After the most deep and full night sleep we’d had on the trip, we decided due to the unknown problem with Ruth’s derailleur we’d take the train from Zigong back to Chengdu. The problem was resulting in our inability to climb steeper hills because her chain jumped off the cogs and lodged themselves in between the spokes and hub. The distance between Zigong and Chengdu is about 200km, but there are some rather large hills (mountains) spread through the area and no direct route by train, so it would be 6hrs
Zigong was pretty close to us still; we’d definitely make it on day 6. We’d checked the timetable and could get the overnight train back to Chengdu. So we’d take our time enjoying the route but still had to get to the train station for about 6. As we rode along we crossed through many small roadside towns and we decided to grab ourselves a last helping of water before Zigong. We stopped at this store full of people, a family, eating outside and very friendly. They also had an amazing looking little special needs puppy! It was so inbred and ridiculous! It was enthusiastically falling over itself and winning me over with it’s antics.
We had quite a number of small arguments throughout and when our turn of bad luck returned. We arrived at the train station and it looked very, very closed. I started asking around, enquiring whether the station was open or not. Fending off all the usual chit-chat questions and conversation; “Where are you from?” “Your Chinese is really good.” “What do you think of Sichuan food? Spicy?” “Where are you going?” … I was fielding many questions from various people while asking all my own. Ruth got impatient and wandered off to go into the station and check. The security guards didn’t raise a question to her, which is why we hadn’t attempted originally!
After establishing with the folks outside that we would have to return early the next morning to get our bikes onboard. I went into the station to tell Ruth the good news. I found her sitting after having spoken with the ticket man who just told her no no no no. With the information I knew from locals and the fact there was a baggage/freight office at the station we’d be able to take our bikes.
I had a turn at the window, speaking to the man and then another woman, we established that what was meant that it would be impossible to get the bikes on the late night train because the other office had closed. So I returned to the line and dealt with Chinese people and their frustrating cultural difference of “me first” so cutting in line. Thankfully, my Chinese has improved enough I can have small arguments and make it very clear I know what’s up. Successfully purchasing our tickets for the 9am train I went back to Ruth.
We had another falling out, because she wanted to find a place to camp, but my argument was we couldn’t camp in the city very easily at all and leaving city limits to try and find a camp would also be so difficult. So if we didn’t get a cheap nearby hotel we could all night it at the station. We did have camp mats and all the things to have food and stay comfortable. Very reluctantly, we booked a hotel nearby for the night.
The next morning we were up early and at the station before they opened. Checking our bikes into the train put my Chinese past its limit! After some round and round discussion, we paid 60rmb total and were told we weren’t going to be able to get the bikes right away at the other side and ride home. They would HAVE to be delivered to my home.
Another small bit of trouble occurred when we decided to keep hold of our gas canisters hoping to get away with it. NOPE. Berated in Chinese and then my passport photographed we were away!
The rest of the trip was a little boring and lonely, since my partner in crime became very quiet. This wasn’t so fun as the trip was still long way from done.
After about 2 hours I hear “外国人 -Waiguoren…” and I replied “不对，我是中国人 – Budui, wo shi zhongguoren” … The little girl looked shocked and ran away, she kept coming back and forth before deciding to show me her English homework and we ended up speaking for over an hour. She didn’t have an English name and I gave her one, Joanne. Her name was Jiu Yuan, so it worked! But bless her she was telling me she didn’t have many friends and her classmates called her ugly!
When we arrived in Chengdu, I rushed up to the freight area and spoke with the guys about how to get the bikes at the station rather than wait. They told me where to go, Ruth and I were soon back on the road sleepily and quietly riding back to our places. Mostly silent, we got back and said our goodbyes. I immediately ordered a take away and sat down and began considering washing my stuff and unpacking.