Thursday, 4 December 2014

country road

The S202 is the country road we take southwards through Jiangxi and over the mountain pass (there's always a mountain pass) at the provincial border with Fujian.  Now it's the S205, but who minds?  By pure chance we have found ourselves a lovely back road that takes us through more wonderful landscapes.  There are hardly any trucks and this makes it even more enjoyable. The hills can be hard and make the cycling slow but the reward is a different perspective of the land.  As everywhere we've cycled since Nanjing, all the land is being used.  What would be a little valley with a brook running through it once upon a time has been shaped into rice terraces that are naturally flooded by the spring higher up.  Channels have been dug to direct or divert the water.  How old are these rice terraces?  The rice harvest is in - grains are laid out on the road and in yards to dry in the sun.  The stubble in the fields is being burnt before the fields are ploughed by ancient looking minitractors with paddle wheels that help them navigate the mud.  There are ducks in every village and spread over the paddies.  The farmers have to come and herd them home at the end of the day and we watch this daily chore enacted at sunset while we wait to camp in the corner of a field.

We pass through Wuyishan Scenic Area where the hills are full of strange rock formations and dramatic sandstone cliffs.  This is tea country and home of oolong tea.   Inevitably it seems, the local town is now a full-on tourist resort with ongoing construction all around.  It's November, mid-week, and busy busy busy.  Happily we find a little spot to camp in amongst tea and fruit tree plantations just out of town. Unhappily we don't notice the bramble on the ground in the dark and in the morning discover a lot of holes in the ground sheet.  When I say a lot, I finally count 63 when I get round to repairing it.  I can just imagine Gabor shaking his head at us and muttering "idiots" at our carelessness.  The trouble is trying to find a good spot before it gets too dark to see what you are doing and before sundown there are plenty of people around working. After five o'clock there's a rush hour when the roads become busy with electric scooters and motorbikes as everyone heads home.  Ah well.  

there's gold in them thar hills
The tea plantations in this region look fabulous and it seems some of the local leaves are worth their weight in gold, or more so.  Who'd have known there would be such a lucrative market?


dying for a cuppa
Arriving in Taining on another warm sunny day we decide to take a room and have a pause before continuing across Fujian.  The road has become noticeably hillier and we want a rest.  Having been hot the past few days we are relieved to find it cool, almost cold when we continue.  The rain we could do without.  Fortunately we pass through a town with a cheap hotel at the end of the day just as another downpour turns ugly.  Having cheap hotels here can really come in handy but we're in danger of getting nesh.  However, we might as well take advantage, as we won't have this luxury when we move on from China. £10 gets us a large room and bathroom, wi-fi and air conditioning - handy for drying out our gear and laundry.  Oh, and a kettle.  What luxury.  While Gayle is taking a scaldingly hot shower I surreptitiously check our route on the map for other opportunities to hotel it.......

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