We are in Beijing! However not quite as hoped. A couple of days of disaster awaited us on leaving Xian that started with a pushing match in the train station and ended 2 days later in a hospital in Xinxiang, 6 days short of Beijing.
We had to take a train out of Xian as there was not enough time to make it all the way to Beijing by 10 April when Nova arrives, so we planned to head east and then bike the last 800km north. After trying 3 crowded windows at the train station I (D) found one that would take our bikes. It all seemed to be going well until my 'helper' assumed that I was too stupid to figure out 2 times 21 is not 121, even in Chinese. Having already forked over 100 yuan I demnded my change rather than giving up the extra 21 he was asking for, only to provoke him into shoving me around with 5 friends watching on. With our train waiting on the platform and being slightly outnumbered there was no option but to leave it.
On arrival in Zhengzhou, surprise, surprise, our bikes had not arrived. Of course that took an hour of protracted pointing, miming, and phrasebooking to figure out, and eventually it was said they would arrive late that night. The next morning the saga continued. The bikes had arrived but not exactly in one piece. A bar end had been ripped off C's bike showing that some pretty brutal handling techniques had been employed as it's likely you could hang your whole body weight off these without them budging. Part of the brake lever was also munted, a cable partially cut and various other issues. But they were rideable, so off we rode.
Took us 2 hours to find our way out of town. 2.1 million people, rollercoasters in the middle of town etc, so like trying to find you way out of Auckland with no city map and all the road signs in, well, Chinese. All day was hard finding our way and we never really knew where we were. Crossed the Yellow River on a 5km bridge that said no walking and no biking but said nothing of walking with a bike, so with this liberal interpretation we avoided eye contact with the guard and strode on past for an hours walk. Finally we found a road that seemed to go to where we wanted and we were charging along on smooth tarmac with a slight tail wind. Things were looking up.
By this stage of the day we had seen 4 crashes and one very drunk scooter driver. Unfortunately crash number 5 and drunk scooter driver number 2 came careening across the road and straight into Claud. Next instant she was sprawled on the road and the second pushing match began. The driver had the mental ability and uncanny resemblance to the outside of an overripe avocado - a fat mushy lump destined for a life of rotting in the trash. As the shock wore off Claud's arm was really sore and we had to walk our bikes to a hotel. A helpful woman on a scooter showed us the way while the avocado rode along as well, swerving over the road, coming to the odd skidding halt, and being generally exasperated with our lack of Chinese. Nobody seemed interested in getting the police involved and neither were we really as it was likely to be a multiday saga with little result.
After dumping our gear we headed for a hospital. The first directed us down the road to another, which Claud spotted with perhaps our best moment of Chinese charater recognition - 3 characters all recognised, backwards through a sign, at a distance. Quite a feat. A nurse spoke a little English and was very helpful, guiding us through the whole proess. Before any treatment could be given Claud needed a Chinese name to fill out the form. The doctor and nurse consulted and came up with Zhongxin, which is the first half of China and NZ combined. Not sure of the combined meaning but later a policeman assured us it was a "beautiful Chinese name". Hopefully he didn't leave out "for a boy". A doctor ordered an X-ray of the elbow region, which was done immediately with me acting as an arm support, so also getting a quick zapping. Back to the doctor and a "not broken " diagnosis. We were unable to get any real idea of what it might be, but if anyone has any ideas what a "small question" could be and how it should be treated, please let us know. Got some aerosol antiinflamitory prescribed and a sling for 3 weeks. The sling consists of a bandage and a magazine holding the arm. At least we have something to read while we wait for it to heal. Claud's arm was really sore for the rest of the day so not much sleep had.
Spent a day recovering in Xinxiang and went looking for the bus station. Got our second police assisted bus ticket. Asked directions to the station and in the end they said "we can do something helpful for you", and helpful it certainly was. It was a ride in the police car to the bus station and then one of them (who used to be an English teacher) bought our tickets for us. What would have taken us all afternoon was over in half an hour. Adam, if you are reading this, take note and see that you have some high standards to meet in your policing duties when you meet any lost Chinese. You should probably start mandarin lessons immediately.
A smooth 8 hours on a sleeper bus (lying down buses they have in Asia that put Intercity to shame) had us in Beijing. Claud's arm is still sling bound and sore but has certainly improved.
Pretty gutting to be cut down 6 days short by a drunken dickhead. But at least it was so far out of our control there is no feeling of failure having come so far already. Just a shame to miss out on the excitement of rolling into Tiananmen Square.
From here we have 5 days until Nova arrives for a 10 day visit. Then we are off to London (hopefully - no tickets yet) and onto more biking around Europe for the summer. Plenty more to see here with the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, The Great Wall and so on. No more photos yet as this computer does not have the facilities. Highlights would include Claud with cheery nurse doing peace sign.
Bye for now
D and Zhongxin