27 May, 2008

Yuan Ping to Changzhi Wednesday 21st May.

Given yesterday's poor progress I figure today has to be a good day to make up time. I head out of town to Taiyuan and it is a good run on fairish roads - certainly an interesting mix of traffic!,
but the dust can also be a little rough (and you guys wonder why I end up so dirty at the end of each day!).

I try to avoid getting into Taiyuan as getting in and out of big cities in China is always a struggle with poor signage and pictogram only town names.

Leaving Taiyuan I manage to find, and follow, the G208 south for 50-60km until it abruptly ends just coiming out of Taigu at a big pile of rocks bulldozed across the road and all of the trucks turn right onto a different road (don't ask me where it leads - the signs aren't in Pinyin (roman character Chinese). Now this sort of thing happens regularly in China and usually the detour reconnects with the main highway after 3-4km, so I decide to push on and continue down the G208 and the (trusty?!?) confirms I am on the right route. For the first 20km I figure this is great - no trucks and dust, road to myself) until the G208 is blocked again and what little traffic there is, is redirected onto a goat track which winds it way through all the small towns. 'being on a bike, I do what the other bike riders do (and the cars can't), I continue along the 208 figuring I wil be able to ride around any obstacle/Weel this is kind of true, but I didn't figure on the fact that most of the road had been torn up, bridges deconstructed and the general road surface simply removed! On top of this there were regular landslides (which I expect were caused by the recent quake 1,000kms away) and dirt / mud sections - you name it.
The landscape throughout is still magnificent though.

Progress, once again, is SSLLOWW!!, the bike is getting hammered with the suspension regularly bottoming out, I'm getting exhausted and I can feel from the handling that the steering head and swing arm bearings have given up the fight and are well and truly in need of replacement. Changzhi, the provincial capital, is only 30kms away though and all of a sudden the G208 is back to normal with cars travelling on it and a smooth surface. I figure I'll make it before dark, until...
yet another detour around a bridge which is being resurfaced. I head of finto a small town looking for the way back onto the 208 when I look in my mirror and see my backpack leaning at an unusual angle. I hit the next bump (don't forget bumps are usually less than a metre apart on these roads - that's how bad it is!) and look back to see the rack, top box and luggage falling to the road.

Half an hour later I've jury rigged the luggage system and I'm back enroute to Changzhi.
Arrive in what is a very pretty town and pay $27 for my most expensive room yet.

Things couldn't get worse could they? - yes they could, I've spent my last yuan on the room (and key deposit) for the night and am right out of cash. Looks like I'm going hungry this evening. :-(. I find 3 yuan (45 cents) in assorted pockets and manage to buy a cup of noodles box from a little shop across the road. Back to the room to put the kettle on and settle in for a miserable night. :-(