D17: 马练→滴水村 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

September 8, 2020

D17: 马练→滴水村

In 2008, if I had made it to Malian with muscle power, and if I hadn't had the brake issue that made me unwilling to continue onwards after Malian, my trip journal tells me I was planning on going to Mengshan [蒙山]. Not that I would have made it (no matter what the roads were like) but at least I was going that direction (north and a bit east) and not farther west cause the roads to Jinxiu, even now they are gnarliness personified.

The main road was built between 2010 and 2011. A few sections of the old unpaved(?) road were still left behind when I rode this area in 2012 but they were more or less unconnected with each other and I was strongly encouraged not to take them when there was a bright, shiny, new road to take. Eight years later, the bright shiny new road isn't as bright and shiny as it was but it's still a very impressive feat of engineering.

Problem with being a very impressive feat of engineering is that, despite going up and over some very tall mountains, you barely get to see any of the mountain scenery as you spend the vast majority of your time sandwiched between hill cuts. Even when it's not cutting the corner of a hill, the work to maintain a relatively even grade throughout always puts the road surface a few meters below the land surface. As I similarly complained in 2012, the only way to actually see the scenery would be to stop and climb on top of things.

Oatmeal in my room for first breakfast followed by a trip to the Post Office to pick up a care package from Tyra with more instant oatmeal, dried cranberries, and Diclenofac patches (which turn out not to be available in "most pharmacies") as this is an utterly brilliant painkiller which doesn't affect UV tolerance if it is taken as a topical solution.

Got distracted by some yummy fried things on my way out of town and then distracted again by a shop selling a dish (水豆腐) which dozens of TikTockers had said I absolutely must have if I was in the Tonghe/Malian area. That dish turned out to be the unimpressive pieces of tofu in a watery green soup that I had for breakfast in Tonghe in 2008 and, as in 2008, made a suitable bland accompaniment for the yummy fried things.

Started with a relatively gradual uphill but, soon enough, the road had to go over the mountains and I had to get off and walk. For the 10km of the main climb, I think I walked about 8km so it's safe to say that my gimpy leg is no longer grumping about me having the audacity to use it when I'm not sitting down.

I kind of wanted to make it all the way to Changdong [长垌] where I spent the night in 2012 but lodging in Changdong wasn't especially guaranteed; my attempts to stay in my tent have been thoroughly overridden by a combination of fatigue, not actually wanting to camp, and the weather; and I couldn't handle another 5km climb at the end of the day. Instead, I cruised to a stop in Dishui Village which, by virtue of being a village that the main road now goes straight through, has developed far more in the direction of outward facing business than Changdong has. 

(As I would see the next day, Changdong still has the schools and the local hospital but it doesn't really have shops or restaurants. Not that Dishui had many of those either.)

The family who run the Rural Tourism Guesthouse I stop at is eating dinner as I pull up. The man (I thought he was Dad but he's Grandpa) left the table to make a call to let the Village Committee know that a foreigner had shown up which would have frustrated me a lot more years that aren't this one; this year I was just glad that he had the decency not to make the call to the government while in front of me.

The man from the Village Committee showed up maybe 5 or 10 minutes later and had no problem with me staying. He photographed my passport, looked at my Covid test results, and chatted about road conditions. Really, other than the fact that he had to show up at all, he was actually kind of pleasant to interact with.

Since the family was in the process of eating dinner, I asked if I could pay a small fee to eat with them instead of having something specially cooked for me. Judging by the variety of items and how they were jumbled together, I think it was leftovers. Items ranged between "oh my god, what is this amazingness that I just put in my mouth" (a green thing that possibly involved wheat flour) and "meh" with, of course, there being far more "meh" than there was amazing.

When I asked what kind of fish I was eating, I was informed that it was fried. When I tried again, he pointed and told me it came from the nearby river. 

Today's ride: 41 km (25 miles)
Total: 865 km (537 miles)

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