Hello guys, Today we will talk about girl’s legs and the bit of the trip that I cycled alone. Basically all what happened to me when I was riding alone is written on my incredibly long and colourful, like “Meka’s solo adventures” as comrade Riches calls them, legs. Though it was not as bad as it might look like.
First days of any new start are difficult, but normally I adapt well, so really tough was only the first three days. Let me start with a little story from my childhood. When I was 12 or 13, I had a very nice costume of light pink t-shirt and same coloured flared trousers with pictures of some field flowers on the bottom. Me and my friend Nazgulya were chatting on swings when a bee got attracted to the color of my costume and stung me on a finger. I didn’t pay attention to it and we continued chatting, but two minutes later my finger started incredibly itching. Then my eyes started to itch. 15 minutes later when I came home, my whole body was swollen: my fingers were like Bavarian sausages, I couldn’t put them in a fist. And I couldn’t see anything as my Asian eyes become even more narrow. My mom took me to a hospital, where after a couple of injections I was fine again.
A doctor told that it was an allergic reaction to the sting and I’d better be careful with insects as the sting could have led to anaphylactic shock, which if you won’t take care about it immediately might cause fatal end. So, one and a half decades later I was nicely cycling somewhere in China. Not bothering anybody. Sunny day. Metallica is playing in my headphones. Smells of fresh cut grass. I’m slowly making uphill. Somewhere ahead truck driver unloading blocks of hay. My stomach is full of fan je chow dan (eggs and tomato) and a cold coke. I’m like an equivalent of peace and satisfaction. Suddenly I felt something bite me in the arm through my shirt. I freaked out and started to wave my arm, but for some reason, I didn’t stop riding. (I guess I was that scared that I just forget to do it). As I was waving my left arm and punching it with my right one, I noticed something completely black the size of a wasp flew away from me. Suddenly in my head appeared thoughts about anaphylactic shock, then Adam saying: “A wasp’s sting can lead to death”. Then I remembered an episode from a TV-show on Discovery about snakes and how one snake bit a snake hunter, with many years of experience, in his stomach when he just said the phrase “Snakes are not dangerous if you know how to hold them” and put a snake into a basket. He looked perfectly fine, but on the way to the hospital the snake’s acid started to destroy his meat and that guy even after surgery had a huge hole in his stomach of a baseball ball size.
I thought, that is it. I will die. If not because of a wasp’s sting, then because of the allergic reaction to it. For a second appeared a thought about catching a truck and asking to ride me to a hospital, but it was useless, as a couple hours before that I tried to get a ride to the next city (I even had a note saying in Chinese “Take me to Lingbao”)- nobody agreed, even for money. So I checked if I’m dying yet, and I wasn’t. “Hmm…” – I thought. I decided just ride for an hour and check again. During that hour my thoughts were mix of “Everything is fine – the wasp was black and Adam was talking about yellow-striped ones. Maybe blacks are not dangerous and I won’t die” and “Should I call my parents and friends and say them good bye?”.
After an hour I stopped to check the place where that thing bit me. At the moment when I put my feet to the ground, that black nightmare flew away from my ankle and I felt the second bite. It was on my feet all that time when I was cycling! More than that it suddenly started to attack me! It just didn’t leave me! I even tried to sit on my bike and ride away from it, while it was still biting me through my clothes. As it was steep uphill, my speed was low and the black wasp and I spent a sweet 20 minutes of moments of closeness. I thought if not then, now I definitely will die. When it finally left, I checked and I find myself not lying on the ground with foam in my mouth, my eyes weren’t swollen and seemed like no acid eating me from inside. Jack pot!
When I got to place with a mirror, I decided to count how many times that thing bite me. The answer is twenty seven. Like I’m attracting insects, Adam normally attracts Chinese teenagers, which are equally annoying, but some are nice. In Lingbao two 13-14 years old boys helped me to get to a bike shop. One of them spoke pretty good English, had a cute vampire-tooth and bow-haircut. To any sentence that I said, to any response to his question, he was yelling “Awesome!” and once he was very excited that he jumped on his friend. Hey kid, if you are reading it, shoot me an e-mail, I’m looking forward for it.
So, girl’s legs. In a bike shop, my bike got checked by a lady mechanic. A woman, repairing bicycles is already cool, but as a bonus this lady was in her mid 40s, in a dress (fancy enough to go to a restaurant) with a narrow mini skirt and high heels. While she was checking my bike, another young lady also on high heels and in a short skirt was pumping a tire. That is amazing what Chinese ladies can do on high heels and short dresses. Once in a very small village I saw a lady who jumped out from a back seat of a motorcycle in a skirt short enough to be mixed up with a belt, on high heels and with a baby on her hands. For my aunts I’ve been known as a free nanny who can sit with their babies and I’m really wondering how Chinese ladies managing to look after their kids in those dresses and those shoes. Children between 0 and 5 are act like suicidal 24/7 machine without battery that you can pull out and have 5 minute break. They are all the time hitting their heads on a sharp angles and swallowing some plastic pieces. You have to run after them all the time. How you, Chinese ladies, are doing it?
Back to solo adventures. As I was late with my schedule, I decided to ride as much as I can, which means I was ending a day in the middle of nowhere, so I camped several days in a row and had no shower for maybe a week. Normally to get to a highway, you have to sneak (bicycles are not allowed) threw the big at least four-lane toll gates, which are surrounded with big area of nothing. On the way to Weinan I passed through a gate with one lane which was surrounded by trees and community houses. The next thing I know I was riding in the dark on a pretty much highway with many lanes.
First night I slept five metres from the side of the highway and 50 metres from a railway. Well, it’s better to say lied mostly with open eyes rather than slept. It was also the night when I put my new tent up for the first time. After half-hour – 40 minutes of messing with it in the dark, on 2×2 metres of ground surrounded by a big hole for some constructions and a corn field, I was ready to send everything to hell and sleep in my sleeping bag in the open air. But I made it and spent a night in a tent.
The next day I decided to ride a couple of days on highways to catch up with schedule but sleep outside of them. The day went really well, I made a good distance. In the evening I rode from the highway to Tonguan, which I expected to be a city with a place to stay, but it was a town, where all of around 20 people, whom I asked refused my request to camp in their yard. I decided to camp on the nearby mountain next to the temple. But as I climbed the temple was also surrounded by the town, so I again found a 2×2 metres free place at the end of a corn field by the side of the road, but from which no one could see me. I put up my tent, went inside and prepared to sleep as I heard steps and then somebody pointed a light in my tent from outside. I was ready to ruin my pants. For a couple moments we were in silence: me in the corner of the tent where the light couldn’t reach and someone outside pointing that light in my tent. Then I decided to make a move and went outside to get to know what is really going on. When I was unzipping the tent, the person with the light run away, and when I got out from the tent I could see only his back.
Later someone else passed nearby. These made that night also almost sleepless. In the morning I understood that I put my tent on the walking road from one village to another.
The next day I sneak to a highway as usual. Unusually a policeman after 15 km stopped me to say it is not allowed. I explained that I’m riding to the next city and then will get off. He smiled and let me go. Highways in China are pleasant to ride as they are new and have an emergency lane wide enough to cycle 3-4 bicycles in a row. I was cycling on one of those when suddenly my emergency lane become too narrow for my bike and me if I would get off the bike. Trucks angrily honked at me, the road was full of small sharp stones and trash from the construction of the emergency lane (that was what happened to my lane!), after all I started barely riding for the last 200 metres as if something was breaking my back wheel. After the second check I figure out that I had my first puncture in my life.
So, here I am on the side of a Chinese highway, standing behind my bike with a puncture and trucks still honking at me. There was 2.5 km back to that toll gate where I saw a policeman and with extra space to fix vehicles and indefinite distance ahead to the place where I can at least take off bags from my bike. After 1 hour of messing with my tire to get it off from the wheel, with a constructors’ truck, with climbing through the fence between lanes with the bike and with carrying all my bags (20kg) for a half km, I finally made it to the police office, where after another 6 much more pleasant hours of messing around with my bike, having lunch with policemen and riding in their car to different nearby cities, searching for rim tape for the wheel (the old one was chewed by the bike’s system), I finally made my bike done and rode away.
Policemen were the nicest people I’ve met in China. I promised them to get off from the highway at the first opportunity and never cycle on it again. That night I camped at a small forest which suddenly appeared by the side of the highway without fence. It was the first night that I slept well. One night I slept next to somebody’s grave surrounded by tomato and beans fields.
These days I was up by 4am. So the next morning when somebody started to play on a flute at 4.30am, he didn’t wake me up. I like to have a long morning with lying in bed for a while, lazily preparing for the next day and having a slow breakfast. It all takes time, and normally I’m on the road only by 7am. That day the flute was playing all that time. When I was walking to the road by somebody’s garden I saw an old man playing his flute for his tomatoes. Another night I slept at the edge of some city, where my tent was lit with city light from one side and with outdoor advertisement’s light from the other.
At the end I want to finish this post by dedicating this song to my friend Miles with a big nous, characteristic to some people, living next to a sea (this is his favourite song), big headed friend Matt, and their friend in Plov For Two band’s t-shirt for picking up my father’s watch from Sosnovka. Guys, you are deeply amazing. Thank you very much.