CHINA, 6th February 2018
It was so nice to enjoy a lie in this morning. With only 42 kilometres to cycle to the next tourist hotel in Qitai, we could afford to take it easy. Dea woke me at 9:30, worried that we would miss the breakfast buffet which ended at ten. Staying in hotels means we’ve been enjoying a lot of these recently and it makes for a good way to start the day to eat some real food.
We were on the road shortly after midday. We had to go on the S303 again, but it was fine, with a big shoulder only partly covered with snow and ice. The first twenty kilometres went by quickly, after which we came upon another police checkpoint. For the third time in two days I got my passport ready before we cycled up to the checkpoint, but for the third time in a row we were allowed straight through without it even being looked at. “I think I’ve got these checkpoints figured out now,” I said to Dea, as we sat down in a restaurant for some noodles a few moments later. “As long as I get my passport out of my wallet all ready to be checked, they don’t bother!”
After lunch we turned off on a smaller road to Qitai. With Qitai being the last town, the final stepping stone, on our journey to Mori it was here that my thoughts began to wander. The end was so close now. Until now I’d not allowed myself to think too much about reaching the finish line, about what it would feel like, what I would do. It had been too far off, too many things could still go wrong, but with less then a hundred kilometres to go it felt like I could start to imagine making it to the end. And then, on the road ahead, another police checkpoint appeared.
I got my passport out ready. There was a long line of cars waiting, which was unusual, and I was worried this would mean they’d take things seriously here. We cycled past all of the cars to the front where the policemen stood. I made eye contact, nodded, and kept moving forward slowly. They didn’t try to stop us. For the fourth checkpoint in a row we’d got straight through. Were our hassles with the police over now?
We cycled the final few kilometres and made our way to the hotel in Qitai, which is called the Qitai Hotel. The process of checking in was once again a long one, with the receptionist taking an awfully long time over studying and recording our passports. We then had to carry all of our bags a long way over to another building where our room was. By the time we did that we were exhausted and collapsed onto the bed. “Do you want a sandwich?” Dea asked. I did, I’d been looking forward to that sandwich for some time. But before I could take one bite, there was a knock at our door. I went over and opened it. Four policemen were outside, but not for long. One of them, who had perhaps seen too many cop shows, flashed his badge and then barged past me into the room. I sighed. Our hassles with the police were not over.
The other policemen followed the over-eager first one. Questions came at us. Where are we from? Where are we going? What are our plans in Qitai? During this the keenest policeman walked around the room and peered behind our curtains, as if we might have something hiding there. Yep, he’d definitely seen too many cop shows. Our passports were looked at and more questions were asked, me just hoping all the time that we weren’t going to be forced to go anywhere. But eventually we were given our passports back, and they left.
Now we’re alone in our hotel room, I’ve eaten my sandwich, things are okay, apart from I’m half-expecting the police to come back at some point to tell us we can’t cycle to Mori or something. There’s only eighty kilometres seperating me from Mori now, only eighty kilometres from this goal that I have been working on for over four years. It is so, so close. But it is not over. It is all uphill from here, and there will be more police checkpoints, plus it is still the middle of winter, let’s not forget.
But tomorrow morning we will pack our bags onto our bikes once more, and we will give it all we’ve got.
Distance to Mori: 80 kilometres