My first day in China is my getting prepared day, I have the following checklist:
- Assemble the bicycle as early as possible so there is time to get help if there is any mechanical problem
- Buy a local SIM, or make sure a previously bought one is topped up
- Buy some snacks, fruit and water to carry on the ride when I start out the next day.
- Explore the neighbourhood and get my bearings of the city
- Buy any last minute bicycle things that I have forgotten, broken or had confiscated by airport security (as happened on a later trip)
- Speak as much mandarin as possible when buying things
- Make sure my mapping phone application is working, I use maps.me, I download the full sets of maps for the provinces I will be riding through using wifi before arriving and can then navigate even without data, just with GPS. As a back up I used baidu maps, it now has some english apparently.
- Drop a pin each day using maps.me application at my lodgings so I will able to navigate back if I get lost.
For my first touring ride to China, I felt I had a very successful first day, I had the bike assembled before breakfast. I now normally carry the bicycle box outside and find a flat clean place to assemble my bike, but as I was on the fourth floor I decided to assemble in my (Maggie’s) room. I used the box as a floor cover to make sure I did not mark or scuff the floor.
Everyone was still asleep when I ventured out for breakfast and I successfully asked a local where I could buy breakfast in Mandarin, only 9 kuai for a very tasty rice burger.
Before lunch, I have a working SIM, I went for a walk and found a local market and bought eggs, spinach and potatoes. Maggie’s father incorporated my purchases with rice noddles and I had a beautiful soup, for lunch. I try to get hold of two hard boil eggs for every riding day as ride snacks. As well as bananas and/or grapes. I actually brought cans of tuna with me on this trip but hardly used them and do not do so any more.
After lunch Maggie’s father took me on a 15 km ride around West Lake and we stopped at the Chinese Tea Museum for a cup of Green tea fresh from the many tea plants we could gaze upon with mountains as a backdrop. During our tea drinking a very noisy poker game with real money was played at the next table.
One of the benefits of staying with Maggie is she is a keen cyclist and gave me a big tip on where to ride, 165 km away from Hangzhou is Qiandao (1000 island) Lake, it is a fairly straight (easy to navigate), flat ride next to a major river, perfect for learning how to navigate and survive riding through the Chinese countryside. I had searched for any interesting towns along the way and found Longmen Ancient Town 60 km from Hangzhou (my first nights ride destination) . There also seemed to be some interesting scenery (that I never made it to) if I looped south, east and then north back to Hangzhou, but in reality I was venturing into unknown territory.
Tomorrow I head due south west to 1000 island lake (3 days away), first stop Longmen, a 1000 year old town, I hope the accommodation is not quite that old. Maggie’s father, Gan Shunfa, cooked a lovely dinner. I am very spoilt and lucky.