We woke up to more rain and headed out nonetheless into the streets of this unlikely mountain city. With Alex feeling a bit dodgy, we stocked up on some fresh bread to fill the food cravings which might hit us later with only riskier alternatives to hand. We completed the twenty kilometres to go down the Bailong river to rejoin the main road and changed tack to head up the respective valley. En route to Xi’An, the road is not exactly direct, so we are weaving around the map!
The energy drought Alex experienced all morning, the same we often experience as we seem to pass over the diarrhoea hot potato between us, made for a few longer stops by the roadside. Excitingly for me, it meant I spent a bit more time reading and I am finally reaching the climax of my epically long book. We stopped for a long lunch / nap break in a restaurant which I spent with the local hospital staff while they consumed two bottles of 白酒, or “white alcohol”, with little of my help. The state they reached necessitated support from the table, and simultaneously seemed to give them a cold as they incessantly blew out their nostrils onto the floor!
Anyway, at some point in the conversation, I received one of their business cards on the promise they had lots of friends who could host us in Xi’An, we will see how that goes…
We reached the point in the road where we had decided to turn off, heading nearly directly Eastward, and quickly understood the pitfalls of a road atlas. No contours and a very large scale mean that the thirty or so hairpin turns straight up the mountainside were invisible and it took us a good couple of hours to cycle eleven kilometres to a turn with some flat ground to camp on. The size of the lorries overtaking us on this road (which, for once in China, was not asphalt) was astonishing when we expected to be all alone! Instead they blew their horns at every turn and made themselves know for miles around.
Our camping spot is quite unique. The climb has been so steep that the first bit of flat ground we encounter is a miniature field terrace clinging to the edge of the mountain, 700m above the rest of the valley. The edge of the tent (where I sleep) is 50cm away from it, let the dreams begin!
PS: Mum, I am safe and still alive as I post this!