Had to reach Anqing today- that was 399 km and about 9 hrs according to Google maps. I was very apprehensive about the back tyre. I wanted to leave early as I had a lot of distance to cover and the condition of the roads and delays was another question mark… no time to look for another mechanic and the tyre of the right size etc.
Wuhan is a very big city with road works and flyovers being constructed everywhere. So finding my way out of the morning rush hour traffic jams and diversions was a major nightmare- spent more than an hour and a half looking for my way out.
I rode for the first 70 km but again each hiss or jolt was like Damocles whispering in my ear. I could not take it and just turned into a mechanics shop in a town that came next. Rocinante had also completed 9000 km and I intended to change the oil at Anqing. It was a good idea to drain and replace the oil while the tyre work was being done. It was impossible to get the right tyre in this small town. I decided to put the front tyre which was still in excellent condition at the back and the back tyre that I had changed in Dulan on the 28th which I was carrying with me, and was in a better condition than the current back tyre; in the front. Now this was the original back tyre and was wider and fitted tightly in the front mudguard… so had to remove the mudguard. The whole operation took about an hour and a half. I resumed my journey. Thankfully the road was good... but as usual there were no road signs at any junctions - you never know if you have to go left or right. What they do have though is milestones with a countdown of kilometers to Shanghai - on each and every road. Not only that, between each stone is also a hundred meter marker-this I think is a waste and it angers me no end as they should rather put the name of the next town on these stones. Luckily I have realized that at least the stones have in small print the no. of the highway on them. I was keeping an eye on the stones for this. I knew I had to stick to the G318 highway. Suddenly after a junction the markers were gone, and after a while I found myself on state road 106. I tried to back track ask people who refused to answer or did not know… but had gone quite a distance and kept getting more and more lost. I must have spent another Kafkaesque hour or more fretting and fuming before I got back on course.
There was a mountainous patch, I had confirmed in the maps this was the very last one on the road to Shanghai! At about 17:00 hrs as the sun was beginning to pack up; I had done a range or two of the mountains, and calculated that I had another 100 km to go. Suddenly I saw a sign that said Anqing 195 KM! I totally lost it! I was quite tired and felt utterly cheated.
Not only did I have to drive through the dark (as I have said, something that I am most uncomfortable with) but had to do about 50 km of mountains in pitch dark and through fog… and at a time when I was at the end of my last reserves of strength of body and mind.
Reached Anqing at 22:15 hrs. A total of about 14 grueling hours and 470 km.