After being stuffed up in the city for a solid five days, spending a night on the train, riding the next morning in the rain for three hours, and suffering a (bike) breakdown the following day, I needed a good day or two. Boy did I get them.
Because the bike breakdown had actually put me ahead of schedule, I figured I had time for a little scenic detour, so I decided to ride south from Fuzhou on an S (provincial) road rather than a G (national) one. This is always a gamble; S roads tend to have better scenery and fewer trucks, but they’re also more likely to have rough stretches that put lots of strain on both bike and rider. Instead of going directly from Fuzhou to Putian, I’d pass by a bunch of farms and through villages and perhaps even an island or two. I was also hoping to find a grove of trees to sleep in. In the North there definitely would have been, but here everything was either farmland or very strange-looking condos that I regret not taking pictures of. So, after considering my options, I pulled into an elementary school, remembering that a Taiwanese friend had suggested that when in Taiwan I give camping there a try. There were a few kids playing in one classroom, but I couldn’t find any adults and decided to give up and move on. Just then I noticed the stairway up to the second floor, where I found the principal, a late 30-or early-40 something Obama lookalike (I didn’t tell him this, since most Chinese people seem to hate Obama and prefer “Omney.” I can’t speak well enough to figure out the reason, but some friends have told me it’s a race issue.) kicking back with his shoes off and feet up on his desk. I got his permission to pitch my tent inside the school walls, but then he introduced me to two teachers who also board at the school, and they let me set up my tent inside one of their classrooms. They also offered me dinner, helped me draw well water for a scrub, prepared tea, and hung out with me for the whole evening. Except for the part of it where some village kids came by and I taught them how to throw the old Frisbee.
Lili, one of the two teachers boarding at the school.
This is what a Chinese countryside classroom looks like (when it's been stormed by a Fauxbo).
Breafkast with Feifan (the principal's son), Meiyun ("Beautiful Cloud"), and Lili.
The next morning, they cooked me breakfast and tried their best to keep all two hundred children under control at what was probably their first in-person foreigner sighting. As if! I was immediately swarmed, pushed, pulled, tugged, stepped upon, and dragged to each classroom in succession to say hello and sign autographs. One of the teachers asked me to do a little lesson, so I taught the kids the hokey-pokey/
Jesus, all two hundred of them are chasing me.
So much love.
After photo-ops with all the teachers and getting loaded up with water, sweet potatoes, pastries, and a can of “peanut milk soup,” I escaped the school and headed south following a vague hunch that I might be able to see the sea. I followed random hunches until managed to find a giant expanse of sand with not a single human being other than myself on it. I had myself a nice three-hour laydown, half-dozing, half-meditating to the sensations of the sun and the wind on my flesh. I’m proud to say that I also took the chance to air out those dank nether regions that are unfortunately stuck in tight bike pants all day long. For the last two months, because of my looming visa deadline, I have been feeling pressed for time. It hung over me every time Mingyu and Xiang wanted to have another beer, sleep another hour, or spend another day with any of our many wonderful hosts. With that burden lifted – now I’ve got 5 days to make the next 200km – I was able to finally unwind and recharge.
Not easy riding,
but well worth it.
Where am I? Baidu GPS puts me about 3km off the coast. I'm pretty sure I'd know it if that were the case.
I thought about staying there all day and night, but a little after lunchtime I started to get antsy and decided to keep going. Another few hours of riding brought me to the city of Putian, where a kind restaurant owner refused to let me pay him for my dinner and a kindly pedestrian led me to a basketball court where I could
pitch my tent.
That means that the last twenty-four hours, definitely among the happiest, wildest, and most memorable of the trip, have cost me exactly: NOTHING.
I think I’m getting the hang of this.
So I had written.
Then, the following day, a vegetable vendor gave me a carrot, a tomato, a cuke, and a stalk of celery for free.
(Chronologically but not thematically appropriate interlude: Road made of about 20% potholes. Apparently this is one stage of road construction. I have no idea how it could possibly be useful. I am sure it didn't do my precious little spokes any good."
That evening, while I was preparing to pitch my tent at a temple on the coast, two high schoolers invited me back to their house to sleep and cooked me dinner.
To remember me by.
The next day, a group of 26 cyclists bought me lunch. When I tried to make a joke about how their barley tea was the same stuff used to make beer, they misunderstood and bought me two cans of beer.
Later that afternoon, when I suffered yet another spoke problem on the road, a kind group of cyclists let me load my bags into their car, stick my bike on their roof rack, and borrow the bike it replaced to ride back to their hometown (50km), where they took me to a bike shop for a free repair, then took me out to dinner, then paid for my hotel room.
Thanks, boss. He typed something into his phone and showed it to me: "My dream is to retire early and travel the world." My response: sell your store and do it NOW!
No idea how this got on the menu.....
What a frickin’ week! And from tomorrow I’m couchsurfing…
Yes, I think I would like to go there.
Then over to the island of Gulang Yu to meet Keith and Janet, who run the free "Mushishi" Hostel. Finally, some real Chinese hippies. Keith says: "Most Chinese people don't know what the point of living is." Amen, brother. Let's go play some frisbee!
For the graffitti
This guitar belongs to the "Folk King," one of the other guests at the hostel. He quit his engineering job to tour around the country trying to be the Chinese Bob Dylan. He still goes home every second or third week to see his parents, though.
Cat's aren't very popular in China. But Keith and Janet have 4 living on their roof.
We came across a crew filming a spoof: OPPA GULANG STYLE. Check it out on youtube in a few months.
A homemade lunch with the other hostelers. I tried to pay for the ingredients at the supermarket, but they wouldn't let me. Also, I kind of fell in love with the girl on the left for a day.
Cost for the whole week: $30. yeahhhhhhhh!