I apologise to (the) avid reader(s) of this blog: the following is about three days, we really could not find enough to talk about to fill three blogs!
We left Xi’An with a last heart wrenching goodbye from Mark outside the hostel and headed due East. With 1800km to go, we are going straight towards the destination, via a couple of small detours and the extra distance which not using motorways entails. Smog encapsulated the whole city and fog (or still smog, I cannot tell the difference) covered everywhere outside of the city, so we could only see about 200m away. This is perfectly safe on a road, but just a bit of a shame considering the no doubt beautiful mountains whose bases we can observe temptingly without the view of the peaks.
We stopped for lunch in a petrol station restaurant, fell asleep at the table – as a result of using too much wifi in Xi’An, no doubt – and pushed on until dusk set in. We did not realise we would be going uphill, nor could we see ahead to check out the profile, so we just peddled into a constant mild drizzle, pulled over by an unused house on the hill, erected the tent and cooked some noodles.
Lights out by 7pm and neither of us awake until twelve hours later… We will no doubt dream of nights like this in years to come! The drizzle continued through the next morning, so we reluctantly removed our panda bear and reindeer hats as we cycled off to keep them dry. We stopped for an early lunch of the local specialty, bread and meat soup (in fact rather good), and delved deep into our books. Two hours later, we set off again. The rain had gotten worse, and twenty metres down the road, we saw another restaurant. We gave each other a telling glance, soaked through our helmets already, and stopped for another lunch… and dinner… before camping right next door in a soaking car park!
We woke up to a warm breakfast of steamed stuffed buns and rice pudding type thing served outside by the restaurant, along with a whole new crowd of Chinese men and women asking why we had just popped out of that wet green fabric in the car park. Enthusiasm unharmed, we set off and continued along far more mountainous (though low altitude) terrain than we had anticipated!
The constant muddiness on the edge of the road meant we took our bikes for another power shower to reduce the grinding we could hear and feel. Does anyone know why the right hand side of the road (Eastwards) is always wetter and muddier than the left? Very little happened of interest… We bought some peanuts, and some sweet potatoes, and cooked them in a campfire started with cardboard and a lot of fuel to get the wood dry enough to burn at all!