Xiaoguan area, August 24-25, 2013
Watersport enthusiasts would have had a field day. Thunderstorms, aquaplaning, carnage on greasy slopes and white-water rafty thingy to end the weekend with a furious drenching. Yes, it was a cycling tour.
A traffic jam on Tolo Highway delayed all the nobs in their cars (i.e., the gweilos) so that after an hour of hands on hips and huffing we finally got away from Futian. Sky overcast but nothing threatening. As we drove north the clag set in, followed by thunder, lightning and sheeting rain. Thunderclaps directly overhead, visibility less than 100 metres. Our leader Stone announced cancellation of the morning 15km warm-up as we’d be soaked for lunch. And so we lunched dry, the rain eased off and we started riding. Stone mentioned that the afternoon’s “river floating experience” was off due to thunderstorm damage, but fear not, he had another one lined up for tomorrow.
We hit greasy greenway, a slippery menace. Going up a steep wooded section a couple of riders came off, but going down the other side was carnage, with cyclists going down everywhere in a mini domino effect. Bloodied and muddied we persevered and gradually things brightened, until we found ourselves on the lovely bit of greenway some of us had done a few years ago – we recognized the steps where Adrian bunny-hopped his way to a puncture. Showing off. Twice. There was a swollen weir, where KY came a cropper, and then the highest waterfall in the province. Whisper it – it’s fake. There was a stop for grass jelly and dau fu fa, and then Alan Chow decreed the day’s ride over. A bit light at 30km, but given the weather not too bad.
After dinner it was daipaidong time. We strolled along the glistening streets of Chonghua with nary a daipaidong in sight. Steve spied a hardware store with a fridge. “You got cold beer?” “Yes.” The proprietor produced a hobbit table and tiny stools, and 10 of us crammed round the table at the tiny shop entrance, crammed between mops and brooms. Lewis was incredulous. After 24 bottles of beer and Steve’s bottle of Famous Grouse, and four bowls of peanuts, we handed over the princely sum of RMB103 to the grinning proprietor and were on our way.
Back at the hotel, it was karaoke time. A room was procured, hostesses (dismissed immediately), peanuts, plates of cut fruit, meaty confections and another 24 beers for RMB700 – or RMB100 each for the Magnificent 7 of the hard core. Lewis did Eminem, Steve did Elvis, everybody did somebody, and at 2am we were chucked out. Bruce led the really hard core five down to the lobby, where we plundered the hotel fridge for – no! – more beer.
We were a sorry looking crew the next morning (or some of us were) but a pretty good breakfast set us up for the ride, but not before Adrian made the quip of the weekend about preserved black-and-green thousand-year-old horse-piss eggs: “Oh no! The horse has pissed all over the eggs again!” Meanwhile the sun was shining and delicate constitutions were easing into what would be a really nice, sunny, but too-short ride on elevated roads above lychee orchards. There is apparently 100km of this stuff out there, but we managed a mere 20 before lunch.
After scram we drove almost two hours north to Cowboy Valley. Images of cowboys sailing away into the sunset regaled us. There was a mountain stream and two-man zodiacs. We had to wear crash helmets (we kept our cycling hats on) and were advised to keep our arms and heads inside the dinghies. Then it was straight into the whitewater maelstrom, buffeted from pillar to post, bouncing off rocks and hanging on for dear life. Awesome!
The ride was punctuated with serene sections where the protocol seemed to be to splash anybody that came in range. Bruce became a sort of fountain with arcs of water spraying from him all over the show. Then another white-knuckle drop after another until, after 4.5km and 100 metres of altitude loss, the ride ended.
See all the photos here. Photos by Lisa and KY.