Ok, I am sort of admitting defeat in one way, the heat, smog, the number of kilometres has ground me down a bit. But this has just opened up another door in my adventure. I am on a slow, no air conditioning, packed, local train, I am jumping a couple of cities and will have a rest day tomorrow.
Every blog I read about taking a train with a bike says its possible, arrive early and expect problems… but first I will start in the morning, Sunday, I am in Lanxi, I want to get to Hangzhou, 200 km away by Tuesday or Wednesday to fit in a quick one night trip to Shanghai with Maggie before I fly home on Friday. Trouble is as mentioned, I am exhausted, so my new plan is to ride to the major town of JinHua, and catch a train 120km to Lishui, have a rest day tomorrow, Monday, and catch a train or bus to Hangzhou on Tuesday, if I can work out how to purchase tickets and if I am allowed to take my bike on board.
After making this decision, I feel much more energised and headed out to explore the old part of Lanxi for breakfast that I had discovered the previous evening. It was even better than I hoped, lots of food stalls, trinkets, fruit and vegetables being sold, all with the usual Chinese vibrancy.
Leaving Lanxi, I saw a car being prepared for a wedding I assume and a not so nice part of town, a bit more squalid and grim, I guess these are the areas that cause the locals to wonder why I want to go to the old parts of town. I think it is important to see and record the old as well as the new and shiny, I get a much fuller record of the towns and villages I visit.
On my way to Jinhua, I saw some interesting building techniques, gaudy buildings and what I assume is a nuclear power plant right next to the road I was cycling on. I even noticed food being grown right next to these towers, I was not sure this was a good idea.
I had found an excellent road direct to Jinhua, it was not too busy and not too small, one problem was I seemed to be riding past road works/road closed signs, it was by far my best route, so I thought I would press on and hope for the best. Sure enough I soon can across extensive road works and the road was closed to cars, but not pedestrians, so I rode where I could and walked part way, no problems at all, the benefits of being on a bicycle.
I continued on to Jinhua and away from the road works I found some local sights, old buildings, loaded trucks and flash town squares/government buildings.
I made it to Jinhua before lunch time and immediately headed to the railway station to buy my ticket to Lishui. I found a security guard at the station who was willing to watch over my bicycle and bags while I worked out how to buy a train ticket. I easily found the ticket office and managed to say, one person to Lishui sufficiently well that they immediately gave me a ticket. I had not mentioned a bicycle and I was not not sure how to check if I could take a bicycle, so I trusted my luck to work it out later.
I found I had a four hour wait for the train to leave. So I headed off for a wander and found a sign saying old town 4km. Perfect. I browsed a second hand and gem market, chatted to some religious people, I was given a card for me and my friends. I then found an up market Japanese restaurant for lunch. I attracted a crowd while having lunch, one local was an academic studying the tourism industry and was a little astounded she had found an overseas cycle tourist in Jinhua.
I decided to get to the train station one and a half hours early. Not like me, but I was the most nervous about this train trip then anything else so far.
First thing is to push into a swarming queue to get your ticked checked at the entrance. Initially I waited for the queue to proceed as normal but soon found it was not an orderly queue so I resorted to pushing my way as I was not making progress otherwise. The station entrance fitted the bike and one pannier, just. No problems so far, no mention of the bike, I showed the ticket I had purchased for one person…
Next is a bag x-ray check and another queue, the same size as the main entrance but with a right angle. Again no problem and no mention of the bike.
I then asked where to go in a huge room with multiple seat queues. My queue was pointed out, you are not actually allowed on the platform yet. I then realised my ticket had all the important information printed in English. The time it leaves, the destination and train number, I was now at the head of the queue under a sign with this number.
When the gates were opened about an hour later, apart from a few stairs (I was helped by friendly passengers), I was able to go straight on to the train, again no problems. The guard pointed out where to park the bike between carriages, I bungee corded the bike to stop it falling over, found a seat and sat down with a huge sigh of relief, in actual fact, it could not have been easier.
Thus began my first (and only so far) local train trip with a bicycle in China. As I mentioned above, it was slow, with no air conditioning, packed and full of locals eating and chatting, I loved it. At one stage I went to my bicycle and found a crowd checking it out, I proudly demonstrated its dynamo hub, told then I had brought it from Australia and did not mention how much it was worth.
I think there a thing “Chinese time” like islander time. When I boarded the train a passenger said it would arrive 6 pm something, there have been a number of stops, it then changed to 7 something and now 8 something. At this I exclaimed Really, too long, to the amusement of more passengers than I was expecting
When I arrived in Lishui, a town I had not researched at all, did not even really know where it was was, it was dark and my China adventure was about to take a twist.