27 May, 2008

Changzhi to Jiyuan - Thursday 22nd May.

Figuring I have to improve my progress if I am going to ever reach Shanghai I'm up bright and early to get the rack repaired before hitting the road.

Leave before the banks open, figuring I'll change money at the next town - Gaoping- but no, they can't and direct me to Jincheng, the next big town.

Only 60km to Jincheng - should be easy getting there before lunch! Garry, what are you doing thinking these thoughts!

The roads deteriorate to stone age quality and I hit Jincheng at lunch time.

Try every Bank of China I can find in what turns out to be a 3 hour exercise in sheer... excruciating ..... frustration - ultimately I am led by a bank teller (must have been the 15th I have dealt with at various branches today) to what turns out to be the ONLY place you can change foreign money in this city of over 1 million people - an obscure spot that is actually a bank of China office but not identified as such by any signage.

Now, I gotta hit the road and make up some miles, but do you think I can find my way out of this city!!! Finally an hour later I enlist the police who tell me that the road I need is actually the G207 (contrary to what the map and GPS say) and they draw me a map.

Gotta make up time, gotta make up time.... I've found the road to Luoyang and I'm doing well - a little bumpy maybe, but satisfactory enough. The it happens, more roadworks :-(

I climb up into the mountains and the concrete road has been broken into fragments (manually by hordes of road workers using sledge hammers and pick axes).
I travel along at 20kmh in 3rd gear and hark, do I feel the back end of the bike wandering??!!

The shards of concrete result in another puncture - my 3rd so far. I am in the mountains, it's getting late in the day, there are no other vehicles around and I have no idea how far it is to the next town. I end up riding 25kms on the flat tyre, fully expecting the shards to rip the tyre to shreds. I reach solid road again to spot the only other vehicle - a bike with a punctured front.

Mr Li (the other rider) follows me to town and directs me to local vehicle repair centre (welding on trucks etc) where they fix the 3 holes in the tube for nix and Mr Li insists I follow him home to stay the night at his house as guest.

Needless to say, I am the star attraction, being the first foreigner to visit this town - but more on the Li's hospitality later.

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