Today’s distance / ???????: 43 miles / 69km
Average speed / ????: 9.8mph / 15.8km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 22m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 5053mi plus 377mi (?) / 8132km plus 606km (?)
Ascent / ??: 105m
Descent / ??: 585m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N40° 30′ 58.90″, E095° 46′ 38.70″
At last some decent downhill. Dead straight for about 50km too.
A quick peek out the window of the truck stop this morning, where I was sharing a room with Valentinas, and I saw that the wind was blowing towards the east. Perfect. When I know the wind is blowing my way, or there is no wind (a rarity in this part of China) it is very easy to get up and going.
Valentinas prefers a later start, so I sneaked out of the room, trying not to wake him. I ate my usual breakfast of Nestle Cereal Drink (kind of like Weetbix, except in a powder form) with some soy bean milk powder and figs, and as I was about to leave, Valentinas wanders out to see me off. Valentinas is heading in the same direction as me, but is heading to Dunhuang, south of here. Dunhuang is famous for being a cultural haven. I don’t care. Get me to Shanghai. If it is out of the way, I don’t want to know about it.
Once again the first hour of skating is great. The sun rising across the hilly land scape is wonderful.
I skate for two hours with gloves and a woolly hat on. It is chilly, but I feel alive. The tailwind pushes me along between the hills, heading downhill all the time.
At last I am spat out of the hills, and once again each push is swallowed up in the immense vastness of the plain that stretches ahead of me. When skating through narrow gorges, the sense of speed and progress is amplified. The mind is stimulated. Forward energy is concentrated into a feeling of wonderful forward motion.
Out in the plains, it is as if the energy is displaced. Dissipated. All I can do is hunker down and push onwards. Endless forward motion with no visual result once again.
A roadside scrounger, looking for anything worth anything; bits of coal, plastic bottles, clothing etc, is a welcome diversion from the monotony.
He was a friendly chap, and we spent a few minutes admiring each other’s modes of transport. “There are many cyclists from other countries that travel this road,” he said. “But you’re the first I’ve seen on a skateboard!”
He confirms that it is about 10km to town. “I take my time, and from here it takes me about two hours, stopping to pick things up” he says.
It looks to be more than 10km, but the road is as straight as an arrow, and distances are deceiving in the desert. A headwind starts to blow, and the last 10km into town feel like 100km, despite the gradual downhill. As trucks pass on the opposite side of the road, heading in my direction, I have to tuck down in an aerodynamic pose to lessen the massive rush of air as they pass. It is like surfing. As the truck approaches, it pushes a massive bow-wave of air towards me. I duck down, diving under the wave, waiting for it to pass, and then pop back up again.
I was happy to arrive in green Guazhou. Treelined streets and friendly, inquisitive locals greeted me.
First impressions of the city:
- These people must have never seen a foreigner before. Even when walking around without my skateboard, people stare. Much more than in Xinjiang province. Once guy asked me if I was Kazakh or Uyghur.
- It is a green city. Cool and refreshing.
- It is Chinese. I am no longer in Xinjiang. No more ethnic diversity.
From the main National Highway 312, it is a solid 4km south into town, as is the case with many other cities I have visited on the way on highway 312 (Hami and Turpan and Shanshan are also that way). At the t-intersection that leads into town, there are many very new-looking truck stops and truck repair joints.
I need a place to stay for a few nights, and an internet cafe, so head into town. I’ll be staying in Guazhou for three nights and heading out again on Monday.
I checked into the Bus Center Inn (for a reasonable 20RMB a night – 2 Euro) in the center of town.