Merry christmas everyone!
We are in Fangcheng; yet another city with a million or so people..... we are 60km from the Vietnam border and hope to cross it tomorrow.
Although we hear Christmas songs everywhere and our hotel has a beautiful fake tree i don't think people actually realize it is christmas, nor care by the way.
We had some tough stages getting here. We decided to ignore the rain and cycle from Guigang to Lingshan 2 days ago.... tough decision as it was raining cats and dogs and it was cold. We have to admit we had a look at the train time table but fortunately there was no feasible connection. Fortunately, because this turned out to be one of the more scenic stages so far. Also the longest by the way as we lost our way and took a 45 km detour which brought the total to 140km. Add some steep hills and rain and we felt like true bikkels.
Funny how you loose your way..... we were on a pretty straightforward route, nothing could go wrong, just follow the road. All signs were in Chinese only but our map is (yes very handy NOT) in English only. Now we usually ask the hotel reception to write down all cities and villages along the way in chinese before we leave but nobody knew how to spell Lingshan (no doubt due to our horrendous pronounciation). We knew the second caracter for "shan" or mountain so we were confident we were on the right way. Then we got a choice between two "shan's" without a second of hesitation we chose the nearest one, only 29 km away...... when we arived at a village , by then pretty tired and soaking wet we found it was not called lingshan....... "Lingshan 40km this way" a smiling villager told us. Nice! but we survived and Lingshan was a nice city.
Then yesterday from Lingshan to Qinzhou. very Piauliau (beautiful)..... the landscape is a bit like yangshuo here (which means pretty flat with nice small karst mountains and little winding rivers). We saw the sun for the first time this trip and people are getting more and more and more friendly. Example: we got taken over by a small minivan with the usual amount of honking only to see all passanger hanging out of the windows yelling "merry christmas!!". Nice.
We are now experts in the horn language:
Small irritating horn which is pressed frequently and long behind you: it is a scooter or a substandard car under the brand Foton (the lada/ trabant equivalent of this region) the vehicle can easily pass you but the drivers ego is too big to simply let that happen so you need to move.
Deafening loud and high pitched horn blown 200 times in the distance before the vehicle actually reaches you: Bus collecting passengers. No more effective way of advertising than that. And advisable to actually move aside as these guys drive fast.
Very urgent low horn blown at shorter and shorter intervals: Behind you two vehicles, usually busses or trucks, are taking over, from the other side there is also a big vehicle approaching.....and the road fits two at the best of times. You are clearly the weakest link about to be squashed........... a quick escape into the (hopefully) soft grass/ sand on the side of the road is your best option.
any horn blown in a rythm: the driver is simply acknowledging your presence on the road and expressing his surprise to see such weird Gweilo (foreigners). We get a lot of these.
Today we took it easy and cycled just 40km into the next big city. We are now trying to find ourselves a nice christmas dinner and are getting ready to cross the border. Vietnam, here we come.