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October 16th, 2000 · No Comments

Wuzhou to Xindu

Day 290

Today’s title is “The Day of 10,000 Hello’s!” The streets were lined with humanity all day long,Xun Jian River view from our hotel from the city to the country and back to the city again. The children were the happiest and they loudest, shouting at us as we rode, “hello!” They would keep shouting, there was no way one could ignore them. I would respond, “hello, hello, hello!” They are beyond excited to see us. I don’t think many Westerners visit this part of China.

The route was only 100 kilometers today, but the road was torn up for at least 80 kilometers of it. We rode on hard packed dirt, gravel and the worst of all, muddy clay. Several cyclists dumped their bikes becoming “mud people” it was so horrible. They had to scrape the mud off without a water source and ride to end of day. My goal today was NOT to join their ranks, I didn’t want to be a moving mud pie!

Xun Jiang RiverXun Jian River at sun rise

The country is very beautiful, green and slightly mountainous. We climbed some but the altitude was manageable, I didn’t mind working. The worst part of the day was the air pollution, with no controls on the archaic vehicles and all the dust from the roads being constantly kicked up, I took to tying my bandana over my nose, going for the Sundance Kid look. It worked and I was able to put it up and down easily as needed. I was glad to have it with me.

We happened to be passing through a village when the school children were coming homeHello Boys from school. There were literally hundreds of children walking the streets towards home. I remembered my experience with the crowds of kids back in South Africa and prepared for a riot. I didn’t want to be unfriendly, but I knew if I stopped or slowed down it would not be a good thing, so I sped up shouting the, “hello, hello, hello!” greeting as I went. Several kids reached out and slapped me, just being friendly but the slaps brought red stings to my arms. They were poking a Al the Alien and giggling with joy. I was afraid for both of us, until a few minutes later when we reached the other side of town.

This part of China is the farm country. The people are poor beyond words, their living conditions are very basic. Homes are made of brick, most are two story with the ground level being wide open to the elements. I could see elder folks huddled in doorways, watching the world go by. There are few windows and never screens.

I am amazed at how run down everything looks. Usually brick homes are low maintenance, giving homeowners plenty of time to occupy them before having to repair. These homes look as though they were never finished, just started, moved into and waiting for the final construction loan payment to come through so the windows and doors can be installed. The lender must have went broke on this country, because nothing is finished and it all needs to be redone now, because the deferred maintenance has eaten up the original work and now it’s time to start over.

Transportation is also very basic, many people walk carrying huge loads with yokes balances on their shoulders. Some use push carts, like utility rick shaws for all sorts of goods. Most people are either on a bicycle, moped or motorcycle. Cars are few and far between. Public transportation is common, an empty bus is never is a parked bus. Usually buses are so crowded with people standing and hanging out of the windows, also saying, “hello!” to us.

White lines of broken ChinaThe most curious event today was the 80 kilometers or so of road that was “under construction”. There were very few heavy equipment vehicles. All the works was done by laborers, standing in large groups alongside the road. The country is rich is labor, China has many people to work by hand. Labor is obviously cheap.

A few months ago I did a tirade on the horrors of British plumbing. I take it allBathroom in China hotel back now! This is our China bathroom, it all works very simply. Both the shower and the sink drain into the toilet. No, that hole in the ground isn’t because someone stole the toilet, it’s a squat toilet. Please notice it’s a BYOTP bathroom. We also supplied our own towels.

Hotel roomSince I discussed the bathroom in full detail, the room wanted equal time. Notice they did supply mosquito netting above the bed and slippers. But the TV only speaks Chinese. We called it “home” if o nly for the night. (Thank goodness!)

Our hotel was one of five hotels that the group was dispersed too. Stephanie and I were assigned a room on the 4th floor, a walk up that we carried our heavy bags up to. It was a primitive room with even more primitive bath facilities. I learned later that we were considered to have a real “stylin’ room” because we actually had a sink in it!

Prior to leaving for dinner, I dumped my pannier onto the bed to organize it. I packed all my food in zip lock baggies and while doing so, I left a few crumbs on top of my bed. When I returned after dinner, my bed was crawling with ants! How they knew I left crumbs was beyond me! I brushed them off, but all night I felt creepy things crawling on me. It was not a restful night for me.

Chicken HeadThe Chinese are known for not wasting any food. If yo look closely, yo can see this chicken dish was served to us with the had attached, it is draped over the side of the dish.

Tags: China