D26: 龙虎→江永 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

September 19, 2020

D26: 龙虎→江永

I moan and groan about how, in 2008, I took a week to write up entries and then, in 2020, when I have an available laptop with me, I take a week to write up entries.

I am not especially enthused by Longhu. Quite a lot has been done to make the town "pretty" but it fails to take into account that there is nothing about the town which is actually "attractive". The new olde covered marketplace with its heavily Yao ethnicity influenced elements is very nicely done but that doesn't change the fact that - even as a marketplace aimed solely at locals - there are barely any vendors. I suppose if it were one of those Market Fairs (that are barely much of anything nowadays when you can do your shopping online) where, even now, the streets still overflow with people in from the countryside dressed up in their marketday best to see all their other distant neighbors, they might be able to fill up the emptiness, but its a rough call. 

I'd have to check the satview but I'd guess that a good third of Longhu's street (that's intentionally "street" in the singular, not a misspelling of "streets") has been taken over by the covered marketplace which, fortunately, is wide enough and tall enough that cars (if there were any) can still drive through.

For first breakfast, I finish the oranges I have with me. I contemplate oatmeal or coffee but decide that I'd rather just wait until I get to Cuishijiang for a hot breakfast cooked by someone else (though I will make coffee while I'm having those dumplings). I consider backtracking the couple hundred meters to the locked up temple which had an interesting exterior in 2008 to see if it was open but, on the basis of the folk art doors having been replaced with plain brown, I decide that even if it is openit is unlikely to be of interest.

Despite knowing how China is constantly upgrading and regrading its roads; changing the banking, the curves, the lumps and humps and wiggles; the road I was on was pretty important 12 years ago and I wouldn't have actually thought that many changes had happened. However, the tiny little bump of a pass that I have to cross in the notch in the mountain range that divides Guangxi from Hunan is visibly less steep.

Because I'm looking for it, I find evidence of an old-road-that-was, and the new pass is a good 3 or 4 meters lower than that one was (whenever it was).

Once into Hunan, there are many many more buildings than I think this road should have. While its true that some of them were certainly built between then and now, it's more likely (on the basis of the different styles and the occasional old slogan) that I simply failed to notice them enough to remember them over such a span of years especially when, at the time, it was raining and I'd put my camera away (still managed to break that camera in a probably not moisture related way before the end of that tour).

Approaching Taochuan [桃川], I'm greeted by some properly old stuff. It starts with me getting distracted by a particularly interesting tree, then a grimy building that would surely have been something special in the early 90s, before I see a fascinating Birth Control Policy slogan (yes, I know, my definition of "fascinating" probably isn't your definition of "fascinating") which leads me to an abandoned mid 19th century dwelling that still has some laminated wedding photos (early 2000s) on the wall to give pause and make one wonder why they got left behind. 

Stretches of road such as this one (which is no more than 100 meters long) are why it takes me all day to travel 50 kilometers.

I'm actively trying to find a specific site in Taochuan that showed up on AMap as a point of interest but which turned out not to be interesting in the slightest. Instead, I find (150 meters down a farm road on the wrong side of the road) a Recognized Historic Building that's something Famous but which is also both securely locked up and undergoing renovations, a selection of Party slogans of various eras (including a super rare slogan regarding Jiang Zemin's Three Represents as this is something which was common enough in its day and sufficiently apolitical that it should have gotten painted over with something else equally common a dozen times since), some stone markers that I know have something to do with imperial examinations, and the old downtown.

The old downtown is the first time the writing on the wall has sent shivers down my spine.

It's a Great Leap Forward slogan. Rah rah hiss boom bah. It's a supportive Great Leap Forward slogan that's only unusual in that it's 60 years old and still visible. I'm not going to go poring through my collection to see if I have anything similar because, frankly, my collection is too large and too disorganized with too many photos of text that I haven't transcribed. Next to it, in bigger characters, connected to it but not of it, there's something illegible. Something that's been both scratched out and whitewashed over.

Abiding by the Law is Glorious; Committing Criminal Acts is Disgraceful.
Safeguard the Great Leap Forward in Workers and Peasants' Production.

Dao County [道县] is next door and the Dao County Massacre was actually 10 years after the Great Leap Forward but, even so, even if it gets better once I realize that the unreadable stuff is the wrong number of characters to be someone's name, I'm almost certainly looking at a denouncement. Evidence of a heinous crime that wasn't a crime when it happened and which was sensitive enough that no one much had the guts at any time in the past 60 years to do anything other than let it slowly weather away with time.

(It was also sensitive enough that its probably the reason why my first TikTok video of the old downtown was pulled for "failing to meet community standards".)

After the old downtown, I stop at a petrol station to refill my water bottles and empty my bladder. Also, because its an option available to me, I get a bag of Doritos which I eat accompanied by a large piece of pomelo given to me by the station attendant.

From Taochuan, I head to Shanggantang Village [上甘棠] which I know absolutely nothing about but which I discover, upon my arrival, is a relatively well preserved walled village (with the walls intact!) that has been declared, in its entirety, as a National Cultural Relic Protection Unit. Because I take a side road (anything to get off of the main road), I miss the first of the decaying roadhouses that I photographed in 2008 but I will make up for this later on by finding a far more interesting roadhouse outside Shanggantang on the route I take in and finding the second (with newly restored walls and a roof) on my way back to the main road.

Shanggantang feels like the sort of place that would be very interesting to go to for a weekend trip with other people. Alone and in the middle of having found all sorts of equally interesting and completely undocumented things, I doubt I spend even 20 minutes in the village and that includes the time spent trying to find my way out as I really don't want to hump my bike up and over the broken bridge.

In 2008, as I was leaving Jiangyong County for the main road, there was a sign welcoming people to Jiangyong and calling it the County of 10,000 Relics or some other similarly poetic thing. As both the next day's journey along the main road and my next trip off the main road (for what might have been a savings of as much as 200 meters in distance traveled if I hadn't repeatedly detoured off of it) both showed, this is very much the case with practically every single village being built around a cluster of houses dating as far back as the 16th and 17th centuries.

However, for all that I try, there simply isn't enough sunlight left to get even the skimpiest glance of all of them, most of them, or even many of them. Because of the time spent detouring though, my last hour of riding is done in pitch blackness, with the constant reminder that I still haven't moved my headlight to a position where part of it isn't blocked by the front racks.

I come into Jiangyong with one last, rather large, roadhouse that I'm barely able to see in the darkness and which neither the light from my phone nor my tent fan/powerbank/flashlight is enough to take any credible photos of (I don't have a tripod so I haven't yet bothered learned how to take long exposures on this camera), get dinner at the first tolerable looking restaurant, and book a hotel online.

Said hotel can't find my online booking but is perfectly willing to let me stay and for less than the online booking service, I just need to cancel with the third party booking agent. This seems dubious to me but, while I'm still trying to figure out how to cancel the non-refundable booking, it auto-returns to me on the grounds that "the hotel has not yet responded to your booking".

Open for 20 years already, the Changhong Hotel 长虹宾馆 has the look of faded luxury for a time and place when the definition of "luxurious" was something very very different from what it is now. 

Today's ride: 56 km (35 miles)
Total: 1,308 km (812 miles)

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