Day 752 – CHINA (NINGXIA and GANSU): From Londe to Pingliang

Today’s distance / ???????: 41.7 miles / 67km
Average speed / ????: 9.6mph / 15.5km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 4h 19m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6051mi plus 377mi (?) / 9738km plus 606km (?)
Ascent / ??: 515m
Descent / ??: 1150m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N35°32′34.7″, E106°39′50.8″

A bit of a blur today. I was feeling the effects of the last four days of skating hills since Lanzhou, and was keen just to get to Pingliang for a day or two off.

The start from Londe on China National Highway 312 was a long steep climb of about 7km up to the tunnel near the top of the pass. At the toll gate near the entrance of the tunnel, officials stopped me.

“You cannot go through the tunnel on that,” an officer told me. “You can hitch a ride in a car.”

“I’m sorry, but that will not be possible,” I explained. “I cannot go by car, I must either walk or skate.”

They told me that there was an old road going up over the pass, but it was at least 8km out of my way. “It is far too far to go that way,” the officer said apologetically.

I was almost about to turn around and go for the old road, when I tried another angle. I pulled out my bright yellow windbreaker, my head torch, and showed them my helmet. I will be OK with these, I reasoned.

I also mentioned the Guinness record, and that seemed to change their opinion on my ability to survive the horrors of the tunnel. Smiles all around, a picture taken of me with the officer in charge, and I was off.

2km long tunnel near Longde, Ningxia Autonomous Region, China

The tunnel was hair-raising. All downhill, I had to footbrake constantly to keep my speed down. At times, lights in the tunnel would not be working, and I would be skating in complete darkness. I had my headlight pointed backwards, attached to my trailer, so I had no idea of the road surface up ahead. I just hoped that there were no massive cracks in the surface. A good sized crack would be enough to tear the trucks off my deck with all the weight I am pulling.

I survived the tunnel unscathed, however my sunglasses did not come out with me. I have no idea where I dropped them, but even after hitching a ride back through the tunnel and searching for them on foot through the tunnel, I could not find them. Gutted. They were great Smith sunglasses, provided for me by Just goes to show further that a relationship between a pair of sunglasses and me does not last long.

The tunnel was at 2,200m, and it was a fast descent down from the tunnel.

Hills on the way to Pingliang, Gansu Province, China

When I have a really steep hill, a headwind is always welcome. It makes air-braking so much easier, and saves on the soles of my shoes. With arms stretched out, into a stiff headwind, I can keep the speed down to 30km/h max. See this article I wrote on for other considerations for skating downhill on a trip like mine.

As I was cruising through a small town on the way downhill, I spied another shoe repairer. My repair from a few days ago was getting thin, so I decided to get another chunk of rubber attached.

A small town on the way to Pingliang, Gansu Province, China

This repair more than lasted the distance to Pingliang. Pingliang is a medium sized city, so I decided that I would take at least one day off there.

I checked into a small 30RMB a night inn, and sure enough, within an hour of checking in, the police arrived.

“I’m sorry sir, you cannot stay at this inn…” blah blah blah.

I tried to reason with the officer. How much is the hotel that I am supposed to be in? At least 100RMB a night, he replied.

Well, that is too much, I said resolutely. I cannot afford 100RMB a night every night. I have been travelling for 2 years. Look at my passport, you’ll see the visas. Surely you understand that I cannot afford to be forking out 100RMB a night for hotels.

Thankfully, reason prevailed, and I was permitted to stay in the small inn.

Day 751 – CHINA (GANSU and NINGXIA): From Chingning to Londe

Today’s distance / ???????: 25.6 miles / 41.2km
Average speed / ????: 7.3mph / 11.7km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 3h 30m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 6009mi plus 377mi (?) / 9671km plus 606km (?)
Ascent / ??: 570m
Descent / ??: 170m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N35°37′18.6″, E106°07′07.0″

As I was leaving Chingning this morning, I got a spot of rain. The first in a few weeks. According to Mr. Steve, a fellow human-powered traveller, a typical August pattern for eastern China is a dryer spell of weather. This is no good for him where he is in South East Asia however, as all the wet stuff has been pushed his way, it seems!

The rain did not last long however, and I enjoyed the muck and mud as I pushed on into Ningxia Autonomous Region. Standards of living here seems to be noticeably lower than in Gansu Province, as does the standard of the roads. With the exception of the provincial roads in Qinghai Province, this part of China has had the roughest roads so far (still smooth, compared with Texas however!).

Locals sorting the hay out near Chingning, Gansu Province, China

The surrounding landscape still fails to bore me however. Flowers are blooming, produce is ripening, bees are buzzing…the land is alive.

Flower near Chingning along China National Highway 312, Gansu Province, China

Roads long and straight, flanked by pine trees.

Straight gradual uphill east of Chingning on China National Highway 321, Gansu Province, China

I had decided at the beginning of today to make this a short day. A short 50km push to Londe. I made it to Londe at about 2pm, and stopped in at a small inn along the main China National Highway 312 near the bus station.

Longde, Ningxia Autonomous Region, China

The inn was run by a couple, whose son, Haohao (19), happens to be deaf. Haohao is on holiday from school at the moment, and so we were able to chat for most of the remainder of the afternoon. It was an awesome chance for me to practise my Chinese character writing skills…something I haven’t done in a few years since leaving Japan. We would write line by line our questions to each other, and then the answers. They were mostly the same questions I get asked all the time, but it was a thrill to communicate with Haohao. His enthusiasm was infectious. He was stoked to be talking to a foreigner.

Communicating with letters in Longde, Ningxia Autonomous Region, China

“I have never been able to talk to a foreigner before now,” he wrote. “They cannot write Chinese or sign in Chinese, and I cannot write English or sign in English.”

Communicating with letters in Longde, Ningxia Autonomous Region, China Communicating with letters in Longde, Ningxia Autonomous Region, China

With Haohao in Londe, Ningxia Autonomous Region, China