July 28th; 228km; Harbin, Heilongjiang to Anda, Heilongjiang
Definitely our most challenging day today as it seemed that pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
First the rain, then…
We picked up the bike after checking out of our hotel around 8:30 in the morning. We had to have a few things tuned up- tighten the rear suspension to compensate for our weight, do a regular checkup, and fix our horn and fuel guage. Unfortunately, the part they needed for the guage wasn’t available and so it would have to be shipped to our next pit stop 2 weeks away in Xi’an.
The rain started even before we left the hotel but it didn’t seem so bad. So we suited up with our rain gear and set out. Then, after only about 10 minutes out of the shop, just as we were getting onto a bridge entrance ramp, the bike just shut down.
I couldn’t get it started and at the same time was getting strong whiffs of gasoline. I turned everything off and had Amy jump off to direct traffic because there was no shoulder for me to pull aside into.
Hanging Out With the Local Police
At the bottom, we parked in a police check point tent that was setup at the entrance to the bridge while we waited for the repair guy from the shop we just left to come over. As we set the bike down, I tried to turn on the bike to show the cops, when we noticed gas just gushing out of the bottom of the bike. When I turned it off again, it turned into just a dribble.
About 40 minutes later, the mechanic showed up, took off the seat, and unscrewed the gas tank to reveal the loose gas line. He quickly re-attached and tightened it and just like that, in about 5-10 minutes, it was fixed. It seemed to me that this whole thing was as a result of a lazy repair job and could have been avoided if he had just paid a bit more attention the first time around.
And things just keep on getting worse
Unfortunately, it was still raining after the bike was fixed up. We decided we’d push on all the same and see how much progress we could make for the day. After some confusing roads leading out of the city, we finally made it to our road North East.
Our luck still wasn’t working in our favor though as it wasn’t long before the pavement disappeared just as it passed through a little hamlet. We’re not just talking dirt roads here as it looked like the whole road had been completely dug up. We were driving for about half an hour through massive mud pits, pot holes, and muddy tire tracks.
Our First Accident
Everything seemed to be going ok (though slowly) but the mud did not seem to give any signs of letting up. Then, on a seemingly innocent stretch of mud, I felt my rear tire slip. I pulled in the clutch as I tried to regain control and for a second it seemed to be working. The rear wheel came back to the center as the bike started righting itself. Our momentum was still taking us forward though and as I let loose of the clutch a little, the rear of the bike started to fishtale some more until we were down flat on our side.
With the engine screaming as the bike sat in the mud and Amy luckily out from under the bike, I turned off the ignition and checked on Amy. Her knee was a little sore but nothing serious and it seemed I had made it out ok (thought not without some rips in my raingear).
Next I needed to attend to the bike. It was too heavy fully packed, so in our raingear and with everything caked in mud we unpacked the rear luggage until it was light enough for me to lift on my own.
Time to Detour
A couple pieces had come off, but nothing serious seemed to be wrong with the bike. As we were dealing with all this, some locals that witnessed the whole thing informed us that the road up ahead was closed and we’d have to find another way around towards our destination.
The rest of the day was decidedly more pleasant. Using a mix of our various navigation apps on our phones and help from locals, we were able to navigate through the back roads that twisted through farming villages for a couple of hours or so before getting to another provincial road. This one wasn’t quite in the direction we needed, but it was fully paved and would lead to a perpendicular road that could lead us south west towards the road we needed to be on and past the construction.
The scenery is starting to change as we move north too. Everything is flattening out and there are a lot more farm animals around now. The rain finally cleared up too around mid-afternoon just as we got back on the bigger roads.
The town we ended up in, Anda, is at the junction of our detour and our destination road. It’s a surprisingly bustling city and they also have an interesting obsession with cows. The whole city has visual representations of them everywhere. There are statues on the side of the road, etchings on the sidewalk, engravings on the manhole covers, and even the streets are named with the Chinese character for cow, 牛, in them!