D66: 八塘→合川 - China Blues - CycleBlaze

November 12, 2020

D66: 八塘→合川

I took a break in Hechuan in 2012 because someone who I'd been talking to online was coming up from downtown Chongqing to meet me. Even by that point in my travels, I was already in the habit of generally aiming for large towns instead of cities as the chances of "hassle free lodging" were substantially better in places with a total of 5 hotels.

That having been said, even though I'd already come to the conclusion that I didn't want to be in cities, some idiot was too stubbornly wedded to her previously existing plan, and I had to bike straight through downtown Chongqing anyways.

This year, even though I want to visit with a friend who lives downtown, I knew better than to even consider biking into downtown Chongqing.

Since the Chongqing subway runs to Jiangjin and Bishan Districts, I was surprised to find out that the Chongqing subway doesn't run all the way to Hechuan District (like Jiangjin and Bishan, Hechuan ought to be called a "city" but can't be because Chongqing as a whole is referred to as a "municipality under the direct administration of the central government"). However, as my friend (can I call this person a friend if I can't even remember his name?) from 2012 had come up on the train, I already knew that it has passenger rail so, even though nothing went according to plan, it went less magnificently pear shaped than two years ago when I decided to take the train to Beijing from a city that only has freight lines.

It's not a particularly long ride to Hechuan. Even adding in my detours and the Search for a Hotel with a first floor front desk, I don't manage to hit 50km for the day (although I get respectably close).

I start out from Batang on a road that was once important back before places like Chongqing had railways and expressways and, in the process of traveling from A to B, people had to stop in small market towns C, D, and E for food and lodging because travel took so long. Except that, unless you are like me and traveling by bicycle, travel doesn't take so long any more.

Places like Batang aren't as completely forgotten by the world like that crossroads town I stayed at in Yunnan in 2014 that had once had 3 hotels, and 5 restaurants, and 7 tea shops, and 9 mechanics but now only has one guesthouse with a lunchette inside it. However, they aren't anywhere as important as they once were and with the rise of new forms of logistics to get goods to and from places are continuing to fade.

This was particularly noticeable after I turned off the former thoroughfare onto a side road and stopped at an abandoned primary school. Even with migrant worker parents generally choosing (a choice that, depending on their economic situation, may not be an actual choice) to give their babies over to the grandparents to raise for the first 3 or 4 years, the villages are empty of children and schools that once had enough students that it seemed reasonable to have 10 classrooms are shuttered and either abandoned completely or changed over to other things. 

In places that still have enough of a population of children that schools aren't closing, a combination of better roads, school busses, and boarding schools mean that the children are coming together to centralized locations (like Batang Town) for school rather than a rural school like this one.

The mouse decoration still left on the one classroom door makes me think that the last year this school had students was probably 2009, the last Year of the Rat.

I've got an unexpectedly large series of down hills after the school. I'd thought I was going up the ridge but apparently I somehow missed my already being on the ridge. That or the full day off for my stomach's sake made the climbs that I had unnoticeable.

Came in the back end of a hot springs tourism area and back out again without stopping though I did go for lunch in the old town nearby before eventually finding my way, as needs must, on to the trucking route. I don't remember it being quite as trucky in 2012 though I will say that the trucks, for all that they scare the shit out of me, are very well behaved on these curvy mountain roads. In fact, if I had to choose between the drivers of Giant Trucks of Doom and cars, I'd probably say that the trucks are infinitely more aware of their ability to accidentally kill me and adjust their behavior as necessary.

Another old town, another old street. More half timbered houses with walls made of plaster over woven bamboo strips. I didn't even realize that any of these kinds of places existed when I came by in 2012. Back then my detours were far more deliberate to far more notable locations that were almost destinations in and of themselves. Now it's lots of little things all along the way. I especially like finding the things that aren't on the maps like a concrete wall memorial to Norman Bethune that could have actually been from 1939 though that's the year he died so, along with the symbolic sunflowers up near the top, I'm a little dubious that it's that early. 

At the very least the sunflowers (which follow the sun and which represent the people following Chairman Mao) are not from 1939.

I can't be entirely certain but I think the gas station bathroom where I took a crap is the same as one I used 8 years ago. The live plants in the bathroom are different but it's still the only time I've ever seen light wells for live plants in a gas station bathroom and it was memorable.

I wouldn't say that I got lost coming in to Hechuan cause I didn't. I just ignored the GPS and took a longer route that actually had less climbing. Probably less scenery too but definitely wider streets, earlier streetlights, and less climbing. Which, as it was approaching dark by the time I approached Hechuan, were all important factors.

On the approach to the nth hotel (at least the second, maybe the third) found via GPS, I see the local police station around the corner, so, after deciding that I am going to stay at this one, I go back to the station to try to proactively inform them of my existence in order to cut short any hassle.

Whatever this police station is though, despite being labeled a precinct house, it clearly isn't. I count at least 5 office building type buildings and that's not counting the residential housing blocks at the back end of the parking lot.

When I find an open lobby and an apparently on duty officer (behind a locked metal door that was opened when an apparent civilian who was hanging out in the lobby banged on it), he can't imagine any reason why I would even be bothering to try pre-registering my existence at the police station as the computer registration will automatically tell the necessary people at Exit & Entry that I'm at a hotel and if they want to do something about it, they'll do something about it. But that they probably won't do anything about it.

Can't say for certain how easy check in would have otherwise been but the confidence to say "I was already at the police station and they told me to just register on the computer" made talking my way behind the Front Desk quite easy.

Today's ride: 48 km (30 miles)
Total: 3,136 km (1,947 miles)

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