Today’s distance / ???????: 46.7 miles / 75.3km
Average speed / ????: 8.1mph / 13.1km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 5h 44m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6972mi plus 386mi (?) / 11,220km plus 622km (?)
Ascent / ??: 285m
Descent / ??: 265m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N30°56′49.2″, E118°45′46.0″
What a nightmare of a place this is. This is on the outskirts of Wuhu. And I’m not the only one who was struggling with the air quality here today.
I watched people on their boats for a good 10 minutes, contemplating what it must be like for a person who has only known this kind of environment, to travel to a place like the South Island of New Zealand. If smog, and only being able to see at the most 1km ahead of you (if that) is the only thing you know, then what must it be like? To be able to look down off your boat and see the bottom of the ocean 10m down through crystal clear water. I can’t imagine.
The air was so thick and hot and muggy it was like breathing syrup. In the afternoon I stopped in at an internet cafe for three hours to wait out the hottest part of the day. I was wilting!
In the afternoon I pushed on with the sun at my back. For half an hour I was on bright red dirt roads – lucky it was dry and the surface was hardpacked.
The terrain then started to get more interesting. From Wuhu, which is on China National Highway 312, I am cutting south east towards China National Highway 318 which is supposed to be less industrial and more enjoyable with less traffic. Provincial Road 102 passed through wonderful tea growing areas. The locals were vibrant and alive.
I didn’t get into the city of Shicheng until after dark, and I spent some time looking for a decent-looking place to stay. I ended up staying at a spa. This turned out to be a most educational experience…
The massive LED colour screen on the outside of the building displayed what they had to offer. A large communal public bath. Sauna. Massage. “We have it all!” the images screamed in full colour. I was drawn like a fly to the flame.
“Do you have rooms?” I asked the clerk. I had never stayed at a place like this, and indeed I had no idea whether I was actually able to stay there overnight.
“Well, from 6pm till 12 midnight it is 30RMB, from 12 midnight to 3am it is 20 RMB, and from 3am till 8am it is 20RMB, so that would be 70RMB all up,” I was informed.
I must have looked confused, and the girl at the reception explained that this included bath entry, room fee and food. “Food?” I asked.
“Yes, a buffet dinner and breakfast is included.”
Wow, I thought, this is a deal! For 70RMB. Very nice.
I was hearded up to my room to drop my gear. Not before I was instructed to remove my shoes and don the standard plastic slippers. “No, not those ones!” the girl instructed. “They are too small for you. Those ones are bigger, and will fit you.”
They were still too small and caused me to trip over the floppy ends, but the reception girl seemed happy that I was being well cared for with the biggest plastic sandals.
Upstairs, I was shown around. The public bath was very Japanese style, so I would have no issues there I thought. The food in the comfortable carpeted cafeteria was passable.
In my room I changed into the baggy cotton shorts and quickly made my way to the baths. In the changing area I was instructed to take everything off. Handed a towel.
I headed straight to the stools in the shower area to have a shower before getting into the large bath in the corner of the tiled room. I scrubbed the day’s road grime and sweat off my body. An attendant quietly approached, grabbed a bottle of body soap, and before I knew it was washing my back with it. I certainly did not complain.
Wash over, I headed to the large bath. There were already four men in there soaking and sweating, eyes glued to the TV screen in the corner. I eased myself into the bath, noting that it was just a little too cool for my liking. A few moments later, three more men entered the bath room, and without washing, walked straight into the bath! At seeing this, the soaking became a less pleasant experience. It seems that it is not the custom to wash before entering the bath here…ugh…yuck. I cut my soak short.
WARNING: The description below gets graphic. I make no apologies. This is China.
As I was about to leave, I noticed a small separate section to the bath room with raised platforms. I had a thought that these might be for massages, so I entered. The large male attendant with a massive belly, clad only in the standard baggy cotton shorts stood up as I entered and motioned me to the platform. “Lie down on your stomach,” he said.
On my stomach, and I realised what this was. This was the scrubbing platform. The attendant donned a rough nylon mitten, made from material only second to an industrial pot scrub in abrasive strength, and started the onslaught
I buried my face in the pillow at the end of the platform, and endured the scrubbing. He scrubbed my back, shoulders, backside, legs, feet, and last by not least, a couple of hard scrubs right in between my ‘cheeks’!
Whoa! Go easy fella! I thought…
“Turn over,” he said.
Um…what? Turn over? My perplexed look must have annoyed the attendant, and he waved his hand angrily, indicating that I should lie on my back. Acutely aware of how exposed I would be there on the platform lying completely starkers on my back, I pushed my rediculous western shyness to the back of my mind and flipped over.
More scrubbing ensued. Neck, arms, chest, stomach…at this point I was getting nervous for some reason…*whew*…from my stomach onto my legs and then feet, inbetween my toes.
My previous relief however was too soon…finished with my feet, he stepped around, grabbed my knees, spreading my legs. He then scooped the crown and the jewels out his way in his hand, and finished with a few scrubs in the nether regions!
I wasn’t quite sure what to do…run and hide perhaps?
Before I could decide, he indicated to me to turn over again. Gladly, I thought. He reached over to a bench and took two palm-sized packets from a box as I was sitting up. Showing them to me, the packets read Bath Salts. “Oh, thank you,” I said, and went to take the packets, thinking they were a gift for me to use at home.
Before I could take them however, he had the opened up. “Lie on your stomach” he ordered.
I did as he said, and I suddenly realised what might just be about to happen…and I was right. He emptied the salt packets onto my red freshly scrubbed flesh, and proceeded to rub the salt in with his hands.
The pain was strangely enjoyable however, the stinging seeming to draw the fatigue out of my muscles.
The process was repeated again on my front before I was finally released and allowed to return to the main bath room to rinse the salt off.
The whole process left me drained, and upon returning to my room, I dropped to my bed and promptly fell into dreamland.