Having pondered whether we could reach Lixian last night, with two hours of light remaining, will explain just how astray our map led us. It abbreviates hairpin twisting roads up hundreds of meters over mountain passes with a straight line. Therefore we, blindly expecting truth and only truth from our navigation tools, trusted it like we do Ordnance Survey maps, and were all geared up for an easy day in the saddle.
We began in the rain, or in a cloud, it was hard to say, and headed up a river valley. The road swung right a full 180 degrees. I stopped to check the map; no such change of direction was indicated. Three hours later, we were back on track, bird’s eye only two or three kilometres away, now surrounded by snowy fields hundreds of meters higher and a lot of sweat spent later! We had promised ourselves during any bad patch of road in the rest of the trip that China’s roads were all perfect, now we realised how wrong we were!
The mud, grit and streams across the road produced a sticky combination which unavoidably made our bikes so filthy I had to listen to music to avoid wincing at the noise my derailleur was making. Our mud guards came in useful as mud scrapers, ensuring our wheels could just about turn, and we made it down the other side of the mountain for noodles, and some more noodles.
Another mountain pass later and the mud, to lighten matters, became a deep russet red usually reserved for rusting metal. Justin Timberlake guided me over this section. When we hit a road again, car washes were abound and I did not hesitate in heading straight for the pressure washer which took a layer of earth off, and then another pressure washer further down the road too!
We settled in a town hotel (still not in Lixian…) and hung up our tent over the courtyard to let it dry while we went for dinner in a super friendly restaurant. We asked if they had pudding and watched them rush to the local patisserie so that they could say yes!