What a last day! Major historical landmark, getting minorly ripped off, 300km of country road, stretches of highway with potholes as big as my tire, gale force wind, and an accident with a local. What more could one ask for on the ride back home!
Amy and I woke up bright and early to try and visit the Head of the Dragon, 老龙头, where the Great Wall meets the ocean before trying to make it the 300km all the way back home. After eating breakfast at the hotel and checking out, we drove to the edge of town to where we had to pay the entrance for the park where the wall was. The ticket prices said 100 but we knew our friends had paid “only” 80 which included a not-so-worth-it 10 minute boat ride out to sea for a view of the wall. We told them this and said we didn’t want the boat ride and they very frantically told us of course, we just had to follow them for the other option. This other option turned out to be a tour of a very kitschy Great Wall museum with plaster dioramas explaining the history of the wall and the greatness that it represented (the ticket we were given for this said RMB30 on it) after which we left a building and had someone run up to us with another ticket (this one said RMB50, 30+50=the price we got cheated into paying) that got us onto the wall. This part was nice, but really cold right off of the ocean. We took our pictures, enjoyed a walk on the wall, had a cup of coffee on the beach and made our way back to the bike to start driving home.
When you road trip in China, after long enough, you’ll very likely get tired of telling people where you’re from, however the different reactions to a foreigner speaking a little bit of Chinese in the middle of nowhere doesn’t really get old. At one point, we were stopped at a gas station and I walked in and said “ce suo” or “bathroom” only to be replied to with loud giggles and the attendants exclaiming, “Hui shuo zhongwen!!” or “He can speak Chinese!!” before they only just remember to actually point me in the right direction (sometimes they’ll forget this part though). This happened at every stop.
As indicated at the beginning of this post, this was a particularly tiring ride. Aside from the long distance, we were driving through a relatively large valley surrounded by mountains and near the ocean. This made for some extremely powerful wind that left me quite exhausted and necessitating rests every 30-40km as I constantly fought to keep the bike straight and in our lane. And of course, it didn’t help that I got into an accident… (For the record, this was totally my fault. Sorry Amy :S) We got to a barrier in the road at one point where there was a sign indicating limitations on the width of vehicles with giant cement blocks that only left room for the size of vehicle they were allowing through. The car in front of us was having a particularly hard time squeezing through so I decided to through the other side (which was of course for opposing traffic). The cement blocks however were too high to see over and I neglected to signal by honking my horn. As I round the block to go through, I saw a three wheeled motor bike trailer coming through. I managed to swerve left just in time, however the woman driving the trailer panicked at the last second and swerved her vehicle managing to catch us on the back half of the bike.
Luckily there was nothing seriously wrong. Amy’s leg unfortunately got nicked, but she seemed ok, the chain of the bike popped off, and my right carrying case got properly smashed. A couple other pieces of my bike had come off but nothing too serious, while the other vehicle and the two women driving seemed to get off completely alright. As I was dealing with my bike and surveying the situation, I heard Amy starting to discuss with the other women and it sounded like they wanted us to help fix their bike. It’s not too worth getting into the trivialities of dealing with accidents in China here, as this whole story could have a post devoted to it (and you can read our post on how to deal with accidents in China), but suffice it to say it was a huge pain in the ass. The other vehicle had literally nothing but a scratch in the paint and a little dent in the front and as I was worried about our bike and my girlfriend’s leg, they were insisting we fix their bike. After much arguing, yelling, pleading, apologizing, and negotiating with the help of local passerby’s, we managed to get a price out of the lady of RMB50 for the “damages”, after which she left in huff but satisfied with 40.
After this little ordeal, we managed to cool down a bit and vent about the whole thing at a local restaurant farther down the road. Briefly: the food here was amazing. It’s nice to find local places, with good prices, huge portions, and fresh ingredients. A fantastic change from the city. The patrons were incredibly hospitable and friendly too. I even learned a new Chinese word from them with regards to our happening upon their restaurant: 缘分- Yuan Fen: fate or chance that brings people together; predestined affinity or relationship; (Budd.) destiny.
Upon finishing our lunch, it was only a matter of driving the remaining 200km back to Beijing, through 20km of some of the worst road conditions I had ever been through, comparable to our experience outside of Qingdao, long stretches of construction, and the immovable traffic jams that are the streets of Beijing. Though it is nice to be back home now and have the opportunity to wash off all of the dust, it was fantastic to be back on the road again, to have an opportunity to see the less frequented areas around China and experience how much this country has to offer!