Days 126-128; Nov. 21st – 23rd; Shenzhen, Guangdong – Yunxiao, Fujian – Xiamen, Fujian – Yunlong Gu, Fujian; 27,504km-28,393km
Hard to tear yourself away from a nice resort hotel where you’ve been taking some time off from the road. But two days off was a bit too much for my liking (I think Amy would have been happy to stay longer) and our work with the charity was done. Regardless, it took us a while to get ready in the morning and we weren’t actually on our way until 11.
On Again Off Again
Had time to make up for though after the two days in Shenzhen so we thought we’d try our luck on the expressway. Despite a couple tolls on the Guangdong side, there were no problems and we made some good time, skimming along the windy coast the rest of the way through the province.
Our luck ran out however at the border with Fujian, as it tends to do at provincial borders on the expressway. Narrower tolls and extended barriers make it more difficult to slide past and as we got stuck behind a truck some people approached to tell us we had to get off. We spent the next half hour or so trying to talk our way across.
Trying the strategy of speaking Chinese and explaining what our trip was about seemed to make a good impression as the head officer made some calls ahead. In the end though, they insisted that it was the rule that motorcycles weren’t allowed and we couldn’t pass through. I decided I wasn’t going to go easily though and even though I knew we had no hope of staying on the highway for the last 100km, if he was making our lives harder, I wouldn’t make his any easier. I asked all the typical logic questions that come to mind in these situations: why can’t we get on? If it’s safer on the national road, why are their so many more accidents? Sounds like the rules are for small bikes, why can’t ours go on? If we’re allowed on in Beijing where the rules are made, why not here? Made me feel better at least :).
So we trudged on through the chaos of the national road, weaving, stopping, and passing around all the scooters, bicycles, pedestrians, and frantic busses until arriving in Yunxiao, Fujian about an hour after dark.
In Yunxiao, we met up with a local biker named Mike. Mike was friends with someone who had been following our blog, Bikerdoc, who got us in touch. Mike had a really interesting story, ethnically Han Chinese, he was born in Vietnam, left during the war, lived as a refuge in Malaysia, and spent most of his life working around the US until owning factories in China. We had some dinner at our hotel, swapping stories and finding out about the roads ahead.
The Earth Buildings Of Fujian
The roads in Fujian turned out to be really fantastic. It was the first time in a while that we got to enjoy some nice mountain twisties, the last time being all the way back in Hunan. We took some smaller county and provincial roads for about 100km up to the area of the earth buildings around Nanjing county area. The earth buildings (土楼), recently designated UNESCO Heritage sites, are very large mud and clay structures that were originally meant to be self-containing villages housing an entire clan/family. Many of the functions of a village would be carried out in the open center of the, usually, round building. All the members of the clan would live in the upper floors and kitchens and storehouses would be on the first floors.
Much of everything in the towns now had been converted to cater to the hordes of tourists that invariably filter through on a daily basis, with locals running restaurants and selling trinkets and tea. The weather while we were there, despite being the middle of November, was perfect, clear skies and warm sunshine. This made the area a bit crowded but not unbearably so and we spent a nice hour or so exploring the various buildings.
Tea And Motorcycles
After wandering around the structures in the particular cluster we were visiting, the 田螺坑 or Field Snail Hole cluster, we went back up towards the exit. There, two other bikers on 250cc sports style bikes were waiting for us. They were from a small motorcycle club out of Xiamen, a city on the coast of Fujian province. I had been in touch with one of them, Kaidi, through Weibo (Chinese Twitter), and he wanted to meet up when we passed through Fujian. So we organized to meet at the Earth Buildings and then ride back to Xiamen together. The other guy ran a guesthouse in the outskirts of the city that also acted as their clubhouse and he offered us a room there to stay in.
So we rode through the mountains and terraced hills of tea plantations that are so prominent in Fujian. About 20km and we were in Nanjing 南靖 where we stopped for lunch. Next door was a middle aged couple with a shop that was selling tea. The head of the guesthouse knew the couple and so after lunch we went next door to have some local Fujian tea (famous throughout China) before continuing on towards Xiamen on the coast.
After about 150km of tedious urban riding through Zhangzhou and the outskirts of Xiamen, we made it to the edge of the city. We dropped off our bike at the CFMoto shop where we had our first change of tires in 18,000km waiting for us and got a ride to the guesthouse.
Any riders that find themselves in the area of Xiamen, we highly recommend staying at the 摩客栈 there. The accommodations were really nice and modern. They even had satellite tv with a ton of foreign channels. The company was good too of course!
The next morning, after picking up the bike from the shop and getting some steamed buns for breakfast down a sort of farmers market alley, Kaidi led us out of the city for about 20-30km to the road that we could follow up the center of Fujian. It was good that we had locals to tell us which way to go because we had been planning on taking the coastal road up towards Zhejiang province. They informed us though that that road was crowded and boring. So they mapped out a route north through the mountains for us that would be much more enjoyable, and I’m glad they did! Beautiful twisty mountain roads all the way through.
No Really, We CAN Cook!
To celebrate the nice scenery we decided to camp for the night and so about an hour before the sun was going to set, we stocked up on camping supplies (food, bottled water, fuel, and a little bit of local liquor) and then headed back up into the mountains. We tried at a local scenic area, hoping for the same luck we had had last time we camped, but security was a little tighter this time around so we wouldn’t have any luck trying to get past the ticket booth.
We went down the highway a little longer and peeled off down a small country road. Wandering down the narrow pavement past farmhouses and fields we saw some flat places in front of farmhouses that looked good for camping but weren’t sure if the homes were occupied or not. So we found one and called over a local that was tending the nearby fields and asked if we could setup camp. Extremely perplexed by the idea that we would be sleeping outside, she explained that the family the house belonged to had gone for the season to the city. After assuring her that we only intended to sleep out in front, she consented telling us it shouldn’t be a problem.
A woman from a house up a hill started calling down to the woman we had asked about camping, yelling in the local dialect presumably to ask about the weirdos that were hanging out in town with their giant motorcycle. She came down and the two women looked on at us as we set up. The newcomer asked what we would do for dinner. We said we had noodles and she laughed saying we needed hot water for that. We tried to explain we had a stove but she didn’t buy it and offered us food from her house or at least hot water. We thanked her but insisted we didn’t need it. In the end, I don’t even think we convinced her but she must have decided it wasn’t worth trying to convince us of our folly and finally just laughed it off.
Soon the sun was down and everyone went on their way. So with our tent next to the motorcycle all in front of a probably not haunted farmhouse, we hunkered down for the night in this cozy and clearly friendly valley tucked in the hills of Fujian province.