I was going to title this “First sight of the pacific” but, I forgot that Chinese cities do their best to limit your perception of where you actually are. So I have yet to see any water larger than a city canal.
On Day 4 we departed Shaoxing for Tiantai. This was a 144 km day followed by a rest day, but we felt we could push ourselves into the 144 range easily. Unfortunately there were two issues with this goal. One, I had forgotten to look at the terrain of this leg. Two, I had begun to feel a small amount of pain in my right knee and on this stretch I really amplified that problem. The second factor started early in the day and caused our progress to slow to a 18 to 22 kph speed, as compared to our previous day of 23-28 kph, this was substantial. Secondly, as we reached our 85 km mark in the day, and as my knee was really beginning to rebel, the road began a massive 8 degree + hill climb over about 20 km. These two factors reduced Dan and I to speeds of about 5 kph, a meager 3 mph speed. Small dogs could keep up with us as we dotted up the massive mountain side. Beautiful, lush, green, and steamy hot, we stopped several times to recover the energy and buy buckets of water. I downed Mom’s special formula, properly labeled ‘sweat’ due to the exact replication of the flavor, in each rapidly drained bottle and at least my psyche was content while my legs were not. At the top of the hill was a little town, maybe 1000 people (at least visible, so that would mean a Chinese village size of 45,000) there we stopped for the night in order to regain our regular heart beat and breathing pattern. We were pooped.
The following day was a 30 km ride down the other side of the hill through some beautiful country and at unassisted speeds of about 38 kph, a substantial change from the previous day. I was pleased, but my knee was still in a lot of pain. Even on a down hill push, I couldn’t use it. It was frustrating. We arrived in Tiantai, dotted around looking for a downtown and then relaxed the rest of the day. Now our pace was dependent on my knee. I couldn’t walk up stairs easily.
The following day, Day 6, we made our way to the highway and I forfeited our day of riding. I still couldn’t bend my knee much without pain and I had no desire to cause bigger problems. We thumbed a ride, quite quickly actually, and made it half way in only a few hours. It was a nice way to travel. Once dropped off we sought out another ride, but finding many offers, found no real lift. Finally we stopped a bus and paid our way.
The rain started falling heavily and we loaded bikes under the bus too quickly and did a bit of damage to the handle bars. We boarded, wet, dirty, and generally really handsome. Finding the only seat next to a young girl traveling alone. I commented to Dan, “isn’t this one of those teen-aged girl dreams, two dirty & rain soaked 20-something men, after a hard day of work (of which we had done very little), get on the bus and have no where to sit but next to this girl (she was probably 19 or so). I had a laugh. Dan and talked with her a bit to show her that we were real people, who couldn’t speak very good Chinese and were no more attractive than the drunk guys sleeping to her left. She gave us a bottle of water when she left. We’re now pengyou.
The bus ride seemed to drag on for ever and when it finally ended we transferred to another bus for the second half of the ride through the second half of the day. Once we finally arrived in Wenzhou we encountered a great deal of frustration with our couch surfing connection and finally just pulled into a hotel for the night. Tired, we got to bed the latest we had for a long time, 10:30 PM. Fortunately, there was nothing planned for the following day.
Now it’s day 7 and we’re resting. My knee feels better, but still not near even 85%. If it’s not well by tonight we’ll talk about new plans, and if it’s not well by tomorrow morning we’ll need to begin those new plans. Updates will be posted.
I hope things continue as scheduled – I’m looking forward to pedaling through the rest of the coast line. But we’ll see.