Today Doug had a good look at our map and it became clear that we could take an alternate route for 45 miles or so and get off of highway 324. However, it wasn’t clear if the alternate route would have hotels and restaurants or at least stores where we could buy food and water. We decided that the only way we would know for sure would be to get into a car and drive the route so we hired a taxi and went to see for ourselves. We were immediately sold on the idea. The route was down an utterly charming, almost completely level, shady, tree lined, winding country road and did I mention SHADE! We loved it. There was only one area where we questioned if we would be able to find a hotel but we were so in love with the route that we decided we were willing to sleep outdoors if needed. We didn’t bring a tent this time, just a tarp and a rain poncho that would be wide enough to cover both of us if we slept up against each other. We were so excited to walk this route. It’s just the kind of adventure we like.
On our way back to our hotel, we asked the taxi driver to take the 324, the route we were initially planning to walk. Within the first few miles, all thoughts of walking the country road were abandoned. The 324, while not even close to being level,has the most visually stunning landscape I think we have yet seen in China. Beautiful limestone (?) outcroppings rise up out of nowhere and are covered with lush vegetation. We even saw a couple of caves way high up the nearly completely vertical sides. The place feel magical. This is where dragons live. I’m a bit disappointed that we can’t walk them both but we have limited time and I have limited energy. At least we got to see the other route.
I will post pictures tomorrow or the next day of the path taken.
Doug and I stopped for a little dinner and after we finished eating,the waitress pulled out her camera and then put her four-year-old daughter in Doug’s lap. We know from experience that this scenario never ends well. The poor child was instantly reduced to tears. We want to be polite and accommodating but seriously, it’d be traumatic to be plopped down in any stranger’s lap let alone a strange looking foreigner’s.
The weather thankfully has cooled down. Today the “Real Feel” is only 103 which is very walkable and much more enjoyable. We may readjust our morning starting time and go back to a 4:00 am start if this weather keeps up. We miss so much of the scenery when we are walking in the middle of the night.
Once again, we have been the recipients of thoughtful generosity in the form of bottles of water, slices of cool watermelon, snack foods or just as gratefully received, thumbs up and big grins all from passing motorists.
Both Doug and I have some blisters but are otherwise well. So many memories from last year are coming back to us. Even some of the language. Things I wouldn’t have remembered how to say three weeks ago come rolling off my tongue now. Context and environment are everything when learning a language.
I forgot the challenges I faced last summer when trying to get vegetarian meals. Ever vigilant, I saved Doug from eating dog meat yesterday afternoon. He says he would have remembered to ask anyways but who knows.
Yesterday Doug and I tried to check into a hotel and when we walked into the establishment and inquired about a room, we were told that it was not a hotel. We left and walked to the corner where we were greeted by a group of enthusiastic and very friendly men. We asked them if there was a hotel nearby and were directed back to the place we had just left. Further up and across the street we made another inquiry and this man kindly escorted us back to the same very place. In the past when we’ve been turned away from hotels it has usually although not always been because they weren’t licensed to rent to westerners. However, this time it was simply because they didn’t want us. I think it’s a good experience to know what it feels like to be mistrusted or rejected for no logical or as far as I can see valid reason.
Off we went down the road and about ten kilometers later, we found a hotel that was happy to have us and we checked in without any problems. After a little rest we went down the road to get some dinner and were greeted by a group of enthusiastic half in the bag men who helped us drink our beers. One of the men even read our palms although we have no idea what he was saying. I’m not happy that the first hotel rejected us but I’m going to look at if this way- we wound up in the better place. I’m sure Hippolyte had his share of doors shut in his face. I think this experience brings me closer to him. Anyways,these were our drinking buds.
We were up at 3:30 this morning and on the road by 4:15. We started right out in front of the hotel I hurt my foot at last year. As we were walking, we could hear frogs croaking from the creek or canal that ran beside the road and by the time they quieted down, the bats started heading home and then the sun came up from behind the mountains.
We ate lychee as we walked and stopped for a real breakfast at 7:00. I was feeling pretty cocky that we had gotten 7.5 miles in before breakfast. By 9:00, it was blazing hot. The weather app on my phone said that it was 89 degree but that the “real feel” was 109. Tomorrow morning we are getting up at 2:30 and will start walking at 3:00 and hope to be back in a hotel before 10:00 am. It’s simply too hot to be outdoors.
We met some very nice student drivers who pulled over and gave us bottles of water and cans of Redbull. We took several photos and were on our way. Despite the heat, we are so happy to be back here among some of the kindest people in the world.
Our last night in Beiliu we had dinner with Dr. Vincent, his wife Hong and his son. Last year his son seemed very shy but this year, he was able to speak to us in English. He has even taken the English name Steve. Hong asked if I would give her an English name. I looked at her and tried to figure out which name suited her best. She is very pretty and elegantly dressed yet I sense that she is a force to be reckoned with. She’s a strong woman too.
I asked Dr. Vincent if her name “Hong” meant something in Mandarin and he told me that it meant “red”. Doug suggested Rose and I suggested Ruby. We used our phones to show her pictures of both the flower and the precious stone. Hong picked Ruby and I think it’s a fitting name.
Dr. Vincent gave Doug and I gifts. He gave Doug a beaded rosewood necklace and he gave me a beaded cedar necklace. It smells so good. We love our gifts. Thank you Dr. Vincent, Ruby and Steve.
We are back in Beiliu! We flew to Hong Kong on June 23rd and arrived on the 24th. We had planned to stay at the airport hotel but some sort of convention or event caused room rates to skyrocket. Because we didn’t want to pay $500 a night at the Regal, we found ourselves in a district called Lantau and we both loved it there. Our hotel was right across the street from the Silver River. The next morning we had breakfast at a huge outdoor restaurant that was right in front of our hotel. Everybody there was at least 85 years old so we are thinking that maybe there is some sort of retirement village nearby.
After breakfast, we took a cab back to the airport and we got to see everything we missed during the dark drive the night before. Neither of us realized how lush and rural a good portion of Hong Kong still is. We aren’t completely sure but we think that Lantau is only 5 miles from the airport but they are separated by a small mountain so it’s a 30 minute winding drive but well worth it.
Yesterday afternnon we flew into Nanning and Dr. Vincent and his friend came and picked us up at the airport. It was a 6 hour round trip drive for them. It was a lovely drive for us and the landscape looked so beautiful and familiar.
This morning we called on Dr. Vincent again to help us get Chinese SIM cards for our phones. It was easy enough to do last year but this year we had some problems but he got it all straightened out.
We are staying one more night here in Beiliu and tonight we are having dinner with Dr. Vincent, his wife and son. We can’t begin to thank him enough for all of his help. We have some gifts for them that we hope they will like.
Tomorrow morning we start walking. It’s crazy hot and humid here so we will be getting an early start. We should be on the road by 4:00 am and by 1:00pm we will be 17 miles closer to Hong Kong.
We have a one hour flight to San Francisco followed by a fourteen hour flight to Hong Kong, a two hour flight to Nanning and then a 3 hour drive (courtesy of our friend Dr.Vincent) to Beilu. We will spend 2 nights in Beilu and then we hit the road. It’s only another 296 miles to ShenZhen and from there, a ferry to Hong Kong. I’m excited that it’s only 296 miles and sad that it’s only 296 miles. Last summer was a life changing experience. Doug and I lament the fact that it took until our 49th year to learn that the greatest way to see a country is by walking through it. Honestly, 2 years ago, I had no interest in visiting China and now I can’t wait to go back. We met some of the kindest and most thoughtful people ever. I’m a curmudgeon so this really says a lot. We hope to be on the road by the 26th.
My foot is healed, our bags are packed and we are ready to go! We are headed back to China and hope to be walking by June 27th at the latest. The last 11 months have been a challenge. I don’t think that a day has passed when I didn’t think about returning to China to finish the walk that my great-great uncle Hipployte began 96 years ago! We only have 296 more miles to go and we are excited to see what awaits us. Please check in and root us on.
We made it back home and it is so nice to be in the comfort of familiar surroundings and in our own bed. Even so, those last few hundred miles are stretching out in front of me and I am so anxious and eager and itching to complete them. I’m counting the months and weeks and days untill we can go back, strap on our backpacks and take our first steps along the 324 headed to Shenzhen.
The waiting seems unbearable. Imagine someone sitting down on a piano bench and pressing the keys one by one- C-D-E-F-G-A-B and then stopping before terminating the loop by playing the closing C. It’s like missing the last 5 minutes of an intense movie or being obsessed with a book only to find the last chapter has been torn out.
I so badly want to finish this walk. I want to go back to Beilu and once again express my gratitude to Dr. Vincent. So much is waiting for us there. We have friends to meet and smiles to return. Most of all, I want to see the ferry terminal to Hong Kong off in the distance getting closer and closer and closer until we can at last walk up to that ticket window and buy our passage to Hong Kong having finished the around the world journey that my great great uncle embarked upon in 1920.
Please visit our website again in late June of 2016. If you are on Facebook, I will post an announcement. Until then, the countdown begins. Ten months, two weeks and…..