D28: 祥霖铺→道 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

September 21, 2020

D28: 祥霖铺→道

I really tried to like Dao. By which I mean I really tried not to dislike Dao. Because if I didn't know the history of Dao, I actually wouldn't have a problem with Dao. 

Obviously, the gray weather and the threat of rain made my ride through Dao County to the city of Dao less beautiful than it might otherwise have been but it was a moderately flat day, I was reasonably well rested, and if there weren't as many interesting things to see as there had been in Jiangyong, that doesn't mean that there were no interesting things.

It's just.

I can't get what happened there out of my head.

Knowing what happened and traveling in Dao, I feel like a tourist on the Cambodian Killing Fields. I mean, it was only 1.5% of the county population at the time and only a 2 month period versus the 20% that Cambodia had over a 4 year period but, actually, when you look at it as "percentage of the population" over "given period of time", the Dao killings - although smaller in every other measurable way - were actually more serious.

That today, like my last time in Dao (which was also the first time I heard about the Dao Massacre), is a rainy gloomy dreary day is not helping my malaise one bit.
That today, like my first time in Dao (back in 2008), is substantially lacking in Sites of Interest that were nice places once upon a time or which are more than a hundred years old (and the knowledge I have now of how to wander gets me wandering into some pretty rural areas) also isn't helping.

After successfully finding a bridge that I photographed myself on in 2008, I end up on some quite alright farm roads whose only real problem is that the GPS has different ideas than I do about what the GPS means when the GPS announces "turn right". There's a handful of Maoist slogans, another handful of falling down buildings with rotting antique furniture, a rather pretty canal, and a highway under construction; and if I were anywhere other than Dao with anything other than the knowledge of what happened in Dao, I imagine I'd be having a great time. Because, even with it being Dao and even with what I know about Dao just weighing on me, I'm not actually having a bad time.

Their neighbors turned them in.
It's not just that they were executed in often horrific ways but they were executed because members of their community turned them in over situations both real and false because it was better to be the betrayer than be the betrayed. Forget a "they came for the X and I said nothing" type scenario, this was "they came for the Y and I told them that my cousin was secretly a Y".

Even when the younger folk smile at me as I whizz by, I find myself thinking "were your parents murderers?" "did they throw the first stone?" "did they report the unpatriotic thoughts?" and although I often smile an automatic smile back at them, I know that the warmth of a real smile is missing from my expression.

Despite all this, once I'm in Dao and it's only very early afternoon, and the way in which the towns with lodging line up to either give me plenty of time before sunset or to ensure that I'll be riding well after dark, I end up stopping and getting an hour long massage from a blind man who is set up with a chair and a sign in a local stretch of parkland along the waterfront. Because really, when else am I going to get the opportunity for a massage where I don't have to change out of my stinkies first?
Where the raindrops occasionally patter on a big umbrella hanging in the tree over my head?

I weeble wobble my way up north to the farthest edge of urban Dao and am in the process of heading west to the nextmost town on the way back into Guangxi when I break a spoke. A perusal of the map indicates that if I don't turn around and go back to Dao, it may be many days before I next have the opportunity to go to a bike shop so, unhappy though I am about it, and mentally joking to myself about angry ghosts, I circle back and head for the cluster of bike shops shown on Maps but which I didn't pass on my initial way through town.

The Giant is locked and the not-a-Giant is currently staffed by an 8 year old who isn't sure when Daddy will be back but the items on display in the not-a-Giant give me the confidence to sit and wait for him.

They turn out to be really quite lovely people. Knowledgeable about stuff I'll certainly be wanting to visit in their county. Who know why my newly built wheel is both true and breaking spokes (its overtensioned for luggage and rough roads). Not only do I end up with the issue fixed (and, in true "good bike shop in China" fashion, they refuse to accept money from a touring cyclist) but I enjoy the time spent while the issue is being fixed, and (unlike most mechanics) they take the time to explain to me what they are doing while they are doing it in ways that don't really help my hands-on ability but which do wonders for my theoretical knowledge of how to fix things.

I've left the shop and am heading towards a hotel I really don't want (because its in Dao) after the first hotel I didn't want auto-rejected my online reservation because my name had no Chinese characters (an omen that tonight is sure to be a Police Night) when, at the first traffic light, a guy on a motorcycle stops me to talk about my tour and my bike, and for reasons that are entirely related to this being Dao, I'm initially a little bit extra suspicious of him (why does he want to talk to me?) but he turns out to be the sort of Chinese person who recognizes that I've got a Rohloff and then he turns out to be someone who knows people I know and I feel bad for ever doubting him.

He's no more than my age, and probably quite a bit younger. If his parents were alive then, they would have maybe just recently figured out the joys of solid food.

I feel worse for doubting him when he ends up telling me awesome places I ought to visit the next day and which I definitely would have missed if he hadn't told me.

And then the owner of my hotel is a perfectly lovely woman who has no problems at all with me being a foreigner and who lets me do a load of laundry in her washing machine.

It was 53 years ago. 

That's a lot of time for things to change.
For memories to fade. 
For memories to be deliberately suppressed.

Although my interactions with the people of Dao (both online and offline) were overwhelmingly positive, I still can't help myself in feeling this lingering negativity towards them. Because it wasn't an invading army; it wasn't one ethnic group pitted against another; it wasn't any "good" reason at all; but instead was neighbors against family ... and how can someone who experienced that go back to being a normal, sane, healthy individual? How can they raise normal, sane, healthy children?

Today's ride: 40 km (25 miles)
Total: 1,388 km (862 miles)

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