Saturday, September 26, 2009

New roads in Zhejiang (diary reprise)

Saturday 10th September 2005. Jiakou, Zhejiang, China

Starting to rediscover what distance really means in China. No longer is Huangshan just a day's drive away on the expressway, or Beijing an easy overnight on the soft sleeper express. Coming face-to-face with China's mammoth road-building programme, some of which, nearly-complete but not yet open to traffic, provided perfect riding, at least until I came to an unbridged chasm and had to slip and slide down a fifty-foot embankment to get back on the old road.

Of course, once they are open, these wonders in concrete and asphalt are deemed too smooth and stylish for mere bicycles, who have to pick their way along rotting old village roads, which roll up and down every hill available; the new motorways are miraculously flat even in the hilliest terrain.

Beekeeping is big business round here. One truck came past me stacked high with wooden bee-hives - and with hundreds of tired-looking bees struggling in its wake to keep up.

A boy at the side of the road, holding a huge snake by the neck. I suppose a snake is all neck, really. Unless you start at the other end, in which case it's really tail all the way.

On top of the buzzing of bees, the hills are alive with the sound of nut-huskers. That's what everyone around here who isn't keeping bees does: husks nuts. Hickory nuts, in fact, I discover. (Forget bamboo-stripping, that's yesterday's game.) You rake them out on terraces to dry, you soak them (I may have got the order wrong here), you feed them into some kind of shelling machine, you load them onto trucks. The roads run red with washed out nut-husk juices.

There are a lot of dogs round here but no-one seems to have told them about chasing bicycles yet. It is, surely, only a matter of time before they catch on to the fun that their doggy cousins around the world are having.

I'm sitting in laoban's TV room because he's too busy to check me in to his grotty mosquito-pit upstairs. He's doing something noisy, I expect that means nut-husking. The TV is playing "The Hills are alive with the sound of music" and "Doe a deer".

Aha! Laoban has just re-appeared, bearing glad tidings, no less. He has upgraded me to a much nicer - and apparently mosquito-free - room in a separate house across the road, with my own personal roll-down garage door.

Wander round a rather lost-looking supermarket (in this tiny one-street village), playing hide-and-seek with my appointed follower-around on the second floor.

Mrs Laoban cooks me yu xiang qiezi(1) with lashings of rice. Marvellous stuff.

(1) "Fish-flavoured" aubergine. This is the best thing you can do to an aubergine, and it doesn't taste of fish.

No comments:

Post a Comment