Monday, 28 November 2011

82. Farther along China's backroads: from Hunan to Guizhou and into Guangxi

"A peasant must stand a long time on a hillside with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in." - a Chinese proverb quoted by Paul Theroux (1988) Riding the Iron Rooster

Three weeks ago and my last day in Changsha. I meet up again with Phoenix and Diana, a couple of girls whom I had met the previous weekend through Canadian Mike. Together with a couple of their friends we walk along the promenade that overlooks the much depleted Xiangjiang river. A long dry spell since the start of the year and excessive reliance on the river to supply local domestic and industrial needs has led the river to fall to a record low level. The foundations of the bridge that span the wide alluvial plain are in clear sight, protruding from the dessicated river bed in which they are bed. A rusting hulk is tied up to the bank beneath the recently constructed temple built to honour one of China's most revered poets - the Tang dynasty bard Du Fu, who died in the city in 770 A.D. Large red and yellow banners are tied to the side of the vessel while a recorded message is broadcast on a crackling loudspeaker and lambasting local authorities for failing to deal with the situation of declining water levels.

A few hours later, Mark arrives into Changsha airport from Denver and a few short hours of sleep after that and we're on our way out of Changsha. Our first few days riding together takes us westwards across Hunan province, mostly along the S308 that bisects the province in an unbroken but also often unsealed line. Soon after leaving Ningxiang we pass through coal mining areas where the presence of modern vehicles is often the only addition to a centuries old Dickensian scene of a black-coated earth. Red-brick coal stacks stand on surrounding slopes, bellowing acrid smoke into the damp air and ensuring the smog is hanging thickly around us is constantly replenished as our tyres find their way through the black sludge on the road.

Over the next ten days, however, as we pedalled farther west across Hunan and then into Guizhou and Guangxi provinces, the roads generally became quieter and the scenery more impressive as we had  friendly encounters with the Dong ethnic minority who live in the hills of south eastern Guizhou and northern Guangxi.

Two weeks and around 1100 km after leaving Changsha, we pedalled into Guilin city in northern Guangxi. I left Rocinante in the care of a hostel there and Mark and I took an overnight bus down to Zhuhai, where Mark was working for a few days before flying back to the States. Last Tuesday I walked across the border into Macau and spent the morning there before catching the ferry to Hong Kong and meeting Ellie at the airport. A warmshower's host, Yorkshireman Phil, has hosted us for the past few days while we got our new Chinese visas processed and had a gander around Hong Kong. Tomorrow morning we'll cross back into mainland China and go back to Guilin to continue on our southerly trajectory.

Tuen Mun, Hong Kong S.A.R, China
Pedalled: 53,696 km

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm envious of the continued positive experience you've had in China...but I'm even more envious of your visit to Hong Kong! -Eric(Kumagaya)