After our short-lived stint with the big biker family, we returned to life as usual: getting a late start, eating a giant lunch, napping in forests, and quitting early in the evenings.
Here's how Mingyu and I entertained ourselves while Xiang was off doing hotel recon.
We continued through the mountains of Shanxi, with a few more brutal ascents tempered by occasional Eureka-moments, like this treasure-trove of jujubes that must have fallen off of a truck. Had we gotten there about a week earlier, we could have feasted. Instead, though, everything was a little on the mealy, nearly-fermented side.
More awesome views as we dropped about 800m in altitude coming out of Shanxi and into Henan.
I've got tears in my pants, holes in my shirts, and all the little sesame seed guys are falling off of my gloves.
We stopped one morning at a bike shop and were treated to a free tune-up. The shop owner's son was wearing this shirt, straight out of a Buddhist parable. The English is remarkably not totally terrible, no?
Next stop: the Longmen Grottoes, a Unesco World Heritage site just outside of Luoyang. For a little over a mile on both sides of a river, the hills have been carved like this, hollowed out and then inlaid with carvings of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and other characters of Buddhist lore.
In some places, the carvings are incredibly detailed and minuscule
Others are nearly twenty meters tall.
Back to the road again for some nice, flat riding and scenes of idyllic farm work. Well, as long as you're just watching.
Crossing the famous Yellow River.
Xiang Liang is a true kindred vagabond spirit.
Having returned to somewhat more reasonable altitudes, we were able to break out the tents again.
A nice chill night - salad for dinner, card games for fun, and a reused water bottle of homemade wine some farmers on the street sold me for $1.50.
Why camping rules.
The next morning we headed to the Shaolin Temple, basis for that old TV show Kung-fu. The temple itself was not particularly impressive, but all over the surrounding area were these schools where kids between 4 and 18 studied and trained. We were lucky enough to pass by during training time. These little kids were running, drilling, and tumbling like you wouldn't believe.
Imagine how strong they'll be if they do this every day for ten years.
Another nap in the park next to the temple.
Actually it wasn't the temple that I wanted to see, but the cave where (legend has it) Bodhidharma stared at his shadow and meditated for nine years until he finally got it and invented zen. I felt a little bit like a silly tourist for paying the entrance fee to the complex and going up this long climb when I could have probably understood more about Zen by just meditating that morning, but then again, why pass it up?
In an effort to try to feel a little less bovine,* I climbed the steps barefoot and tried to do a little walking meditation. Token gestures. That's the cave behind me; I though it would be a little sacrilegious to take a photo of the inside. All it was, though, was a space about 5x5 square feet, with a statue of the BD up on a pedestal in the back and a place to bow and light incense in front.
Up to the top of the hill to check out this statue of BD.