There are a lot of reasons to be frightened of Chinese roads–crossing them or driving on them. All the people driving on the wrong side, for instance. Or the constant honking: honking trucks, honking scooters, honking for you to move, move, get out of the way! Everyone has right of way in their own mind, and if you inadvertently make eye contact with another soul braving the road, well, you’ve practically given them an invitation to go right ahead. The people who inexplicably park in the bike lane don’t make life easier either, forcing me to have to veer my rusty borrowed bicycle into the car lane, and probably into some oncoming traffic doing the same on the other side. Yes, there are certainly a lot of things to be afraid of on these roads, but I seemed to be the only one freaking out on Sunday, as Dawson and I embarked, bellies full of noodles, dumplings, and cold beer (usually easier to find than cold water, I swear), on our journey into the countryside.
We started by riding across the river–a good point of departure from the urban landscape, it seemed. We soon found a highway going directly away from Jiangshan–exactly what we wanted. The highway was rather scenic, with huge stretches of farm land exuding the sweet smell of manure on either side, but terribly polluted with the honking of all the trucks carrying their cargo. Some even honked at us, perhaps out of habit, though the bicycle lane is blocked off by a barrier. After a few kilometers of riding, I heard a loud and ominous “POP!” It was my back tire, totally obliterated by some anonymous object. After asking for directions from some road workers, we headed off down a small country road in search of a repair shop. It was, in the end, a rather fortunate turn of events. The scenery down this lane was gorgeous, and we were soon far away from the sounds of the highway. We passed numerous lunch gatherings–here, it seems, every meal is an excuse for a party.
The bicycle repairman was extremely affable and curious about America. He asked us–this took some time to decipher–how many people live there, and then how many in China. To replace the tire, including the inner tube, and tune up the nuts and bolts on the bike cost a little less than 4 dollars.
We were good and tired when we got home that evening, after between four and five hours of exploring the area. I was so pleased to see all the happy looking chickens and ducks (I took a picture of some particularly cute baby ducks), the occasional cow, as well as all the small scale farming: we saw several instances of rice harvesting and tons of fruit trees.
Tomorrow is the last day of classes! We are planning our journey for the next week or so–it promises to be an adventure and a half.