Day 2 - Xuzhou to Muddy Tracks between Rice Paddies - 20 June 08 (13km walk)
Needless to say after a very late night it was a bit of a slow start to the morning. Breakfast finished at 9am so we headed to the 26th floor dining room just before 9 to partake in a rather sumptuous buffet with Paul, Konomi and Yuji, a young Japanese guy who had been walking with them since February this year (http://yoyoyuji.spaces.live.com/). The view from the restaurant would be stunning on a clear day. What we could see were the many solar hot water heaters on the roof of the apartments. There are more per building than we have seen anywhere else in the world. The plan was to start walking at 1pm…which was good as we were still a little tired due to late several late nights. Had a bit of a kip after breaky and then we all set off from the hotel at 1.30 – in the pouring rain!
The first part of the walk was through the northern part of Xuzhou city along the main road and then a smaller more ‘local’ road with small doorways opening to one room home/work areas or small local cafes with woks and BBQ burners outside under awnings, glass cases filled with delicacies of your choice…including a dog’s head striped of its skin waiting to be boiled or deep fried. The first thought was oh, this is a pigs head but then the cogs of the brain registered that this pig did not have a snout!
We got to the river and crossed a rather pretty bridge with a covered walkway, with many people sheltering from the rain and fishing from the sides. Of course, here again we were celebs.
Stopped for a while to take in the view and also shelter from the rain, watching people trying to cross the road at the end of the bridge getting soaked by vehicles speeding by and sending up a curtain of spray, always honking, honking, honking their horns. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fPUxyzzrv0
As with many Asian countries horn honking to tell people “get out of the way, I am coming through” is the norm. Even here sitting in our hotel room on the 13th floor writing this, one can hear constant horn honking in spite of the double glazing that is dulling the noise.
We walked along the river for a bit then headed north literally walking to the end of the road. A nice surprise along this road was a temple built long before the road about 600AD. The tiled footpath suddenly stopped and we walked around the corner of the very old building jutting out into the road which turned out to be the entrance to the temple.
We also saw signs of how the change by nurseries from clay pots to plastic pots is impacting on the environment.
We reached a T junction in the road and to save about 40kms instead of following the road we headed off into the unknown. Paul had planned each days walk using Google Earth. He could see that a path traversed the fields and ended at a commune and then back on to local roads. The going was pretty reasonable then we reached a point where Paul had planned to go right but the straight ahead road still looked ok so I voted we keep following it. Well this track eventually became stepping stones between flooded fields and then a rather wider muddy embankment. This was when things turned a little bit to custard…or should one say mud. Giggling as we all tried to navigate our way down the sticky path soon changed to slightly hysterical laughter as Louise literally got stuck in the mud. We all made it to firmer ground none the worse for the experience except for an extra few kilos of China stuck to our boots.
On we walked through the rice paddies and eventually found a road through a commune. The brick buildings all had vegetable patches outside them with the most exquisite looking aubergines, peppers, beans etc growing. We eventually came to a cross roads which looked to be a likely place to finish for the day. Konomi can read but not speak Chinese so she wrote down the name of the streets we were at and we took photos of road signs so that we could get a taxi back out to this point to start walking tomorrow.
Next we figured out that we could catch a local bus back to town. This was an experience in itself. This gave us first hand experience of an angry driver honking VERY loudly for anything in our path to get out of the way. The horn was so loud it blasted your eardrums each time he honked. Then a passenger down the back of the bus decided to have a very loud conversation on his mobile phone. Paul is convinced that most of the population is deaf from the constant cacophony that they have to put up with. After one day in China have to say that he may have a point!! The bus took the long way home and we ended up in a part of the city that required a taxi ride back to the hotel. It was raining heavily by this stage and we finally hailed one with four of us piled in the back and Konomi in the front next to the driver in his caged off area giving directions.
We went straight to a local restaurant for an early dinner. Yes still muddy and wet, though this did not appear to upset the owners. Great experience! Got to choose the food (stuck to mainly vegetarian). The restaurant was very popular. A noisy smoky atmosphere but good to experience! A meal for five meal including beer only cost US$15.
Back to a very nice shower to wash the mud off the body.