KFC's... yep plural

Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Shaanxi,
Friday, September 14, 2012

So the start of my cycling begins and I can tell you it’s a shock to the system, I get the rear panniers on, my dry bag with tent on top of them which is tricky, my handlebar bag and get a quick photo in front of the hostel before leaving.  Straight away the bike feels wrong, all wobbly but it’s my first go with it all loaded up and I hadn’t considered what it would be like with weight on it, it hadn’t thought to do a test run.  It means I find it difficult to steer and concentrating on the roads and the route out of Xi’an proves a challenge.  It takes all my concentration not to run into anything as I gradually get more used to it but I’m grateful that my first day is mainly flat, even though Jane’s ‘plan’ is to do 80 km today, it looks like she has her trip all worked out kms and altitudes the whole way down to Melbourne! 

The roads are chaos through the city, there are soooo many bikes, bicycles, three wheelers of all sorts of machines made into wee vans or just as carts that are darting about as well as the cars and busses.  I try to follow suit and travel likewise which generally means just not looking and going for it (although I tend to have sneaky glances just to keep myself safe).  The Chinese tend to look at you with the bike all loaded up and dodge the ‘lai wai’ who might do something stupid, although I do get the thumbs up from people too although it hasn’t sunk in yet what I’m starting to take on.

As soon as we’re out of the city I start to appreciate the surrounding scenery, getting out into farmed areas, and China to me, takes on a whole new feel.  It my first taste of everything today and there’s so much going on that it’s all a bit of a haze really, although some of the roads on the way out are just mud tracks because they’re working on them, on the whole they were pretty good with a cycle lane which gives you some room from the articulated lorries and other heavily loaded vehicles that are on the main roads with you, although I hope it’s not all like this.

We stop for lunch and have soup with noodles at a small roadside place and I’ve a chance to catch my breath, it’s full of local people having their lunch and although they stop and stare, Jane who can speak some Chinese tells them what we’re up to and they seem satisfied with that.  The food is very good, tasty; although the locals are eating raw bulbs of garlic and chilies before their soup comes out I just stick with the soup with noodles, sooking them up as best I can.  

Thankfully for me Jane’s a smoker and stops every 20km for a puff which gives me time to catch up with her.  She classes herself as a cyclist and has been at this game for years with many different bikes being purchased over time, and has been training for a good few months for this trip so she’s pretty fit.  My plan, yep you’ve guessed it… to wing it, get fitter on route and just enjoy cycling, China and being out in the countryside camping, the day I stop enjoying it’s time to try something else, but I’m also extremely stubborn and I’m quite sure I’ll be in Australia yet with my bike at the end of this.  Anyway that’s a long way away, I’m just going to take it in manageable chunks i.e. first stop from Xi’an is Chengdu, (approx 730km) and I’ll continue on like that.

So for my first cycling entry I’ve decided to give you a bit of an insight to the run of things so far.  As I’ve already said, my first day consisted of an 80 km ride along a pretty flat road although I did manage to get a puncture (on the rough road works I presume) which Jane took to fixing before I could get near anything (well she seemed happy).  I was well impressed with my first days achievements and at the end of the day we stocked up on water and got round to making camp in a kiwi plantation not too far off the road.

This was a funny first experience of camping in China, we had loads of visitors and one woman (mad I think) guarding us.  Someone opened up an outhouse for us to put our tents inside to protect us from the rain and snakes which we agreed to, and got our instructions to lock up in the morning.  We had constant visitors watching us make up our dinner of noodles and were horrified by our lack of fresh veg to the extent that we were offered some.  In the morning they arrived from 5:30 to make sure we closed up the building after us which we did, one woman came down with her makeup on and her Sunday best to see the strange visitors and although lovely it was a very weird experience.  They want to know everything your doing and are fascinated by the equipment we’re carrying, they look over everything on the bikes and play with every switch or knob so much so that you always checks your gears before leaving!

We started off next day but only get 5 km when I got my second puncture, there was a tear in the tyre from the previous day which we hadn’t noticed which pinched the tube once again.  It was pouring rain so I managed to buy an attractive green poncho as I’ve no rain jacket, we managed to get tubes and the puncture repaired before heading on but it’s all time consuming, and we only managed 25 km as it was all steep uphill from there.  We managed to stay in a room in the mountains, this tiny village, with definite signs of being very ‘closely related’, our room is below the shop and comfortable enough.  Unfortunately the public toilet was what we had to use which was basically a maggot filled hole out onto the side of the mountain and not nice at all.  

I was quite glad to leave the next morning however the day turned into a grueling 1150m climb over 55 km, and ending with camping out before the entrance to our first big tunnel.  It was getting late and we couldn’t see the end of the tunnel and it just seemed all too daunting so we set up camp.  I found it a really cold, cold night, I’ve no sleeping bag yet (I’ll need to wait until Chengdu), although I’ve a silver mat and a sleep liner and wear my down jacket, but  it;s blowing a gale... brrr.

Next morning we tackled the tunnel which was pretty frightening, when you got right into the middle it was just pitch black, I was relieved to get out to the other side.  
We only cycled 25 km the following day downhill to the next village and booked into a hotel, Jane wasn’t feeling great but I suppose we were fairly tired after the climb. We managed to get back on track the next day with a beautiful 55 km cycle through mountain scenery and all the way down to the river where we stayed in another local hotel.  This town had an expressway built straight over the top of it, it must have been a lovely place before falling into the shadow of this huge monstosity. Next we made a big effort with 90 kmto HanZhong so we could rest up for a day which is why I’ve written this blog to here.

As soon as we were checked into the hotel (all too posh and expensive for my liking) Jane made a bee line for KFC, I couldn’t believe it.  She typed it into her google maps app on her phone and it found the nearest KFC, I hadn’t been in one of these places for as long as I can remember and had no idea what to order so just followed Jane with one of the meals, however on top of the full meal she added a side order of another chicken bun and ate the lot.  I know you can crave food while on the road but I thought cyclists were meant to be healthy and I dread to think how many calories are in one meal alone.  

So I said plural KFC’s, yep the next day we were back for more but this time on top of meal plus extra burger, Jane ordered another side portion of wings… that's an obscene amount, I can’t see me eating out in KFC for long, I tried to take a photo of Jane's tray but she dived off to start her meal before I could get my camera out!  

This is a rough idea of the ups and downs of cycle touring which are set to continue, although if left up to me there would be no more hotels or KFC's involved, just cheap backpacker hostels in the main cities for rest bite, and good home cooked food from the many small restaurants... changes will need to be made.
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