for intentionally deliberately refusing to carry one for as long as I did) because I'd dawdled quite a lot over watching a 70 year old man painstakingly refurbishing some idols in a shrine cum shed near a large temple, I noticed that hotel #1 not only didn't look especially desirable in terms of likely quality, it was one of those ones with a second floor front desk. Hotel #2, which I went to after a tolerable dinner of brisket parts and rice noodles, had a fourth floor front desk. Hotel #3 required backtracking. And Hotel #4 not only wanted 100 yuan, they didn't have heat in the rooms.

So I plugged "住宿" (lodging) into AMap again and said to myself "alright, I'll head to the next town". But the initial getting to the next town first involved navigating some unpleasant roadworks combined with two way traffic in a single lane. And then, as I got close, it was discovered that I would need to go the long way round because a newly built railroad meant that the direct road no longer went through.

With that being the case, it seemed prudent to just throw my hands up in the air and bike to Maoming.

Which, combined with the first suggested hotel for Maoming being closed, the second one having a second floor front desk, and the third legitimately having no vacancies, is how I ended up with the longest day of this trip. (I called ahead before showing up at the fourth hotel.)

And the day had started off so nice too...

Though maybe it's because the day had started off so nice, that I was in a state come dark that I could consider continuing to Maoming. (Well, that, and the headlight... Incredible things headlights are.)

From Yangxi, I started my day with both a cherry coke and a coke zero because the convenience store I popped in to was having a special if you bought at least 30 yuan worth of stuff with AliPay, you'd get at least 5 off. So I bought exactly 30 yuan worth of stuff. Salty chips, two sodas, an ice cream, raisin biscuits. The random number generator gave me 17 off so even if I wouldn't have necessarily bought that much junk food at once in an area where Real Meals are a regular possibility, it was a pretty nice haul.

Breakfast was something unmemorable, but once that was done, I had a good 15 or 16 kilometers of nice back roads with various small temples and shrines and scenery and an epic "because you listened to, we think you'll like" sound track provided by Xiami. About halfway into this, I crashed the GPS and had to re-enter my destination which made it decide that I needed to take even smaller roads up to a brilliant blue reservoir where workmen cheered me on as I made my way up to the top of the retaining wall.

Some car tourists were parked about halfway across the retaining wall road taking pictures of the scenery and each other. When they didn't move and didn't move and didn't move despite repeated prompts from the workmen with their big trucks, they found themselves having to slowly back up half a kilometer along a single lane road with a great big drop off to one side. I wanted to feel bad for them but, at the same time, given as the trucks had initially tried to get them to pull forward and stop blocking the road, I couldn't.

That bit of back roads countryside was so lovely that the provincial road, when I came to it, just sort of whizzed by without garnering much notice from me. Blue sky, yellow fields, green trees; blue sky, yellow fields, green trees; blue sky, yellow fields, green trees. The bridge at Wangfu Town [望夫], where I had lunch, was not only a dangerous bridge of the marked 'no trucks over a certain size' type but also of the 'yeah, I think I'll get off and walk across' variety.

Not long after the roadworks at Shalang Town [莎琅] (because it's really hard to go more than a day's worth of travel in China without hitting roadworks) I was able to get back on the small roads with their shade trees and their unlocked temples full of various kinds of folk art to varying degrees of skill. Xiadong Town [霞洞] showed a single hotel where I could potentially stay but I didn't like the look of the town, I still had a decent amount of sunlight left to me (and a headlight!), and I wanted to be sure to be able to meet Ivan and Catalina around the time they arrived in Maoming on the first bus from Guangzhou, so I kept going.

If I'd known that Lintou was going to be such a pain in the posterior or that the two of them wouldn't be getting to Maoming until past 2pm, I would have could have should have stayed in Xiadong. But I didn't know so all I did in Xiadong was buy a few kilos of scratch and dent fruit to shove in my panniers for snacks, and get all excited about new (to me) old propaganda murals related to China's Family Planning Policies.

I'll admit that my RedBubble shop (which still hasn't given me a minimum wage return on my time invested but which is starting to show some healthy numbers) has prompted me to intentionally be more proactive about getting stuff for my propaganda collection but part of how I was able to set up the shop in the first place was that I had such an extensive collection of propaganda and temple art ranging from the incredibly beautiful to the downright bizarre. Also, I really really like it when I post some newly discovered wall slogan on my WeChat Moments and my Chinese friends collectively go "WTF. Where did you find that?"

I may have lived here 17 years already, but I'm seeing China through the eyes of a foreigner. It's one thing for me to think something is weird or unique or interesting. It's quite another to have local people confirm that it is in fact weird and unique and interesting. 

Today's ride: 97 km (60 miles)
Total: 3,431 km (2,131 miles)

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