D3: 覃斗→调风 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

August 23, 2020

D3: 覃斗→调风

At some point between when I left my bike in the lobby and when I came back down again in the morning, the saggy, veiny, light-up truck nutz that I had hanging from the back of my saddle were taken. Ultimately, when I'm in small towns staying places that don't have an elevator, I'm probably going to leave my bike in the lobby anyways, because it's too inconvenient not to do it, but my resolve has been tested.

After confirming with the owner of the hotel that there is no clocktower on "Clocktower Road", I start the morning off with a visit to the aptly named "Old Street Alley". I was actually aiming for the temple on the corner because the pictures I'd taken of the inside in 2018 were pretty terrible but the chanting coming from inside sounded like it might be actual people chanting and not an mp3 on repeat so I didn't go in.

Having been convinced that I need to start a Chinese TikTok account because sharing my photos and comments places other than to quasi private social media will get me a lot of positive attention of the sort that will lead to paying work, I rode down to the end of the alley and decided to make this one of my first talking while riding videos. For the record, I'd like to state that I think this is an incredibly stupid thing and I'm very much against it. However, the person doing the arguing used good, logical arguments, and I agreed to try it out.

That more than 10,000 people have viewed a 30 second video of my reading out loud a sign which says "No Pedestrians or Livestock allowed on the Expressway" does not, in any way, shape, or form, convince me that this is not stupid; it merely convinces me that it has value.

Since the videos not only have incredibly poor production value but are also all in Chinese, I doubt that I will be sharing them here.

After the first run down the street, I biked back to the end to get photos of some of the more interesting looking buildings. While doing this, a particularly annoying fellow started intensely questioning me and being a royal pain in the ass. I'm not sure if he was attempting humor or was serious when he asked if the reason I was taking pictures of old buildings is because I'm a spy as, at one point, he suggested that if I didn't stop taking pictures of the old buildings he was going to call the police on me. (I ignored him and continued taking pictures of the old buildings.)

Then, nearly all the way back to the main road, I found what I was looking for. Up in the protected eaves underneath the overhanging roof, a barely visible 1960s painting where, in some other towns, a Big Character Slogan might have gone. The outline of a muscular farm woman and a handsome revolutionary man were just barely discernible.

"Well, if you aren't a spy, then what are you looking for taking pictures of these old buildings?"
"Drawings like this one from the 1960s."
"That's not from the 1960s." (Because he was also that kind of person who also has to disagree with everything someone else says.)
"See, the woman and the man behind her."
"Right ..." 

"OH! Hey! Come over here and take a look at what the foreigner found! It's really cool! You got to come see this! There's a drawing from the 1960s still up in the rafters!!"

Because I've let myself get into such poor shape, and because I'm carrying a lot of extra weight (both on my body and on my bike), I'm trying to take the first couple of days easy. As opposed to my usual habit of stopping as often as possible to look at cool things, this means stopping as often as possible to look at cool things.

I quite enjoyed the five minutes or so I spent watching bananas get processed from field to box to truck through two wash tanks and on to a spinny thing where they were further sorted into "ones with problems" (cut off and thrown on the ground) and "ones to sell". There was a bit of the current hesitation that comes with my being not-Chinese and them not knowing that the borders are still mostly closed and I'm not a plague rat but once it was determined that I've been living in China for a long time, they were as happy to show off their banana packing skills as I was to watch them pack bananas.

Back on the bike and a further 50 meters uphill, the driver of an empty truck that was waiting for the first truck to be filled flagged me down and offered me a ride. "No thanks, I'm biking." Then he wanted to talk to me. I don't really have much to talk about but it's a hot day, I'm taking it easy, and why not. The conversation quickly devolves past the usual "touring cyclist questions" to "dumb foreigner questions" and arm hair touching to me having to straight up scold him "don't touch me!" because he's poking at my calves now.

This was when he propositioned me.

In 18 years of living in China, I've had 8 instances of extremely inappropriate behavior from random men. Once in Sanya, once in Haikou, once in Jiangxi, once in Yunnan, once in Hubei, and three times now in Leizhou County.

Chinese is a very ambiguous language when it comes to sex. The word "high tide" is the same as the word "orgasm" with the only difference that orgasms and the docking of sailboats usually don't take place in the same conversation. I chose to ignore the obvious context of what he was saying and firmly state that I was in the middle of the bike trip and was going to be ending this conversation and getting back to biking now.

"No, no, you don't understand... I will give you money. Money."

Uh, yeah. I do understand. And even at age 39 to his age 40, I'm very uninterested in a long haul truck driver whose mouth is about a third rotted teeth and a third missing from "a recent car accident". I'll be ending this conversation and getting back to biking. Now.

"Renminbi. Money. I will pay you."
No, no you won't. Good bye.

A little while later his empty truck drives past me and I become sufficiently concerned that I consider the possibility of turning around or taking a turn off. Working up the courage to continue down the road I was already on, he's waiting at the expressway on ramp apparently talking on the phone. I get a photo of his license plate and make sure a friend knows that this guy appears to be following me. I am well and truly spooked at this point and only willing to keep going ahead because the next actual town is only a few more kilometers and it seems to be a reasonably trafficked stretch of road.

Minutes later, the sky opens up, it begins to pour, and a truck that definitely isn't intended to be carrying passengers goes by with the crew from the banana plantation all shouting "hi" at me. Mr. Truck Driver wasn't following me in search of an opportunity to pack his banana after all. He was leaving because they stopped packing bananas. And that appearing to be on his phone at the on ramp was probably him actually being on his phone at the on ramp as he tried to figure out where to go next to get a load of bananas for his truck.

I still stop at the next available lunch spot and take a lengthy lunch break of fried eggplant that was probably the cause of the gastrointestinal upset that started about 90 minutes later as I had just found the Changzhuyuan Ancient Fortress outside of Yingli Town.

Firmly clenching my asscheeks as I not only was in a thoroughly unsuitable place to be popping a squat but also had somehow failed to have toilet paper on me yet, I had a very quick visit to the outside of the Fortress and didn't check out the surrounding village at all. I gather from the commentary I got on my TikTok video that I wouldn't have been able to go inside the Fortress without advance planning anyways so it's not as big a loss as it might have been.

Thinking I was sure to find a village shop somewhere down the road, I did not turn back towards Yingli and a petrol station or a convenience store but continued onwards up a ridge that surely wasn't there when I was planning things with the topo map (because I'd planned a different road and picked this one on the basis of the Fortress). I probably would have gotten off and walked a few times anyways but the effort being spent on not being able to fart without shitting myself definitely contributed to my inability to ride the whole way up. A few pernicious gas bubbles managed to sufficiently coalesce that, given my refusal to let them go out one end, came out the other end as vile tasting burps.

I'd just crested the ridge and blown past the sort of detour I love in search of any goddamn place where I could buy some toilet roll when I finally found a restaurant where I could do my business. The relief of not being in pain anymore coupled with the relief of not going uphill anymore made the rest of the day particularly pleasant though I was pretty sore and achy all over.

As this was supposed to be a camping day, and as I'm rather averse to camping when hotels are an option, I promised myself that if I camped tonight I would allow myself to take a codeine on the grounds that not only was some of the miserable pain in my bad leg, codeine is good for stomach distress.

I went by the police station as planned intending to let them know that I was going to be camping and intending to let them know that I remembered them fondly from 12 years earlier only to find the police station under renovation and completely without people. Not finding the guesthouse that had been three or four doors down the road from the police station, I went to the only place shown on the map thinking that if they gave me any kind of hassle I was going to figure out this whole camping thing.

They didn't give me any hassle at all. And figured out that registration with the computer is possible without me starting out behind the counter (I ended up behind the counter in a joint effort to get everything filled in but I didn't start there). And they had an elevator.

I was asleep by 8pm.

And very very pissed off to be awoken around 9pm when some guy in a mask came and knocked on my door to fill out paperwork showing that I'd been in the country for more than 14 days and have a green health code.

Today's ride: 56 km (35 miles)
Total: 135 km (84 miles)

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