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October 24th, 2000 · No Comments

Longsheng to Rong’an

Day 298

It was the first day of the Kristal buses riding the road. Since the weather was lovely, most of the “Kristal Customers” were cycling, so the buses to Marco’s dismay were barely half full. I reminded him had already been paid and he need not worry about it! Good grief, this is the sort of guy you don’t want for your landlord. You could return from a vacation only to learn he had rented your home in your absence!

Even though we were in a bus, it was slow going. The road was busy and we were not able to make very good time. The cyclists were having a bad day. We came upon Rich who was just getting up off the road, he had been hit by a motorcycle and was suffering from a few abrasions. We offered him a ride, since his private vehicle was not around, but by the time he got on the Kristal bus, his bus arrived. TK&A support was nowhere to be seen.

We went a little further down the road when we stopped behind a traffic jam. One of our riders and one of the Kristal bus customers had been in an accident. It was Jim. My heart jumped in my throat, but soon returned to normal when I saw Jim standing up, looking OK, just a little bloody. A pedestrian had stepped in front of him and he hit the guy. Jim’s front teeth went through his lip, but he was mostly nervous about the huge crowd forming around him.

The “victim” was leaning against Jim’s bike and talking to the crowd, describing his injuries. He looked OK, just a few abrasions, but he was not acting OK. He was hurt and he was looking for retribution. Jim got the message. He ended up paying the guy so he could go to the hospital and be looked at. But only after one of our riders who is also a Doctor came along and examined him. She found him to be fine, just scraped.

Geeze, that was a close call. Jim handled it well and the crowd moved on to witness other things. It was the first time I had ever worried about not being able to communicate in China. They knew we were “rich” Americans and we were not going to get away easy. Of course “easy” is relative.

We popped Jim’s bike in the truck and put him in the bus, on we went. It was turning out to be a good thing to have a bus. We were cleaning up our cyclists off the road, not what I had hoped to do! By day’s end 6 cyclists had gone down. None were seriously injured, but all had either/or abrasions and some needed stitches.

The condition of the road, the huge amount of traffic and congestion coupled with the general uneasiness of the tour was taking it’s toll. Riders need to be focused on riding and not worrying about the future. We are all wondering if there will be enough money in the bank for TK&A to get us home, or do we only get to go “halfway ?”

We pulled into Rong’an very late in the day. It turned out to be a long and difficult day on the bus. I had not intended to ride the bus all day, but as it turned out, I was glad I did. The first day on the road with me on board helped work out a few wrinkles and now the drivers hopefully will be familiar with the routine. The drivers were great, we managed to communicate our desires and our needs were met. It was a good day.

My hotel was down the street and around the block from the main hotel. I found my luggage and pulled it down the street, feeling a thousand eyes on me all the while. Rong’an was “off the beaten path” of the tourists. Whenever we have stayed in cities that don’t get tourists, they tend to be very curious. This city was going to be like that, everyone was watching.

Parents were positioning their children close to me, so the kids to “look” at a foreigner. I didn’t know whether to be pleased or offended. I chose the latter. It is fun to be the center of attention. It is hard to believe that in this day and age there are cities in the world this innocent. Once again I felt as though I was in a movie set, it was all surreal.

After dinner I was craving something chocolate. Feeling safe I walked the city streets just enjoying the sites and searching for a Hershey bar. Ha! I walked up the “food” street, every China city seems to have one. They all look very similar. The cooking tables are arranged near the edge of the street, where passer bys can view what the cook has to offer. The food is chopped, sliced and diced all neatly on plates, with the exception of the larger items, usually the protein. They keep the protein in it’s original shape, guess they think it is more appetizing or perhaps it keeps better that way. For me, it was interesting to identify common creatures, I saw puppy dogs, ducks, geese, chickens in full feather, frog, rat, bat and snake.

Disgusting? Yes. Normal? Yes. Did I eat it? Hell no! I have a rule in China. If I can’t identify it, I don’t eat it. China is so very interesting, there’s never a dull moment on the streets.

Tags: China · SE Asia