Day 37: Enter Sandman
My alarm went at seven but the hotel quilt detained me until nine. With desert to come, I took to my hair with some scissors to thin it out and stop my fringe irritating me. I left the bits that hang over my ears to save them from the sun. This looks a brave move, but will pay off on days I forget to suncream my ears.
A final liquid stop at the last petrol station in town confirmed that the next one would be 300km away. Yippee.
Within thirty minutes I had arrived at a stunning scene of wind eroded statues and walls of sandstone, however I’d left the memory card in the computer. It’s ok though as better was to come.
There then followed a monumentally tedious 40km of straight road into a vicious side/ head-wind that slowed me dramatically.
Then my second sandstorm arrived in a more beautiful yellow form, sweeping across the road in front of me. After 500 futile metres of trying to push through it. I sat with my back to a huge dune and weighed up my options. Every time you choose a place to camp you gamble on there not being a better place 1, 2, even 5km further away. This becomes even more important when it’s clear you are about to be bullied by the weather. I pressed on for another 2KM or so before I found a ditch behind a relatively small dune. It was good enough for me.
I began to dam the wind by building a wall, which took a long time in the hostile conditions. Just look how big that bottom stone is and then pick the next sentence that applies to you.
Sexually attracted to men? Not related to me? Over 18? – read A.
All others – read B.
A – I lifted all 80kg of it into place then wiped the dirt from my bicep with a diet coke.
B – I rolled it down the bank and then suffixed the really naughty swear with ‘y’ and ‘ing’ a lot as I heaved it into place. “****ing stone and the ****y wind blowing ****ing sand in my face” by way of an example.
I think you know it was B.
The wall wasn’t perfect but after I’d dug a small trench, caught the tent as a gust threatened to take it to Kazakhstan with a reflex reaction that owes much to a misspent youth of catching coins off my own elbow instead of studying for any A-levels, and unloaded the bike it felt like a little piece of hell. But it was my hell.
You will be unsurprised to learn I didn’t sleep well. Wind and sand will ruin sleep.
Photo of the day - A Great Wall
May 13: Lenghuzhen to the middle of nowhere - 65km
A Photo every Hour: Today's Highlight - Dunes
Day 38: Alpha Male
Photo of the day - I'd have scored it higher than eighty
Fed up with the wind I awoke and packed the tent up in record time, replaced the flat rear inner tune I forgot to mention and attacked the day for all it was worth to make up for yesterday's lost distance. I don't know if there was something in the Oreos, but I was full of aggression today.
Did I cash out too soon on the camping location? Possibly, but what I lostin larger dunes i made up for in big rocks.
I had my quickest photo ever after I noticed the trucker taking my photo was smoking next to his oil tanker.
Talking of aggression, I had my first genuinely traumatic chase from guard dogs. If I haven't mentioned this before, I should have done so; the importance of having a match or two to burn is crucial. In cycling you have a certain number of intense bursts of energy in you, each day, before you are burnt out (like matches, clever innit?). Luckily I had a match here, as the three dogs after me were real attack dogs, not just an angry mungrel but three dogs that would have made my calves look like a leftover Sunday roast before they started on my neck and bollocks.
I pressed on, clearing my 100km mark for the day by late afternoon. As I did so, Rizzo cracked. Literally. After an initial few seconds of laughing at my own misfortune I remembered my water bottles were empty and caught one third of the Rizzo's contents before we parted ways. Two litres down, I began to trade photographs of the mad foreigner for water. It worked too. One driver gave me four bottles of miniral water; prompting a moral dilema as to whether it would be right to wash my balls with one. It was all a bit too much like choosing Waitrose over Tesco Extra despite having a public sector salary in London. This, fortunately, wasn't as important as, say, mozzarella balls, so I did the moral thing and stuck to the hand wipes.
Unfortunate comparison that.
I kept on pushing, keen to make back some of the lost distance from yesterday. I was rewarded with the most spectacular scenery of the whole trip yet and the best camp site I'll ever stay in. Within twenty minutes of getting into my sleeping bag and wrapping my scarf around my head like a hijab, the wind started again.
I really hate the wind.
A Photo More than Every Hour
Day 39: The Bonk
Photo of the Day - It's still worth it, It's still worth it (repeat to fade)
I'm really annoyed. I can't write anything sensible that won't get me in trouble. After the police approved my first hotel I was moved at 23.05 to a different hotel, which coincidentally had drunk policemen in it.
I also had a terrible day, my biggest bonk ever and my nearest miss with a dog yet. Tomorrow I'm going to buy a weapon to deal with the dogs. Sorry animal lovers, I'm killing the next one.
Photo every Hour - A helping hand
This is where I update on my progress. Expect lots of fabricated statistics and dated music references.