Since I was a little behind schedule from the day before, I tried to get an early start today (which I more or less succeeded in doing). When I asked about breakfast at the front desk of the Hanting, the guy brought me outside and around the corner to a little hole in the wall where there was porridge, egg, steamed buns, and dumplings. The lady the night before said it was western style, but for 8 RMB ($1.25), I can’t really complain.
I found myself going through Nanjing today as my route got somewhat adjusted due to my missed target the day before. Seeing as how I had food poisoning the last time I was in the city a few days earlier, I took the time to do some more site seeing, and despite putting me two hours behind schedule, I’m glad I did! Nanjing is a really beautiful city with lots of lakes, parks, and a massive city wall, all of which my drive took me past (in fact I went under a lake, around a lake, through two sections of the wall, and through a park). It was so peaceful at times, you forget you’re in the heart of China’s old capital… and of course other times you’re rudely awakened by aggressive taxis and bus drivers pushing their way passed. I also took a 20 minute drive through the biggest park in the city to visit the tomb of Sun Yat-sen, who is known as the father (or grandfather, I’m not sure which exactly) of modern China, which was very lovely!
2 hours and after successfully navigating my way through very busy traffic, I found myself crossing what for a very long time was the only bridge across the Yangtze and on northward towards Beijing. I had to stop at one point because since I had had my bike washed in Shanghai, my horn had been reduced to a muffled whimper, and anyone who has driven in China knows you cannot underestimate the importance of your horn. Once I had got a new horn (20RMB), a roll of electrical tape for the road (3RMB), and my chain tightened as it had grown loose for the second time this trip (12RMB labor) I was on my way again.
I stopped at a little roadside restaurant right after crossing the border into Anhui Province (first time here!) and enjoyed a TV show called 大PK with the owner. For anyone not familiar, PK comes from Counter Strike and means “Player Kill”, but it has become so common in China as a way to essentially mean “compete” that it is now part of their normal vernacular and apparently is even used in TV show titles. This particular show had 4 people playing a card game against each other with their electronic cards shown on the screen. Very exciting!
So far I’ve been enjoying riding through Anhui quite a bit, more so at least than closer to the coast as its not as dirty and is quite a bit more scenic with lots of trees (now changing color) and fields, sort of reminding me of upstate New York, but not has hilly.
Attack of The Foul Smelling Battery!
Right as I was crossing a bridge into a city just under 200km from my destination and a little over 3 hours of daylight left, my bike started acting really weird, with the power going on and off and then finally… just off. This was particularly bad given my location- in the middle of a two lane bridge with no shoulder, trucks barreling past in both directions, and scooters squeezing past in what little space there was on the side of the lane. So after trying desperately to flip the power back on (with the riders of passing scooters curiously looking on) I dropped my feet to the ground and started to push as quickly as possible.
One funny side effect of all the strange smells that exist in China is that you basically become jaded to most of them and simply ignore any new ones as just part of the fragrance of the countryside (or city as it may happen. Chou Tofu, I’m looking at you!). With this in mind, at my last gas stop when I started smelling something very strongly of rotten eggs, I simply shrugged it off as some chemical the nearby farmers harvesting their grains must have been using. I similarly ignored a faint beep that I could hear as something from some piece of building machinery or another. However, once I had gotten my bike to the other side of the bridge after the breakdown and could still smell the eggs and hear the beep, I realized it must’ve been me (he who smelt it, had indeed dealt it). Turns out, what I found after a quick online search, the smell is that of sulfur seeping out of the battery which in turn is likely burning through parts of the bike. So with a mission to quickly find a place to take out my battery, I started pushing.
Given that this is China, there was luckily a place just around the corner. I had to ask around a bit, but between funny looks from all the passerby’s and questions of where I had come from and how much my bike cost, people were quite helpful and managed to point me in the right direction. Once at the shop, we began to disassemble the various pieces of my bike to get to the battery that was literally smoking hot and wipe out the corrosive battery acid. The proprietor of the establishment was able to find a battery that would work (at least temporarily) for my bigger bike, and left on his scooter to pick it up. So, 1.5 hours and 200 RMB later I was good to go. However he did point out the likely cause of the exploding battery was something stuck to the bike which I’m assuming is likely the regulator. Hopefully it’ll get along with the battery at least until Beijing to avoid anymore incidents!
Unfortunately, all the excitement has got me further behind schedule as there was only about an hour of light left and I wasn’t going to risk another night of driving in the dark in China. So with that I’m shacked up in a humble 宾馆 in the town of 5 Rivers (五河）in Anhui for the night with the hope that I can start making up some ground tomorrow, from now on being wary of any and all unfamiliar smells that may present themselves!