from mingyong i rode back down the road, at least until the pavement ended and the dirt road continued. actually i skated a bit on the dirt road too, it was sloped enough to give me enough momentum to carry over the gravel and around the ruts, but it was a bumpy, harsh ride, dangerous not for the speed but for that falling into the gravel hurts and throws up ugly gravel cuts. i found that out last time out here i tried to skate through a gravel pit.
up, up into another village, where in the middle of a big commotion, an old medicine woman was massaging the feet of a fat-man westerntourist, who had apparantly collapsed. after her massage, he could limp away on the arm of his chinese girl, but then the old woman seemed to have a heart attack, and the fuss was about geting her to stand again. hmmm…
the locals directed me to the short-cut path, up towards the hot springs, a path which turned into the road and a good hour’s hike upstairs. the ‘hot springs’ were actually headed by a terribly run-down, trash-strewn yard with guesthouse and little kitchen buildings, overrun by dogs and pigs. the springs were directed into these little houses, where one can pay to sit in the darkness. yet behind the whole complex is the free spring, one pipe coming out of a wall, and a shallow pool of nice-nice hot water, where i soaked myself, then camped up above. not an amazing hot spring experience, but excellent to have a soak, in mildly sulferous waters.
the next morning i was down into the paths, hiking all morning down the slopes to the trail along the mekong (lansang) river. rocky, shifting shale terrain gave way to a pretty good footpath, which led around and about, above the river, eventually taking me to the bridge, and a dry dusty access road up to the tarmac.
i was psyched to get onto the blacktop, and was at once greeted by some fast downhill and the first tunnel of this trip. well, it would have been fast downhill if not for the 50knot wind raging through the river chasm, which pretty much negated my forward motion, and though it lessened as i went downstream, was a constant companion my entire skate along the river.
day 2 on that blacktop, i was stylin out in the morning, easily pacing 25 km, just getting into my stride with the oats burning clean, when i came to a place where the road was closed. here, the first pitfall of my journey. actually, it was a rockfall, which had smothered the new and the old roads with tons of boulders, which took workers until 8 in the evening to clear. thus i wandered the nearby village, skeptically viewing the ‘must-see’ church, complete with its history-room, upon whose walls were many many old photos of solemn french christian missionaries. these missionaries brought the grapes to the region and the wine-making techniques, and did their fair share of cultural subterfuge in the name of christian proselytization (sp?). it made me think about how, working in beijing, i feel the need to educate, and change the chinese mentality, at least in terms of food service, health and safety, quality and consistency, which are not values generally ingrained in young chinese workers’ minds. why do i find christian missionary work so distasteful, when i am also trying to ‘educate’ the heathens, i wonder?
back into the flow, i skated downstream, skating into the dusk, through three tunnels, after which the darkeness scored a hit, and i crashed out. roadrash: not too bad; gear ruin: broken headlamp and split water tube, repairable; jilted stamina: i caught a ride 4km through the construction sites, showered and crashed in a cheap hotel, in a basic truck-stop town.
thankful for my high tech backpack
emergency stitch-up of my ripped pants
the next day refreshed, i skated 70km along the mekong, to the place where the road forks. awesome, smooth, well-paced, beautiful countryside, a great skate on the road, rolling up and down pretty regularly. that’s the kind of skating i really enjoy to get into the push-coast-push that can keep me going for hours and hours. very cool