and we were doing so well

JttW blog 3: Every day is different. But it’s also the same. We get up, we pack our bags, we ride our bikes.


The joy of repetition really is in us. Then, on the road, we see the landscape changing before our eyes. Different every day. At intervals I check the map and try glean from it what’s out there, up ahead. The extra oxygen in my brain tells me that it’s like trying to see into the future, to forsee when and where we’ll arrive at our destination for the day. And beyond that, the next and the next. China in 100km chunks, a day at a time. But it’s not all predicable; roads that aren’t on the map, roads that are but are closed, mechanical issues, bodily misfunctions (more on that later) and a considerable variety of random weirdnesses. But we’re (or were) getting there. Lanzhou, the geographical centre of China and capital of noodles  is on the horizon. 

So then, courtesy of my last visit to the dentist in Shanghai to fix a broken tooth immediately before departure, I start to feel a slight tenderness in the gum above. An infection sets in quickly, and a full on jaw paralysing, head throbbing faceache goes with it. We arrive in Lanzhou, and find the University hospital of stomatology. Not stomachs, dentists. I didn’t know that. English speaking too, a bonus. I’m duly inducted and x-rayed, and the verdict is that they want to pull the bugger out. I’m reluctant, not least because I paid 800 quid for a gold inlay in the bloody thing only 3 weeks ago. So they provide a thorough (and painful) gum scrub which works wonders and provide antibiotics. Total bill of less than 20 quid. The considerably more expensive Shanghai dentist is adamant that the tooth can stay, but with the proviso that I return to Shanghai to have it stuff done to it. (Now, I’m not a racist but…) I REALLY want to avoid a flare-up in the ‘Stans and have a dodgy dentist having at it with a pair of mole grips. So here we sit in Lanzhou airport, bikes in boxes, ready to board. Expectations are being reset, and our options are being considered, favourite of which at the moment is dodging the ‘stans by flying from Shanghai to Tbilisi and continuing from there. A cop out, maybe, but c’est la bloody vie. 


Lose 2” of belly fat in 2 weeks!

The great gates of Xi’an

Two and a half weeks into our ride, here we are in Xi’an, the terracotta warrior town, enjoying two days of much needed R&R before heading out for the more “interesting” part of China. 1,896 km ridden.

The first view of hills

To get here, we’ve crossed a good chunk of China’s old industrial heartland. We’ve had days when it seemed that we breathed nothing but brick dust, and others when we’ve been covered in coal slurry. We’ve been baked at 31 degrees, and been wet and frozen at 3 degrees. Road surfaces have been variable. From completely empty, brand new 6 lane highways, to being slowed to walking speed on old country roads pounded into rubble by overloaded trucks. Yet here we are. Life is simple. Distilled to an essence of eat, sleep, ride, repeat. Hot showers and cold beer. Of course we’ve faced challenges; and every day has thrown an infinite number of ways at us to prove that the journey will be more difficult than we imagined. Translation, navigation, confusion, frustration. Of course, the issue is with my imagination, or the lack of it, rather than the journey. But there’s satisfaction, determination and exhilaration. We’re adapting, and possibly evolving, physically and mentally. Being old, we need our rest, and so I’m already looking forward to our next day off, 600km westward in Lanzhou “the gateway to nothing”