Today’s distance / ???????: 68.6 miles / 110km
Average speed / ????: 10.6mph / 17km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 6h 28m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 5759mi plus 377mi (?) / 9269km plus 606km (?)
Ascent / ??: 325m
Descent / ??: 725m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N36° 19′ 46.20″, E102° 48′ 11.10″
Glorious day. Just faaaantastic. Zoom zoom!
It was smooth all the way from Xining, following a river that flows into the Yellow River, all the way to the dirty old town of Minhe.
There were frequent short uphills on this section of China National Highway 109 where the road would climb over a bluff on the river’s edge, but I knew in the back of my mind that as I climbed them, the valley floor was also dropping, meaning more down than up!
I was surprised at one point to see a tree in the middle of the road. This must be one uber-old tree to stand in the way of Chinese progress so much that it was not mowed down during road construction. The tree is in slap bang in the middle of the lane.
The industry of the day today in this region was agriculture. Garlic, to be exact.
The stuff is grown in massive quantities here. Drying by the roadside, stacked high on three-wheeled vehicles, squashed on the road, the scent hanging in the air. I felt healthy and revitalised just by breathing the air here.
At around 11am today, I was joined by a local boy of about 16 years old, on a bicycle. He greeted me with the standard ‘Hello, welcome to China!’. Here we go again, I thought…another smart kid who wants to speak English. I was even more concerned when he told me that he was cycling to Ledu, the next town, 16km away. All the way, with me.
It was a thorougly enjoyable experience however. He spoke very good English for his age, and gave me interesting insight into the area.
The garlic was in a recession since last year when it was affected, apparently causing it to be poisonous to humans (or something to that effect). Therefore prices this year are much lower than usual.
“Are people becoming poorer because of that?” I asked.
“Yes, for so long, they did not plant wheat or corn or raise pigs, because they could live off earnings from garlic. Now, they have no income, and no other food source that they can grow,” he replied. “It is a big problem.”
“Look at that corn,” he said pointing. “When my father was young, they could not grow corn here. Now the temperatures are higher, and they can grow it.”
He left me at Ledu to go to his father, and I continued on through the town, stopping for lunch at a beef noodle place. I was leaving the restaurant when I met Lemon Zhao (Lemon is his English name). He spends his 20 days holiday a year cycling. This year he is cycling to Xining from further east in China. Note the arm and leg covers, despite the heat. Perhaps I need to get some of those…I am being toasted here in the sun.
From Ledu, it was down a narrow gorge that separates clear-air China from polluted China. As soon as I popped out of the end of this gorge, it was coal dust central.
Approaching Minhe, I was skating past various factories of various descriptions, all apparently running on the horrible low-quality coal that is extracted from the hills around here. It is mostly coal dust, rather than coal chunks. Nothing like the shiny black rocks that we used to burn back in the day in Invercargill, New Zealand.
I pushed on to Minhe, arriving late at around 8pm, just before dark. I checked into a friendly inn run by an energetic family. The mother, in her excitement to have a real live foreigner stay at her inn could not stop giggling. Nor could her kids, who more or less took over my room as soon as I arrived.
It was here that I realised that I had been far too compacent in checking for wear on the bottom of my trailer. The trailer is made from a carbon/kevlar composite, all held together with a hard epoxy resin. The trailer is an old Rollsrolls longboard deck, and is excellently well made. But the constant scraping on the road that it endures as a trailer has taken its toll, and I now have a lumping great crack in one of the major load-bearing locations on the bottom of the deck.
I knew this was coming, but conveniently chose to do nothing about it. I should have reinforced this with fibreglass in Hong Kong when I had the resources and time available. Oh well, until I get to Lanzhou (two days away) wonderfully cheap quality cellotape will have to do. When I get home, I will remind myself “Never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape, never travel without duct tape…”