Getting lost in South Central China
Optimistic travellers that we are, we set out early that fine morning with water bottles full, bodies rested, and (shock) legs bared in shorts for the first time this trip, to bicycle our way through the countryside surrounding Yangshou. We rode out of town, ambitiously declining the help of a local guide -- we are afterall, women of adventure. Less than a mile out of town, two things became very clear -- first, the charming rattling sound on my single gear bicycle was not going to go away and b) we were, already, really quite lost. In our possession however was a map and a dream and so onward we peddled further and further from town. Seemingly hours later, saved by a local school boy who turned us in the right direction, we happened upon the Yulong Bridge where bamboo boats abounded, their owners urging us to let them paddle us and our bikes to our destination.
We determinedly declined their assistance (as well as that of the many eager 8 year old guides who offered to assist us in our journey to the Great Banyan Tree). About an hour later, we find that we are, once agian, a bit lost. The scenery however is breathtaking enough to make up for the fact that we are unable to find the river path and we forge onward. Flash forward 15 minutes. We are trapped in the most miserable pricker patch Briar Rabbit ever imagined. What we thought was the river path had quickly narrowed into a thin dirt line that trailed between briars and rice paddies and did not allow space for our poor scraped and bleeding legs, much less our bikes. Urged on by two lady farmers assessing their crops we persisted only to become more and more trapped.
Much to our helpers' dismay, we turned back. On our way the gods shined on us, and put in our path another farmer who, amidst trying to keep a local steer from assaulting his muddy cattle, pointed us in the direction of the real river path (which, to our credit, did NOT run along the river). We were on the right track at last as we set off gleefully humming Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" as we peddled our way in the direction of our destination.
Or not. Foiled again, we found ourself in a small village of endless twists and turns and monochrome conrete buildings. The village residents did not seem at all a stranger to lost travellers and had no inclination to assist us. Tired, bleeding, hungry, and terribly dejected, we turned back toward the highway that would return us to Yangshou. It was a long day, it was a trying day, it was a day that makes a woman of adventure doubt her sense of direction and explorative abilities. It was worth it.