First of all the context: I'm writing this on day 42 in a hotel the police told me to go to, where all my forms have been processed, where the functioning aircon is cooling me whilst I hang around in my pants - which are not novelty Christmas themed. Added to which my stomach is full, I've got ice cold beers, I can watch the Giro d'Italia and today I've arrived at a hotel a day early.
So this is the most favourable review day 39 is ever going to get.
It started brilliantly as I left the beautiful campsite amongst the dunes and wound around the first 10KM. Then I saw three vultures. One less than the Jungle Book but have you ever seen a vulture in the wild, they're massive! They take off like sluggish cargo planes too.
Then the day got really hard with 20KM of up-hill, head-wind hell. The cumulative lack of sleep over the last two nights, coupled with a general sense of exhaustion led to the bonk of all bonks at the top of the hill. This bonk was a foursome with Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz and Victoria Coren without a safety word bonk.
After reinflating the mystery slow puncture, I looked down at the ground and the tarmac began to warp in front of me. This was not good. Fortunately two oil workers picked me up and drove me for 45 minutes down the road, before I made the final 50KM chasing the fact that this being an oil town meant there'd be hotels. I had to do so on the first road in a very long time that lacked a cycle lane/hard shoulder along with lorries that were loaded far away from the Emperor and his road traffic regulations.
Already emotionally all over the place (shitting it), 2KM from the town centre a dog went for me. With no matches left it was only adrenaline that stopped me being bitten. I was left with my nerves shattered and breathing like a sixteen year old asthmatic who's just lost his virginity [edited, saved for the book, too good for the blog]
Now let's deal with the facts. I arrived just after 6PM at the Western Business Hotel. I waited for the police and their hurriedly found translator. I was advised I could stay, but only for one night, because the town was not yet open to foreigners. I wanted to rest for a day but what can you do. The town wasn't ready for me.
I checked in, paid, said goodbye to the police and headed off to be laughed at as I consumed a four person stew, noodles and a side of veg in a Xinjiang restaurant. I picked up three of the 5% German style Tsingtaos and headed back to write my blog and sleep.
At 23.05 the cleaner knocked on my door to tell me I wasn't allowed to sleep. After a little more discussion I discovered she meant I couldn't stay in the hotel. This time I was in a towel rather than festive boxers, but it was awkward all the same. Ten minutes later I headed down stairs, where, unapologetically I was told to go to the ******* Hotel. Unlike my last move the police weren't here to ensure I moved, so no one had any interest in getting me to the right place.
Ten minutes of futility followed as I repeatedly said I didn't know where this was until eventually the cleaner hailed a taxi and at 23.30 I was following it through the streets to my new hotel.
it was my worst nightmare and exactly what I was expecting. A Beijing registered Hummer indicated that this was the place to be if you were the biggest c*** in town. It took around an hour to check me in here, despite the presence of police already in the building enjoying their Friday night. It could have been worse, everyone was friendly and once it was established I'd leave the town tomorrow all was OK, but it took an hour.
I got to bed at 1.30am in a room that smelt of the town's dinners from two nights ago.
I was not a happy bunny, it was the kind of farce the one-night rule is no doubt in place to avoid: the embarrassment of how ludicrous old China rules are when applied in new China. It also was the first reminder on this trip of who is in charge, and regardless of how stupid a rule is, that people will follow it and never apologise for it.
I think that's pretty even handed. Tomorrow I'll let you know about my best three days yet!
This is where I update on my progress. Expect lots of fabricated statistics and dated music references.