D24: 阳朔→沙子 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

September 17, 2020

D24: 阳朔→沙子

As I am back to following a piece of road which I biked in 2008, my astonishment at the distances that 27 year old me managed is again renewed. Sure, I was carrying at least 15kg less weight at the time (that's in terms of my body, not my bike), and I was 12 years younger than I am now, and I had far fewer distractions such as work, social media, or knowing what I was looking at and why it was interesting enough to merit a detour, explorations, or photos. But, the road quality at the time was positively atrocious, and - on this day in particular - there had been a 45 minute wait for a ferry.

So it seems that, even though I take an extra hour in the morning to make coffee, and even though I started out on the far side of Yangshuo, and even though this and even though that, that I simply shouldn't be arriving one town before the one where I called it a night 12 years ago and going "ooof, I'm tired" and being glad that it's too dark to continue biking.

(Yes, I have a dynamo headlight now. This means I can bike at night. This is a great improvement over previous circumstances where I found myself racing sunset. This does not mean that I ever want to bike in the dark.)

I take a rather long time leaving Yangshuo what with packing my stuff, making and drinking coffee, and going to pick up the mended pair of jeans from the tailor. It's 11am by the time I reach West Street to take photos of myself in the same place as I took photos 12 years ago. Then, because I have a fairly decent idea of what to expect, I decide that the oatmeal I made nearly 3 hours ago wasn't enough and go for lunch.

In 2008, I was already out of Yangshuo by a quarter past 11.

Yangshuo has gotten bigger since 2008. The road I was very sure I took has a bridge out but that's okay because the alternate road ends up being the one that's actually familiar to me, at least until it merges with the new main road. Once I get back out to tiny roads though, nothing is familiar.

There are stops to look at marvelous karst peaks, and stops to add to both my propaganda collection and my old buildings collection. In 2008, I was displeased that I was still in a touristy enough area that random people by the side of the road tried to sell me post cards and that water cost twice what a bottle ought to. In 2020, the woman who chats with me while I'm photographing her neighbor's building tries to sell me bottled water and, when I don't want it, tells me that the outdoor spigot is directly drinkable even though I can clearly see that she's got a water filter for the drinking water in her main room. (Although I am cheap, this isn't a case of me being cheap; I simply don't see any reason to produce more plastic waste than necessary, and really try not to buy individual sized bottles of water if at all possible.)

Twelve years ago I'd made it to the construction site of the Shazi bridge by a quarter past 1, so call it 2 hours on the road. Checking the timestamp of my photos, it actually looks like it took me the same 2 hours. But, because I left so much later, it was a quarter to 3 by the time I got where the ferry used to be and that same 45 minutes that had been spent waiting for a ferry 12 years ago was instead spent taking pictures and making a video for TikTok.

In which case, 27 year old me was still a beast when it comes to distances but I don't need to be nearly so disappointed in 39 year old me as 39 year old me had kind of sort of been thinking that it was probably going to be possible to make it to Xiling [西岭] with the last little bit probably done in the dark up until I got to the intersection of the road I was on with the main road and saw Something Interesting.

Since this particular Interesting Something (a Republican Era roadhouse)has very clearly been rebuilt in recent years, it's hard to say how obvious it would have been 12 years ago (if I'd known to look for it) but, whether its because older me is slower than younger e or because older me is actively on the lookout for certain colors and shapes that younger me didn't realize were special, I see it this time and I didn't see it last time.

The angel on my shoulder was arguing with the devil on my other shoulder about how long I could spend checking out the roadhouse when both the angel and the devil noticed the petrol station and, upon conference with my guts, said "I bet that petrol station has a toilet". It was as if the very existence of a nearby toilet caused the cramps and gurgles which then were rude enough not to fully resolve themselves until a good ninety minutes later when I got myself into a hotel room. 

The combination of waiting to see if my guts were going to produce anything else and checking out the roadhouse meant that it was getting close enough to sunset as I approached Shazi that it seemed very unlikely that I was going to convince myself to go any farther when I saw a very faded sign for the Shazi Old Town and an equally faded sign for a parking lot that appears to no longer exist. Efforts were clearly made to take what was there, preserve it, and push it at tourists. Just as clear though was that these efforts had failed, miserably.

I can never make up my mind fully whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. For one thing, I find most of the places that have been cleaned up and made pretty to have next to no appeal. Little if anything actually historic is left behind and many of the rebuilt structures are of lesser quality than the crumbling heaps they are replacing. On the other hand though, if they don't get cleaned up, the general tendency is that they continue to fall apart; and, I don't like that either.

The time spent on the old streets plus a bit of circling to find a hotel that was on the same side of the street as me got me over my minimum 50 kilometers for the day. I left the bike in the lobby while going to buy some oranges because fruit with peels seemed a good safe option for the way my stomach was feeling.

I was sure by the time I came back to the lobby that the hotel owner would have called the police to check if it was actually okay for me to stay as a foreigner or something like that but, no, the new pattern of the old normal continued and if he didn't think it was important, I didn't see any reason to push for my being registered on the computer.

(Since I'm also being amazed at the prices I recorded 12 years ago, I'm going to go back to trying to remember to mention them. The room was 50.)

Today's ride: 51 km (32 miles)
Total: 1,201 km (746 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 2
Comment on this entry Comment 0