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Published: June 22nd 2010
With only a couple of weeks to go before the end of the school year, we headed off on yet another adventure this past weekend. One of our teachers, Steve, (we have four Steves on staff!) was making the trek to Shanghai on his motorcycle to drop it off and settle some things for next year. He is moving there for another teaching job in September and asked us to join him for the first part of his trip. So the "Wuhan Warriors" decided they were up to the task for the first couple of hours which landed us in the city of Ezhou, another good-sized town on the Yangtze. We left on Friday after school and returned later on Saturday. This was our first group overnight ride and hopefully not the last.
It is always fun to get out into the countryside where you soon realize that the locals have not seen many foreigners. The only way to get to these places would be by car or motorcycle. Most tourists are going to travel from one major tourist site to the next and Ezhou is not exactly a major destination for most westerners! Even my students were asking me
why we would want to go to this little hick town of 1 million people when I talked to them about it on Friday.
Before we left, we set off a customary fireworks display on the road outside our complex. Any excuse is a good excuse for a fireworks show and this was no exception. Only in China do people set off fireworks 24-7; I mean why does it have to be nighttime. And I have to say that these boxes of explosions we buy for 30 or 40 dollars put to shame any small-town July 1 display in Canada.
It has been in the high 30s but luckily we left around 5 so the worst part of the heat was over. So with the tunes blasting from my 8-speaker super-duper sound system, we headed for the countryside. When you get out of the cities here you never know what the roads are gong to be like. They can vary from pretty decent highway to potholes that would devour a truck. This trip was no exception. My Chang Jiang sidecar is made for these conditions and did a good job on the highway as well as the pot-holed
roads from hell. Bridges are the worst and sometimes the pavement has been destroyed down to the underlying metal structure. You can often see the river below through some of the potholes. Nancy was pretty secure in the sidecar but I thought I was going to lose Janice a couple of times when we hit some pretty big bumps. She was sitting behind me but had a good sturdy handle to hold onto.
My Chinese biker friend, John, came with us as well so we had a translator to help out. We are all speaking more Chinese and can pretty much survive on our own but it is a lot easier to have a local to help out.
It didn't take long to find a restaurant; there are always several on every block. We have said many times that the Chinese never seem to stop eating. We ended up on the third floor of a restaurant and ordered a variety of great food. Beef, chicken, frog, crayfish, mushrooms, pancakes that tasted like onion rings, all accompanied with local vegetables and spicy sauces along with a variety of mystery dishes. There is always a huge variety of stuff available
and it is always fantastic. And of course, always the mifan (rice). We chomped our way through at least ten different dishes.
When we arrived in Ezhou, Steve realized he had forgotten his return train ticket and Expo ticket back in Wuhan. It would not have been so bad but it is nearly impossible to get Shanghai tickets of any kind at the last minute these days because of Expo. So after a great dinner, John found a friend in Ezhou to boot them back to Wuhan by car to pick up the tickets. While they headed back, the rest of us went looking for a KTV (Kareoke) for a night of entertainment. We are all experienced bargainers now and know what we should be paying for most stuff. The first one we went into did not have any smaller rooms available and despite our best efforts would not budge on the price for the larger rooms. Two buildings down the street we lucked out and found one for a good price.
As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, Kareoke is a big thing here. Not only is it a place to party but John also informed us
that some people just rent the rooms as a place to chat or talk business and just play the music in the background. There is food and drink available for a price and the rooms are always pretty comfy with couches (and attached bathrooms for the larger ones.
The next day we woke to a hot and humid morning. There is never any problem finding food in this country. We soon were drinking chocolate milk tea and snacking on stuff we found along our little morning stroll. There was a soup place nearby and some were hungry enough to sample a few bowls. The menu included snake, bull penis, and pigeon soup along with the regulars such as chicken and lotus root. Mitch had a bowl of the pigeon soup and pretty much ate everything except the head and feet, as cute as they were floating in the broth.
We spent a couple of hours hiking around West Hill Park. At the park, several of us were accosted for photos by some young Chinese girls. For some strange reason, they always want to get a picture taken with us. I guess we are still pretty strange in these
parts, especially once you get outside the city. The other thing they never understand is that Canada is a land of many different cultures. People always expect our Chinese Canadian friends to be able to speak Chinese and just can't figure out how people like our friend, Janice, can be from Canada.
She asked a group of Chinese people at the park where they were from and they responded, "China." She said, "No way!" (one of the many recent expressions we have learned, btw). They all thought that was pretty funny.
There were lots of interesting things to see as the photos will attest and then we headed back to Wuhan. About half an hour into the trip, it started to drizzle rain. Before we knew it, it was a downpour. We decided to just carry on despite the rain and were soon soaked through and through but at that point, it just didn't matter. The warm showers and bathtubs were only an hour away! You'll notice there aren't any pictures for this part of the trip. I was too busy navigating through the rivers and lakes of water on the road and trying to see in the rain.
Anyway, all in all it was a great trip. My throttle kept sticking on the way home because of the rain apparently, the clutch needed some minor adjustments along the way, and a big piece of my sound system broke off the side of the sidecar on the way back as a result of one mountainous bump. But we decided if anything was going to break down, the sound system is not the worst thing. I recovered the piece and it is something that can be easily repaired.
Next week is exams at the school and the week after that we head back to Canada for a month. We will be staying somewhere in Vancouver for three nights and then fly back east to Ottawa on July 3.
Oh, and the total cost of our overnight trip per person, including gas, decent hotel room, all the food we could eat, beer, a night of Kareoke, and a few miscellaneous expenses.........about $40.
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