Saturday, October 2, 2010

1st October
Left Lanzhou at 10:00 and reached Tianshui at 8:30!! The drive was 330 Km but first reason for the long riding hours is that motorcycles are not allowed on the expressway… so I had to take the old very decrepit road than ran over the hills while at certain points where the routes coincided I could see the vehicles  zooming below on the express way. While I lumbered on the gradients and snaking turns, the expressway burrowed straight through the hills. The second reason was that there were almost no road signs. You could drive for 30/40/50 km before you encountered a sign. That too in Chinese…of course why not- I am in China but only that meant halting a hundred times as there were ample forks, roads branching left, roads branching right, cross roads, T- junctions. In Chinese pronunciation is of utmost importance, a slightly more or slightly less lingering/weightage on a syllable could mean something different or nothing at all. The intonation is also important. Each time I asked directions, my pronunciation of the name of the town was so dismal that it made no sense to the people. Some people would just shake their head vigorously and look away, look like I was trying to sell them an insurance policy they did not want. Some people were extremely helpful they would get into a flurry trying to ask / involve other people in my query. A discussion would ensue, during which I would keep uttering the name of the town like a broken record and keep pointing to the options the road in front provided. Finally someone would understand and send me off.  This was getting very tiring, also at one point I had set off on the road that was pointed to me after much disagreements and arguments over what they thought I was saying, I was sure I was on the wrong track. So after riding tentatively for about 10 km, I decided I had to resolve this. I pulled into a gas station, undid the laborious packing and strapping of the side car and took out the map from my bag, showed it to the attendant and pointed out my destination, she could not speak but did read English… she confirmed I was on the right track. Now I had a brain wave I asked her to write my destination in Chinese script on a piece of paper, and stuck it on my petrol tank. As fishing the paper out from the pocket with a zipper when you have thick gloves on is seriously tedious, especially when you have to do it almost every 10 minutes.
So now all I did was stop and point to the text, and people would immediately point… I did not have to take my helmet off, stutter and stammer, there were no discussions…  Though sometimes I had to stop the bike get off and call people over to the bike to read the text, so tomorrow before I leave the hotel I will get the receptionist to write out my destination with a thick black marker, and tape it to my sleeve… howzzzat !!
 The second half of the journey which was a good 200 km was peculiar. I climbed up the slope and stayed totally on top riding the crest of the range descending only twice that too only to make contact with two small towns.
The left indicator lamp and the red and yellow pilot lamps on the side car are not lighting have to check the wiring/bulbs and rectify before leaving tomorrow its going to be a long drive again tomorrow.
 I have finally given in to the temptation and made up my mind to go all the way to Shanghai and not finish at the Three Gorges. So now it’s ‘Riding Rocinante – Bombay to Shanghai via Sardar Sarovar and the Three Gorges’. That’s going to be about 2300 km more to go- totaling about  9500Km 

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