/ / : Ningqiang km
Leaving Guangyuan we were faced with an area of bedlam due to road construction, but a friendly fellow on a motorbike led us through, pausing and chatting while Chris took photos of Buddhas in niches on a cliff. He led us to the highway entrance booth, making sure we were allowed though despite the “no bikes” sign. There are four-lane motorways where motorbikes aren’t allowed, and we wouldn’t try to wangle our way onto one of these. This was only two lanes, and way to avoid km of construction. It was efficient transportation with thumbs up from truck drivers. However, we wanted to investigate a back road option pointed out by Dong, so we left the highway to look and ask about options and road conditions.
We got off an exit too soon, so we got on again and off again and ended up talking to the police about the road. They checked our passports, which takes time because they hadn’t done it often, it turned into an English lesson about surnames and given names, they served us lemonade, and took turns having their pictures taken with us. Deciding the small road was not a viable option, we headed back to the highway to find we were riding through a cloud of bees that lasted for the nextkm. Luckily, they didn’t seem to sting when they hit us. We passed people selling walnuts and caged finches. At truck weigh stations women pushed carts from which they sold mi fan —cooked rice, with a choice of three toppings — to truck drivers. We are getting lots of practice at negotiating tunnels.
The road became a pleasant ride once most of the traffic left for the new highway. In Ningqiang, we stayed at a hotel where three young staff were so excited by us being there that they all came along to bring two bowls of noodles to our room. (I think I accidentally ordered these by saying they looked good when I saw some carried on a tray in the elevator.) They stayed to chat while we ate, and we ended up writing them thank you notes on Vancouver postcards, which seemed to please them.
/ / : Mianxian km
In the morning, we made an earlier start than we’ve been managing as of late. We passed through a slot canyon, climbing more than descending, and came out onto a plain. Our mid-morning second breakfast was bowls of home-made rice noodles with potatoes and tofu.
We stopped to watch cylindrical bags being filled with mushroom growing medium, and were invited to inspect a tent-like structure where the plastic bag “logs” were stacked and the mushrooms grew. There were large areas of these structures, as well as stacks of real logs which had been inoculated with plugs of mushroom spawn.
We stopped early, finding a small guest house near a junction where we needed to make another route choice. This left time for map pondering, blog writing, and photo sorting.
2009/03/18: Liuba 110 km – We rolled past 4,000 km today!
This morning we were on the road by 8:00, and and saw women preparing to transport live chickens using a method we had not yet seen. Second breakfast was fried onion bread at a junction after 35 fast and flat kilometres. The next 70 km followed a river upstream, with good scenery and fun fast cycling. We arrived in the town, and stopped for a soft drink before hunting for a hotel. The shop owner showed us around a small factory behind the shop, where ornate walking sticks were carved from purple cypress and packaged for export to Italy. We’ve found a hotel that has seen better days but actually has clean sheets, a step up from last night.