The next morning I woke up to the sound of the young women stoking the fire and preparing breakfast. I dressed and packed up my things and sat down, more tea and food were given to me and I was again encouraged to eat, eat ,eat. I managed to have a basic conversation about the weather and assured the young woman that I was not cold, the house was very warm and usually I sleep outside I said. The baby was dressed in front of the fire and the two Lamas came down. I was given a bowl of hot water to wash with. The Lamas seemed to be in a rush they were late for something, they smiled and said good bye and left. I managed to snap a quick picture and they were gone. I started to take my things downstairs and load up the bike. The young woman also said goodbye, she put on a baseball camp and lead the cattle out the front door to the road. She would probably come back before night and spend the day with the animals out to pasture. I thanked and waved good by to the mother and cycled off down the dirt street. I stopped by the ash of the fire where I had met everyone the night before to adjust a few things on the bike and was soon surrounded by a group of teenage boys. I answerer the usual questions, one person, English, going to ‘name of next village’ said goodbye and set off down the bumpy road again. It had been an incredible experience. I wish I could have found a way to thank the family more or talk with them but I couldn’t. I continued cycling on humbled by the experience.
After less than an hour I arrived in the small town that I had hoped to get to the day before and set about trying to by provisions. My speedo was still broken so I had no idea how long there was to go. I guessed, depending on the road that there was another 4 or 5 days to Batang at the most. Here I would rest for a few days before carrying on. I parked the bike by the side of the road. There were a few shops either side of me and decided the bike would be fine while I went between shops, I could always see it. I attracted a lot of attention and some people milled around the bike and felt the tyres, this seems to be the ultimate test of how good a bike is. My English way of shopping was not working and as I could not work out who was shop keeper and who was customer I just started asking people for the stuff that I wanted and was soon filling up my bags with rice, sugar, biscuits and noodles. Shopping done I decided to get a short way out of town and have a few minutes to myself. I am used to the attention you get, turning up in a small town that few tourists stop at. It still can be overwhelming though, especially as the few days before I spent the night at the house I had pretty much spent on my own with only a few people around me at once.
I cycled about 500m and parked up on the outskirts of town, the area was covered in rubbish but it was quiet. I studied them map and looked at the road ahead. A woman camp past carrying a hoe and asked me the three questions. The conversation progressed and I showed her my whole route through china. It was one of the best conversations I had had and she seemed vary un-phased by me and what I was doing. She assured me that the road ahead was the one that I wanted, so I folded the map and pushed the bike onto the road. As I was about to set off a young guy came up to me and asked the three questions. I had a similar conversation with him as with the other woman. The guy then invited me back to his place for tea. I was in a dilemma, part of my reason for travelling is to meet people and experience new culture but it was already midday and I was keen to get going. I thanked him but said that I had to get going. He asked again, saying that I could rest a bit have some tea, then go. I thanked him and said OK, and we started walking back to his house. I was in a bigger more modern version of the house I slept in last night but without the straw and cattle. Tea was prepared by the guys mother and a young girl whom I presumed he had just phoned brought me some baba (flat bread). We talked as best we could and just laughed when we could no understand each other. He brought a book to the table and I was excited, maybe this was an English Chinese book. My phrase book was OK but more suited to staying in 4 star hotels, restaurants where they might have a menu in English than having tea and baba in small village close to the Tibetan border. The book was all in Chinese and in tried hard to figure out what it was about and its significance to the conversation. We hit a wall smiled and carried on drinking tea. I was full, from both the tea and the bread and we had pretty much exhausted our conversational ability to I said that I must be on my way. The guy produced a bag of biscuits and put the rest of the baba with it. He then handed me the book and said I could have it. I thanked him a lot but said I could not take it and that I could not understand the words. He would not take no for an answer, so I found a spot for it in my bag, thanked him a lot and waved goodbye. Another stranger that had just taken me in and showed the utmost kindness.
I cycled back out of town and was soon following a winding river and enjoying more flat roads and downhill. The best part of all was tarmac. As I entered the village the bumpy road was smoothed out and sealed and my bike was enjoying gliding along its smooth surface. The rest of the day passed by quickly, I stopped a few times to ask directions and responded to the usually hellos and goodbyes that sometimes came from nowhere. A few of the towns were a hive of small activity and groups of people would be gathered around a table playing card games or some sort of dominoes or there would be a tatty pool table. these pool tables were often in the most unlikely places, the side of a cliff, the side of a road or the front of someone house, I never knew that pool was such a popular past time.
By about 5pm I had reached promising looking camp spot. No water but I had learnt to fill up before 3pm and take the first good camp spot after 5pm. Good camping, that is flat, off the road and hidden, that also avoid rock fall was hard to find and this places was perfect. It took me a while to get the bike over some small rocky obstacles and around some bushes but I was soon laying out the ground sheet and foam mat and getting the stove out to boil water and make dinner. I was camping right underneath a phone mast so I was hopping to get good signal and let the family know I was still OK Despite the phone mast I seemed to be in a black spot but moving a few meters enabled me to get good reception and I enjoyed a good chat with Liz. It had been a week since I had spoken a conversation in English and I had verbal diarrhoea. I had to remember to stop and breath while I told Liz about all the amazing adventures I had had over the last few day. We said goodbye and I washed up the pans and got out my sleeping bag for bed. Another night biviing, I still felt a little vulnerable, the daylight had gone and a light source from the other side of the valley kept me on high alert for a while. I worked hard on calming my irrational fears and soon felt better and was able to fall asleep.