So you'll look dead under the tread
Of a bicycle built for two
Chapter 6. Her murder plot and my terrifying revenge.
Wednesday morning seemed fairly normal. Once again, she left me for a bowl of special, famous, auspicious
Guangxi rice noodles before bringing me back some pork baozi for breakfast (I wonder if they have horse baozi
). Then a subject that had been quietly debated came to the forefront.
Last year, we visited Zhuhai for a a few days and we empirically proved not only that there was no way for the two of us to handle a bicycle built for two with our lovely daughter added to the back to serve as an additional source of instability, but that it also wouldn't work for just the two of us either. All over Yangshuo (including right in front of our hotel), there were bike rental places prominently featuring those dreaded bicycles built for two. I watched some couples on them from the balcony. A few seemed at ease. Others careened down the street, barely in control. Mercifully, these passed out of my line of sight before the inevitable, messy, and likely fatal crashes happened.
My dearest had been talking about renting a bicycle built for two since before we arrived (sometimes, the internet provides too much information
). I kept reminding her of the failed experiments in Zhuhai, and thought I was making progress. Then she finally gave up on the double-suicide bikes and said we could rent 2 regular bikes.
I used to enjoy bicycling, but took a very nasty tumble some time back. There's nothing quite like feeling the rear tire sliding and then finding yourself bouncing head first down the sidewalk while accumulating an assortment of bone fractures. I managed to do that all by myself, with no assistance from any other person or vehicle. (I'm a professional, do not try this at home.
). There's a slight difference with biking in China. The Chinese view of street, sidewalk, parking lot, cattle path, badminton court, dining area, etc., etc. contains . . . considerable overlap.
So, my dearest most darling wife wanted me to take a bicycle into a Chinese Road
I attempted to explain that leaping from the balcony would be simpler, quicker, and probably hurt a lot less, but she was
persuasive. We went to the rental shop (aka sidewalk
) across the street from the hotel. After testing a couple of dangerously defective ones, I found one that was adequate. The brakes even worked - mostly.
Naturally, bike helmets were not an option.
I began to realize that my impending demise would resolve the luggage space difficulties since since this would allow her to discard all of my items.
The one amazing thing was the price. My wife told me her bike was 10 RMB and the larger one I'd picked was 20. "Per hour?" I asked. No, that was per day.
There were a large number of tourist
attractions along one nearby stretch of roadway leading into the countryside (which also contained wooded areas - perfect for disposing of my mutilated corpse once her plan to make me into roadkill was complete). First, we had to maneuver through a little bit of town, where the sidewalks were impassible to bike traffic. There was a sort-of bicycle and/or parking lane, filled with all manner of pedestrians as well as 2, 3, and 4 wheeled vehicles. Per Chinese rules, less than half of these were permitted to be heading in the official travel direction of that lane. The rest went the wrong way or else on randomly chosen paths to ensure the maximum chances of triggering a collision.
Amazingly, we reached the edge of town unscathed.
My dearest one seemed completely at ease. I believe this was due to a combination of her using a bike to get to her previous job and the assortment of heavy construction vehicles she'd probably bribed to slip up behind me and turn me into street pizza as soon as we left town.
The highway outside of town was a whole new ballgame. There was one main lane in each direction for cars, buses, and anything else big and fast. There were fairly wide lanes used for people, carts, bikes, and anything else slow. Of course, the large and fast vehicles found these to be great places to use for passing on the right.
My dearest one had tickets to a number of the attractions alongside the road, but we lacked any clue about the distances between these (having a scale on the map would ruin the surprise). After some discussion, we decided to have lunch at one of the restaurants not too far from town (since it was in the first group of restaurants outside of town, the prices were out of line, but not insanely so), and then to bike to the farthest attraction. That way we'd find out if we had time for anything else or not.
Lunch wasn't bad. I ended up buying another hat with a nice red star on it - this one wasn't one of the furred winter hats, so was fine for riding around. My darling had already picked up one of those traditional round woven bamboo hats a few days earlier so she could hide from sunlight. We passed all the places we had tickets to as well as some that weren't mentioned on any of the maps before finally arriving at our destination, Moon Hill.
The nice ladies in the parking lot tried to sell us water for 5 RMB, claiming that those selling it at the top would charge 10. Happily, I had brought extra water (thought I'd need it to help clean my wounds if I survived crashing the bike), so skipped buying any.
If you go by the direct route, the moon-shaped cutout in Moon Hill is 800 stair steps up. We decided to try out both the available (and little used) side paths (probably added another 400 steps up and down). I'll be selling copies of a set of photos called "Mooning beneath Moon Hill" (my darling bride can be adventurous at times
) to pay for our next vacation.
On the second side path, there was a little path even further into the middle of nowhere. Anyone who thinks honeymoon activities should be confined to hotel rooms (and balconies
) just isn't very creative.
We arrived under the arch of the moon, and the ladies at the top tried to sell us water for 5 RMB. I guess the ones in the parking lot were misinformed.
The amazing thing was watching the crazy rock climbers working their way up underneath the arch. I enjoy climbing on some rocks, but clinging to the underside of one is a bit beyond what I think of as fun. Someone pointed us to the path to the observation area on the other side and said to take the side-path marked as "no tourists" to be able to climb to the top. Since this would involved climbing on top of rocks instead of underneath, it sounded like fun.
We climbed up this tiny little trail that got smaller and steeper. I kept expecting to come out at the top, but kept finding more hill above me. Finally, the path split. We went right and found the summit. We were on top! Then we turned around and found that the left hand path lead to the real top of the hill.
Back down and then up the left hand path. At least we'd only taken a 2 minute detour. We arrived at about the same time as a large group of foreign college students on tour. At the summit, there was a pole that appeared designed for climbing. It was also a bit rusty and some points that used to have cables securing it were minus the cables (but not the sharp, rusty places the cables used to attach too), so was just a bit wobbly. The best quote from one of the students was "The top of this hill is one kilometer up. You wouldn't think 5 more meters would make any difference . . . but it does!"
I made a video of a bunch of them climbing the poll before handing the camera off to my darling so I could climb. Sadly, somehow during the handoff, the record/stop button accidentally got pressed, so my daring climb up the pole wasn't caught on video.
The scary thing was finding the sheared off base of another poll set into the rock not far from the one we'd all been climbing.
Everything was fine during the climb down from the summit. Once we got to the top of the 800 steps, I noticed that my left knee wasn't exactly happy. By the time we climbed down all 800, it was really bothering me. When we got to the parking lot, water was only 3 RMB, and we also got a package of postcards (original price 15, final price 5). Pedaling back was ok, as long as I didn't bend my left knee.
The climbing, extra climbing, and special
) had taken quite a bit of time, so we only had time for one quick stop on the way back to town. At the end of the Liu San Jie
movie, there's a scene that occurs next to a
big very big
banyan tree. The movie was filmed sometime back and the tree is now much much bigger. Getting it all in frame was a challenge.
We finally reached the edge of town and I took my unspeakably terrifying revenge for my lovely wife's attempt to murder me via a carefully crafted bicycle accident.
There's a shorter way back to our hotel from the edge of town. It involves going through a long, poorly lit tunnel which has a very narrow bike lane. Having the large trucks and buses roar past so close you have to worry about them brushing your elbow is truly frightening. My hope was that this would be enough to discourage another biking expedition on Thursday.
Previously, we'd agreed that I could have a wood fired pizza. Suddenly, my darling wanted to have another go at beer fish (sadly, this doesn't involve letting the fish get drunk before killing them - poor fish). I pointed out that we only had a few more meals in town remaining and that I could see through her cunning plan to thwart my desire for pizza. We ended up back at the restaurant on West Street we'd seen on Saturday and I got my pizza. Just before it was served, I spotted a familiar group checking out the menu. It was the college students from the summit of Moon Hill.
Aha! I knew it! They must be in on my wife's plan to finish me off. They were also touring with bicycles and one little push at the right moment and I'd be flattened under a truck. Perhaps they even deliberately attempted to weaken the pole atop Moon Hill before I climbed it. Remember, you're not paranoid if people really are out to get you!
We found a real grocery store after dinner. It's amazing how much cheaper some identical items were there than at the "local foods" store. I found another "there is no
such item" bottle for my collection. Yes, there really is some red wine produced in Guangxi.
Since her plans to have me accidentally killed in a bike crash or from falling off the top of Moon Hill had failed, my darling wife finally decided to agree to purchase a small bag to carry more items in.
Obviously she was satisfied with seeing me hobble about in pain and had no further plans to inflict grievous bodily harm upon me.
I was perfectly safe, right?