Photo Of The Day - Oooh Political
Day twenty seven.
Whilst you filthy capitalist pigs were forking out £19.95 to watch Mayweather v Pacquiao, here in the People's Republic I watched it for free on CCTV 5, at lunchtime. This wasn't all good news at it essentially restricted me to my road diet of pot noodle and Oreos for brunch, and bemused the hotel cleaners who were desperate to clean my room despite the do not disturb sign and me asking to be left alone.
I headed out to the most touristy part of the Great Wall's most westerly point. I'm fully prepared for the sound of thousands of Lonely Planets to be thrown at me by sanctimonious hands, but I really like the way China rebuilds bits of the Great Wall, whilst leaving most of it well alone. I like the imagination aiding 'this is what it would have looked like if you keep the hot dog stands and jade shops behind you' reconstruction.
The Chinese, as I bang on about a lot, are also the world's best tourists. They get dressed up like Emperors and soldiers, spend a fortune, are consistently excited or interested in something and just love to tourist.
Can you imagine a husband in his twenties dressing up as a Roundhead, when nobody else was doing so, as he walked around a provincial museum? No of course not, but have a look at this guy all dressed up for his wife to film. That's the spirit!
This is the place from which people were banished into the desert, where I shall be banishing myself tomorrow.
Yesterday's slow puncture persisted, so I didn't make it to any less polished bits of wall, but I should pass the first pier of the wall tomorrow.
In bike news: I have now bought a pump I can operate with both hands to save me arriving in Kashgar looking like I've spent a little too long alone in a tent with only thoughts of Vicky C to entertain me, it will also hopefully stop inquisitive pensioners, who've never seen such a small pump, asking me what I'm getting up to behind my wheel; my beloved Perfomance Enhancing Water water bottle has gone mouldy (Baijiu almost certainly to blame) and so has been replaced; and I'm upgrading to two water bottles on the bike itself.
In news news: I've decided I will go to Dunhuang, as it's the nearest place with a hotel I can stay in, but I'll be camping the next two nights so enjoy the silence.
A short week after the extended break in Zhangye, but I'm now halfway.
Average Speed: 12.4 KPH
Pot Noodles: 31(really fed up of them now)
Punctures: 12 (3 for the Pigeon, 1 for Jonny)
The Sites of jiaYuGuan
Day 25: The trip to Gansu
Photo Of The day: Another day, Another sign I can't read properly
Day twenty five.
Fully rested after avoiding the wind and rain of yesterday I left Zhangye to the sounds of Alanis Morissette. I thought I'd discovered one of those ultra-rewarding 'oh I didn't know what that was when I was 11' but it turns out that old Alanis doesn't sing "It's like a death row hard on two minutes too late" in Ironic, instead it's "pardon". I thought it was a multi-layered gag about really, really, ironic rigamortis.
An hour in I met a man on a Giant bike, before a Giant support vehicle arrived alongside me in what felt like a premonition of doom. Fortunately it was anything but and instead contained a waving, smiling owner of a Giant shop.
This all led to me joining Zhangye Mountain Bike Club on their May 1 holiday ride for 60km, but for a leg burning 3km jump across to the lead group, the shelter they provided was second only to their friendliness. Yan, a lady with excellent English and even more impressive calves, and friends took me for lunch (of course) and were great fun throughout.
China's development confuses for the very good reason that it is really confusing, multi-layered and happening in a globalised internet age: the picket fences and Chinese flags look like the 50s; the car boom is like the 60s; there's a(n allowed) third wave feminism like the 80s. But these are merely conjecture, what can't be argued with is China's mountain bike fashion being firmly at the early 90s stage of development, just look at those colours!
By afternoon I was alone and climbing through pine scented - no really, pine scented - roads to the feet of the Qilian mountains. It was hard but glorious, other than coming across the canine victim of a car wheel. I am now well over 50 dead dogs into my ride, but this was particularly sad as the poor f*cker was still breathing. Had I not sent the hammer back after the Pigeon's death on day one, I'd have put the thing out of it's misery, in the great British tradition of opposing firearms but being entirely ok with bludgeoning something to death with a blunt instrument. There can't be a Brit alive who believes Professor Plum fired the gun in Cluedo rather than using the handle to cave in his victim's skull.
Tonight's camping spot had no litter, no graves and thanks to my adoption of Jonny's ground mat no icicles hanging off my nose. Magic.
May 1: Zhangye to Sunjiazhuang: 125km
Start Time: 08.00
Finish Time: 18.00
Hours Cycling: 9
Pot Noodles: 2
A Photo Every Hour: Today's highlighT - that's How to Boil a kettle
day 26: Talent Spotting
Photo of the day: See that trailer? I tipped that over didn't I.
Day twenty six
After 20km of climbing to Alanis, Garbage and other mid-nineties stalwarts I was flagged down to help flip over a trailer. In this part of planet earth, by comparison, I'm a giant and the grins in the photo above tell the story of how happy they were the weird white giant (175cm, 70kg and falling) turned up and flipped their trailer. It doesn't tell you how quickly he left afterwards once he'd seen how utterly devastated the axle was.
I was rewarded with sweeping downhills as I swept away from the Qilians. As I hit the first long straight I noticed ahead a man riding in what looked like an erratic way. He was obviously drunk, worst still, he was clearly using the 5km marker stones as his rest stops too. We exchanged waves as I passed him on my way to the next marker. In the great Chinese athletic tradition he was smoking on his rest breaks. I also realised he wasn't drunk but had - and you should feel the Britishness crawling all over me right now as I speculate on disability - a form of cerebral palsy.
I took my rest at the next stone and once again we exchanged waves and pleasantries. For the next 30km or so we repeated this pattern - inclusive of him smoking whilst I scoffed biscuits - until I put in a real kick to get to my target distance by midday. I hammered it, proper 25kph stuff, then stopped for a Pepsi and a great chat with some local old boys. I then hammered it again before stopping for a flag signing (and more holding of signs that could say "British men wear New Balance and Rape Goldfish" for all I know). As we took the third photo, 50km after I first saw him, my friend from earlier reappeared.
Now, I am fully aware I couldn't compete with any paralympic cyclist, but this guy was on a rudimentary shopping bike and about 5 years older than me. Someone from the Chinese Paralympic cycling team needs to pull their stopwatch out of their arse, get down to Gansu, confiscate his cigarettes and see just how fast he can go. He was sustaining 20kph on a f*cking shopper with cigarette breaks. How the f*ck is that possible?
I rode on with the owners of the sign with which I'd been posing, eventually we caught the talent, who was smoking again. I then developed a mystery slow puncture, which ruined my afternoon to the extent that I immediately impregnated the shop owner who kept her beer in a working fridge on my much delayed arrival in Jiayuguan.
As I head west, Beijing Time becomes a right pain in the arse. The heat of the day hit me around 2pm and today was my first real suffering from heat. To replenish I put six different liquids in me and, once the owner had cleared the teenagers who were asking me mundane, yet pleasant, questions, from his establishment, I ordered and scoffed two large pizzas.
If you could all have a think as to how I could create a situation where I could do sport all day in Italy and do the same with real pizza and wine it would be very much appreciated.
May 2: SUNJIAZHUANG To JiayuGuan - 130KM
Start Time: 07.00
Finish Time: 17.30
Hours Cycling: 8
Photo every hour: Today's Highlight - This is where we'd all buy farmhouses and do Them up
Photo of the Rest Days: There's a lot more where that came from
Unsurprisingly, the last week had drained Tom, Jonny and I. I had also made it to 2000km in 18 days of cycling. So rest day one was a slow affair that started with the dregs of our hotel breakfast, meandered through life admin but ended with a decent meal and handing over the boys bikes to some Peace Corps volunteers based in Zhangye.
Jonny had to finalise his voting by proxy for the general election, Holly who had joined us, had to work, I had to try and remember my own name ahead of a phone interview and Tom had to sleep.
By 17.30 though, we were sat in brilliant sunshine, drinking Tsingtao and eating sunflower seeds. It finally felt like a holiday. Zhangye has an almost south east Asian feel to it; it's about as relaxing as a Chinese city can feel.
We then met up with Raines and Kelly, two Peace Corps volunteers who we gave Tom and Jonny's bikes to pass on to their successors who would be arriving in the next couple of months. We had great hotpot and yoghurt together, whilst admiring the peace Raines and Kelly were delivering to Zhangye.
On Tuesday, for the boys' final day we visited the fantastic Danxia landscape 40km west of Zhangye. There's enough pictures for me to leave out the adjectives, so enjoy.
I tried to eat myself back up to my natural fighting weight (two KFCs and counting) and got down to the miserable business of washing my clothes in a hotel bathroom. Just look at the water from my shorts - pause - then consider that this was the third rinse.
On Wednesday Holly's flight back to Beijing got cancelled so we went to see China's largest sleeping Buddha together, which even more excitingly, for me anyway, may also be the place Kublai Khan was born.
I just checked the weather (rain) and wind direction (20kph headwind) for tomorrow. Don't be surprised if I have a fourth rest day, if only to avoid breaking 30 pot noodles for one more day.
Average Speed: 12.15 KPH
Pot Noodles: 28 (really fed up of them now)
Punctures: 11 (3 for the Pigeon, 1 for Jonny)
Zhangye and Danxia Photos
This is where I update on my progress. Expect lots of fabricated statistics and dated music references.