Today the plan is to travel 266 km from Lishui to Hangzhou by bus, my host in Lishui, Annie, had helped me book a ticket on a larger long distance bus that was fine to transport my bicycle. Firstly I needed to cycle 5 km out of town to the bus station.
Riding through the streets of Lishui I noticed something to me that was very curious, I saw crossing people standing at either side of a pedestrian crossing with red flags, while waiting for the lights to change. They did not step onto the road, but waved madly if any bicycle, scooter, motor bike, etc, dared to encroach the crossing by a millimeter. But it was was quite fine to not stop at all and do illegal left and right turns, these people were not waved at or stopped in any way! So they were stopping the inconvenience of having a crossing blocked but not the potentially lethal illegal turns. I think this might have been another one of those jobs helping to increase employment, where there is no need to have the job in the first place.
Now if you are wondering how I can so easily navigate across a confusing town to a bus station that I have been to once and then by car from a different starting place, the answer is a wonderful phone app MAPS.ME, I downloaded a map of China before leaving Australia and it has been a life saver! It has the ability to save your current position and I did this the previous day when we were buying the bus ticket. I did have a little trouble finding the correct building once I knew I was in the correct area, arriving by bicycle seemed different by car and I missed the entrance.
I proceeded to the goods packing area to drop off my bicycle and pay the packing fee of 20 yuan. I wondered what this would entail and I found out it involved putting a sticker on my rack, parking my bike as in the photo and then later wheeling it to the bus and laying it in the cargo area of the bus. As I was boarding the bus I had a look to see if it had been loaded and then saw it being wheeled, or actually carried, because they had not worked out how to raise my stand. I helped load the bike, this was a good idea because they had no idea how to detach my panniers and I think they might have been wrenched off the bike or left to dangle.
While I was in the bus waiting room, I noticed a huge video screen, it was massive, maybe 20 foot high. It was showing the usual advertising initially then started showing graphic videos of …. bus crashes, there were lots of horrific in-bus videos of passengers, kids included, being violently thrown all around the bus during the accident. Other videos showed people being thrown out of buses across busy intersections. It was very unsettling while waiting to board a bus. At the end of the video, it shows a driver and passenger putting on seat belts, and one video shows a bus load of injured people lying all over the place and the one person wearing a seat belt getting up immediately unharmed.
I must say a modern bus is a big improvement to a local train, speed wise but much worst for interacting with locals. I was in a single seat in the front right corner and spoke very little to my fellow passengers. The drive was somewhere below, nowhere to be seen. Getting into the bus involved climbing steep stairs, almost a ladder. The bus made a lunch/toilet stop for about 20 minutes along the way, I guess this is a bus ride the chinese way. I did not venture off the bus.
The bus went though the city I was originally aiming to reach on my bike ride, Zhuji, it was much bigger, more sprawling and greyer than I had expected. I had read a blog about a day riding in the local hills that I was attracted to but I think I had made a much better choice to skip it.
Soon I was back in Hangzhou and using MAPS ME again, a life saver in the much bigger city. I was almost at Maggies when I stuck a problem. Maggie lives just off a tourist street, pedestrian mall, no cars or bicycles allowed, this includes walking a bicycle. I was stopped by two policemen from entering. I was keen to not have to wait until evening to get through as I wanted to pack my bicycle, Maggie’s father had offered to help this afternoon before he left for Hong Kong. I don’t know if my Mandarin saved the day but I said ” I go to friends home to sleep”, this was rejected, but after insisting three times they relented and I was able to pass. This taught me something about the Chinese way with Laws and Rules I think. There is the law, but the rules can be different/bent sometimes.
When my bicycle box arrived in China, it was pretty worst for wear, it was torn in a few places, I was thinking I would have to go to a bicycle shop and ask for another one, but while I was on my tour, Maggie’s father had patched it up, thinking it was a waste to get another box. I was immensely grateful. My bicycle was unceremoniously taken apart and packed away in its box, I felt I should have cleaned more it thoroughly before hand, especially as it was covered in mud from the one day it rained. But I thought it would make a bigger mess and mud in Maggie’s house if I did and I could not be stuffed.
As it was my last night in Hangzhou with Maggie’s father, he was travelling to Hong Kong the next day, we all went out for dinner for his farewell. I fought to pay the bill, I offered cash to the waiter while Maggie offered a card. I thought the cash would have been preferred and was surprised they took the card. I think the waiter knew who the guest was and so I was not supposed to pay.
After diner I went for a walk and found the usual group of mostly older people exercising dancing/line dancing but as well there seemed to be a rollerblading school for kids. I was very excited about this because I don’t think the young people connect with the other group dancing as much and it was good to see alternatives.
Tomorrow is no bike rest day in Hangzhou before one last adventure in Shanghai.