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Yangshuo Layover Day
On our arrival in Yangshou people began making plans for the layover day. Some would go on the Li River Cruise, others would go hiking or biking with local guides.
But in the morning it was raining, raining hard. At breakfast people were hopeful that the rain would let up and they could still go sightseeing. But that didn’t happen. It rained all day long. The biking and hiking excursions were cancelled. But the Chinese appeared to be going about their business as usual. A couple who have a portable food stall were right there below my window, fixing breakfast in the rain. There was a large steamer basket full of hard-steamed eggs, a kettle of hot rice cereal, and fried bread sticks which she made by deep frying long strips of a white bread dough, the Chinese donut. She had a kettle of something else that I couldn’t see, probably noodles. They had 3 large umbrellas which they adjusted to give as much protection as possible. Some customers sat on tiny stools to eat under the umbrellas, others took their food with them in little plastic bags.
I sat in my room the entire day working on the web page and having a good nap. The street outside my window is apparently the place to party because the noise of people having a great time lasts late into the night and that made it impossible to sleep. Ruth was there most of the day as well, writing, reading and napping. She did venture forth late in the afternoon though and returned with a bag of goodies including Oreos. This was the first Chinese community we had visited selling western goods. There are Chinese chocolate cookies and candy bars, which I have tried, but I found the candy to be very waxy, more paraffin than chocolate.
It was an uneventful, peaceful layover day, which was just right for me. It’s too bad it rained but it gave me a chance to get to date with the web page.
China is awesome!
Yangshuo to Guilin
I had been looking forward to the ride among the karsts to Guilin because the scenery would be spectacular and it was a short ride, only 64 km. But when I awoke it was raining hard, a big disappointment as that tends to ruin the scenery and any chance of taking photos. I was all set for the rain however with my new Shimano cycling sandals and my red rain cape and just hoped to make it safely to the destination, Guilin. But at breakfast Joan told me that she had put my name on the list for a bus ride to Guilin, saying many riders felt it was too dangerous to ride in the rain in China. The roads would be slippery because of the dust that would have turned to clay, and because of the oil puddles left on the road by old leaking trucks. The traffic is unpredictable: fast, slow, and erratic. I knew she was right and agreed to go on the bus, but I hated giving up such a short doable ride. Even a short ride gives a feeling of accomplishment which is not there after riding the bus.!
Just for the record, 94 riders did cycle and arrived safely in Guilin.
By the time the bus departed at 9 a.m. it had become two busses to accommodate the crowd wanting a ride. A large truck came along to carry our bicycles. This chartered bus and truck service including delivery to the hotel in Guilin cost us each 30 yuan, or about $4.00.
It took barely an hour to reach Guilin and our hotel. It’s so easy in a bus! But we missed all the scenery due to the rain and steamy windows. We could have been anywhere, but we weren’t, we were in China where there are way too many accidents. We had been told to expect to see an accident or two nearly every day. I had already seen one, and on this morning we passed another. Later we learned what had happened from two riders who happened to be there at the instant of impact, Len B. and Racer Bob. Two busses had been zooming down the highway in opposite directions, when suddenly a bus wanting to make a left turn into a school yard did so right in the path of the oncoming bus and Len and Bob who reacted in time to avoid being hit. The turning bus was pushed some yards down the highway. Apparently cyclists and others who happened to be on the side of the road were hit too. Len and Bob hopped off their bikes to help, Bob got the crushed bus door open so that the passengers could exit and Len lifted injured children out through the windows. This is the second time I know of that our riders have been first on the scene and come to the aid of the victims, not counting myself because there wasn’t anything I could do to help that old man in Greece except stroke his hand and talk to him.
Meanwhile we who had bussed sat safely in the Guilin Yinli Overseas Chinese Hotel lobby, waiting for check-in to happen. The riders who actually rode were being given rooms as they arrived, the rest of us had to wait. Luckily my roommate, Ruth, was riding so when she arrived about 1:30 she was given the key. Of course she was riding. Ruth is one of those amazing people who has ridden every single inch of the Odyssey. But she is very modest about it and points out that while she is riding every inch of the revised itinerary or 18,294 miles, she is not riding every inch of the original itinerary which had totaled 20,000 miles. Some few are including Jim Higbee and Bill Bliss, and perhaps others. They do this by riding more miles on short days like this one and by riding on layover days when most of us go sightseeing or laze about reading a book. They are nuts!
We had been off our bikes so long what with the layover days in Australia and then being without our bikes and in busses all the time in Japan, that some riders began to complain that they would forget how to ride. Of course we knew that wouldn’t happen, but what did happen is that our bottoms lost their conditioning. When we finally got back on our bikes in China, we rode for three days in a row, each one more painful to the backside than the day before. There are two kinds of pain, bruised butt pain and tender skin about to tear or blister pain. I had them both and the layover day in Yangshuo came just in time to save me from blisters. One can probably avoid getting blisters with the liberal use of a lotion called Chamois Butter or some people use bag balm, a product intended for use by farmers to soften the teats of the cows before milking. But I had no more of either. Another solution is to use Dr. Scholl’s corn pads (which look like little donuts) carefully positioned so that the hole in the pad is centered over the sore spot. That prevents that bit of skin from being rubbed and also relieves the pain. I didn’t have any of those either. As far as the bruising goes, there’s nothing to do but tough it out. The situation improves eventually. Not everyone suffers equally in that area. Some say their bottoms never hurt. Shirl told me that once and when I asked True he answered, ‘Not really’. They are lucky!
This was the day that the 40 riders who had gone ‘off route’ to see the major attractions of China like the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors returned. They had had a great trip.
I think I am starting to like greasy food or else the cooking is getting better. We’ve been treated to some delicious dishes lately. I can now pick up individual peanuts with my chopsticks, but however does one cope with those long slippery noodles?
Guilin Layover Day
We thought it was raining but a local told us it was only a drizzle. Whatever, it was one of those days when one would like to curl up with a good book. Ruth and I had a corner room with windows meeting at the corner, giving us double the view of the bamboo that swayed in the wind outside and squeaked when it brushed against the glass. ‘Where are the pandas?’ I asked Ruth.
We also had a thermos of boiling hot water, green tea bags, and blue and white cups with lids so that we could have sipped green tea while the rain drizzled and the bamboo swayed. But duty called. We were tourists and had work to do. We had to see Guilin. Now I had already seen Guilin with my mother when we visited China a few years ago. But I had ignored my duty to be a tourist in Yangshuo and thought it too soon to do so again. So I agreed to go with three friends, Joan I., Gudrun, and Inge to see several of the local sights. We rented a car and driver for 5 hours, costing us each 130 yuan which is quite a lot in Chinese terms, but by far the easiest and most efficient way to get around in a Chinese city. We still had to pay admission fees to each attraction.
The first one was the Reed Flute Cave which Mom and I had seen but somehow it seemed more spectacular this time. I think they have improved the special lighting effects. It was gorgeous, perhaps the best of any cave I have ever seen with its really magnificent stalactites and stalagmites.
The driver then took us to Diecai Hill Park where we intended to climb Piled Silk Hill but messed up and climbed Looking Around Hill instead. I think the view would have been very much the same and didn’t dare suggest we also climb Piled Silk Hill which we could see nearby to compare the views. There were too many stairs. The view wasn’t breathtaking because Guilin is not a beautiful city, not yet anyway. It certainly has the potential to be, with karsts in it midst and in the background too. The Li River runs through Guilin so it has the natural beauty, it just needs to replace most of the buildings. Someday it will be beautiful.
Seven Star Park and Seven Star Cave were next. In the aviary there were a few birds and among them gorgeous golden pheasants that were the epitome of the perfect Chinese bird, so exotic with its golden head and crest and red feathers. After that I saw it in Chinese watercolor paintings and butterfly wing art. Butterfly wings had been cut and glued just so to create pictures of beautiful birds and beautiful ladies. But no one could tell me the name of the bird. Most people that I’ve run into here have not studied English and can’t understand a single word which is perfectly understandable! The Chinese are like most Americans in that regard. We are lucky that any signs at all are in English.
The Seven Stars Cave was immense, the way through it 1 km. long, and unfortunately we had to rush through it ahead of the guide and most of the special lighting effects. It had been discovered centuries ago and visited by millions who perhaps removed many of the formations for the cave was quite barren with only the stumps of stalagmites to mark where they had been.
In the evening after dinner there was a TK&A meeting at which we received the startling news that Odyssey is running out of money. This is not good! We have six days to find a solution. It’s the incredible expense of the charter flights that has blown our budget.
Then I went to a Chinese folkdance and acrobatic show which was entertaining and fun, the costumes beautiful.
Yan Lei by Fan Xiao Xuan
Scenes from Guangxi Province
Odyssey Riders and Staff
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