Black, Blue, and Red around Hainan
I am back in Hainan now. I had some odds and ends to take care of, but I came back here for my vacation because I wanted to ride my bike around Hainan Island. The plan was to start from Haikou in the north and go around the island counter-clockwise. When I was studying Chinese at Hainan University, it was one of my small dreams to ride my bike around the island. It didn’t happen then.
One of the people at Hainan University had my bike, but I didn’t find him because of summer vacation. I rented a bike instead – a Giant with maybe a 19" frame, or two sizes too small. The bike has front suspension, but no rear suspension for going over terrible roads. No headlight, so riding at night is a problem in Hainan outside of major cities.
Thanks to another friend leaving Korea, I got some bike bags that could attach to the bike’s luggage rack. I put in some items I did not need, such as books. I was far too tired at the end of each day to read (sometimes even to eat). I didn’t need my dictionaries, because I already can speak the necessary Chinese to register at hotels and the like. Many people spoke different dialects, but I can write Chinese to get past any potential misunderstandings as well.
Over five days ending yesterday, I made it to Sanya and had gone a total of 505km on the bike. I used 60+SPF sunscreen, but even on my fourth bottle, my skin was beginning to turn quite red from the strong Hainan sun. My hands naturally curl up strongly into fists from holding onto the handlebars for such long periods of time. My behind was black and blue from riding over roads that apparently hadn’t been repaired in ages. A good deal of my riding was on the western highway, not the western expressway. Except for a few portions, it seems like the road is being left to to die out since all the people that pay taxes are probably people that care a lot more about the condition of the expressway.
It may have been painful, but I got a lot of admiration from people for the distance I was riding my bike. Not surprisingly, many people along the route were extremely friendly. I had hoped to cover more distance each day, but one of the reasons I went on a bike was so that I could visit a few places off the beaten path. Many of the places were completely free to enter, because they don’t expect tourists to go there. A good example was a huge botanical garden outside of 那大 (NaDa).
When I got to Sanya, I was not so impressed. Sanya does not have wide streets with separate bike paths the way Haikou does. Sanya has a place called 天涯海角 (The End of the Earth), which is not even the southernmost part of Hainan Island. To enter and take a picture there, I would have had to pay 65RMB (about 10USD). A bottle of water that costs 1RMB elsewhere costs 5RMB in Sanya. Tourists are shaping that city. At the end of the fourth day, I ended up stopping in a place called 崖城 (YaCheng) which was 455km into my journey. That place was completely different than Sanya. A place of historical significance and one that continues to maintain Chinese culture. The kind of city that most people would not go to simply because they want to get to Sanya, even though Yacheng is far more interesting from the perspective of somebody interested in the unique aspects of China.
Out of clothes, sunburnt, black and blue in certain places, and not particularly impressed by Sanya, I decided to return to Haikou after watching a beautiful sunset in Sanya.
Rather than spend a somewhat uninteresting and expensive night in Sanya, I spent an exciting night on the bus going back to Haikou. Most buses, especially to cities nearby in China, do not necessary go by the schedule. Signs may say buses leave every 30 minutes for Haikou, but I was at the bus station for over an hour. Buses want to be profitable, so they will wait until they have conned enough passengers into buying tickets. Even my ticket had a different destination and price than it should have had for Haikou. At least it was cheap – 55RMB.
The bus was not full leaving Sanya, so we stopped at various places. The driver would stop at gas stations and towns, bargaining with people who wanted to go to Haikou. At these times, all the windows would open as passengers on the bus listened for the price those people got. Too low, and the passengers will be complaining for some of their money back. Some people decide to wait for later buses to try and get a better price. Eventually we get to a farm. The people at the farm loaded boxes of fruit from the floor to the ceiling in the back three rows of the bus, finally making the bus full.
With a full bus, we finally got onto the eastern expressway back to Haikou (the eastern route to Haikou is only about half the distance of the western one). Eventually boxes of fruit started falling over and began resting on my partially-disassembled bike in the centre aisle. My bike was still intact once the trip ended someplace on the southern edge of Haikou around 2am in the morning.
In my excitement to be off the bus, I reassembled my bike but neglected to attach the bungee cord at the bottom of the luggage to the frame. I didn’t ride more than 30m before the bungee cord on one side caught on one of the spokes of the wheel. It went round and round until the bungee cord snapped and got stuck on the rear hub of the bike. When that happened, it was not possible to back pedal or shift the rear gears of the bike. I could ride the bike so long as the pedal movement matched the movement of the wheels.
I didn’t have a special toolkit on me, but I wanted to repair the wheel and get the hook out. it occured to me I might be able to pull on the hook with my U-lock in its open position. After about an hour, I was able to remove the remnants of bungee cord and the hook, thus allowing the wheel to work properly again.
I hadn’t been to 传统永和豆浆 (Yonghe Soymilk) on this trip, so I decided to go there. I bought enough to get a VIP card (this is only the second time ever I have spent that much). It was the first time I had eaten since the evening of the 27th (when I had another huge meal). To give some perspective, I spent 68RMB, or almost enough to purchase 23 large bowls of soy milk. I bought at least one of every single vegetarian item they had on their menu. By the time I was finished with that meal, the sun was about to rise.
I got some much needed rest…