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October 20th, 2000 · No Comments

Yangshou to Guilin

Day 294

If you ever have to be stuck in China during the rain Yangshou is the place to be. I enjoyed aRoad sign in China wonderful American breakfast while sitting in front of a “high speed” modem computer, watching the rain pour off the umbrellas outside. It was about as close to heaven as one can get in China. My morning was finally content and cozy, even though I felt like an “extra” in a movie set.

Getting on a bike today was not a high priority, the route was very short, flat and straight. I should be able to do it in 2 -3 hours, so I hung out waiting for the rain to subside. It never did. When I finally set out to cycle, I pulled on my 15 Yuan ($2) purple poncho and for the first time in awhile, blended in with the bike traffic, sort of. Clocked in the folds of purple plastic, I rode anonymously on the street, without having to say 10,000 hellos. It was a day off from having to be excessively friendly!

The route was uneventful other than a stop at a bakery where I along with other Odyssey riders consumed mass quantities of recognizable food called sponge cake. It was so light and sweet we ordered portion after portion, leaving the sales staff in awe or disgust at our appetites. We were all so starved for something to eat that we could identify, we were ready to camp right there in front of the bakery stall.

At our hotel, I was delighted to see an enterprising young woman waiting for us with a garden hose and rag. She was charging 5 yuan (50 cents) to wash down our bikes and us. It was a wonderful deal, my bike and panniers were so covered in street mud and slosh I couldn’t see what color they were. I myself and clothing was so dirty, it took me several hours to get clean, washed and hung out to dry.

China mountainsConsidering how short the day was, it was not worth the effort. I didn’t want to ride in China in the rain anymore, I just reached my enough.

Guilin Layover

Day 294

I woke up this morning feeling for the first time in the entire year, I was satisfied. I’ve been in more places than I can remember and suffered more discomfort this year than in my entire life. Just the same it has been a good year and it can end anytime now. I’m ready.

Feeling as though there was nothing else better to do, I tagged along on the Guilin cave tour today. The caves were beautiful, but the Chinese had ruined them with both noise and light pollution. The guides speak to the tour groups with bullhorns, so in true Chinese fashion the noise is unbearable. They have also placed fluorescent lights throughout the caves to give the rocks interesting color. The lighting is so poorly placed, ruining the natural effect of the cave itself.

Guilan StreetThe bus also took us to another tourist spot where everyone climbed a hill (after paying an entrance fee) to see the view of the city. Not wanting to pay to climb, I browse the stalls for trinkets then just stood doing my Pocketmail in the middle of the park waiting for the group to come back to the bus. While waiting, a group of Chinese tourist came up to me and asked if I would pose in a picture with them. I said “OK.” They proceeded to take several photos with me and various members of their group. They were very thankful and polite, putting their arms around me like we were old friends. I wonder what they will tell their friends back home about this strange American Tourist they met in Guilin.

My feelings of boredom continued throughout the day. China as fascinating as it is, is very difficult to manage. I am totally illiterate here, not able to read the signs nor does counting on fingers work. The Chinese have a system different for finger counting than we do. They even still use the abacus for record keeping. It is a different world.

karstTK&A scheduled a meeting for this evening. We all assumed that since we would soon be leaving China for Vietnam and Vietnam was having major flooding, we would be hearing about a change in venue. Well that was partly right. We had a change in venue, but the change turned out to be a complete shock.

Tim got up and announced that Odyssey was out of money 35 days before the scheduled end of the trip. He said we had money to get to Singapore and then we would all be given tickets to fly home (LA) via commercial air carrier from there. We were told that in order to finish the trip and scheduled after Singapore, TK&A would need an additional $3000 from each of us.

Tim blamed the Japan fiasco and JAL for blocking our entry into the country and us having to pay so much to the airlines for the episode. He didn’t mention the fact that our first two trips of the year ran into huge cost overloads, due to his failure to plan ahead. He is now blaming the “lack of funds” on the airline costs going up since he budgeted in 1995.

The first question fielded from the audience was a request to “see the books.” It was declined. We just have to “trust” that the money is gone.

Immediately the group went into “let’s salvage” the trip mode. People came up with ideas to save money and change things so we could all hang on until the end of the year. Very few people are ready to go home, just yet. By the end of the meeting the reality was starting to set in, Odyssey was over.

During the meeting several people gave enough input that we knew we had to form a committee to help wade through the mountains of suggestions and determine how to proceed. People were not willing to pay an additional $3000 to be mismanaged. One rider stood up and told Tim he was good at some things, but he was not good at processing things in a clear and concise manner. We needed a facilitator to do that. Since one of our members had experience in dealing with anarchists, we would like him to take on the job of determining Odyssey’s future.

By meeting end, we had a committee of 12 people who were willing to design a questionnaire to determine who was thinking or willing to do what. It was a start.

Tags: China