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Another week and, weirdly, another terracotta army. I’ve smashed through the 10,000 mile marker and have just a short 400 miles left until Shanghai. I had one more day of rain after my last post and then the sun burst back through the clouds.

After a week of riding in the rain my cycling routine had already changed and I had to remind myself that I could take a break if I wanted too. Spotting a little park by the side of the road, on the way into the city of Zhengzhou, I sat down to read whilst a bunch of geese were harassed by dogs in the park (see above).

The final approach into the city yielded this sign that made me laugh. “World Cuisine” certainly means something differant in China…

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A feature of no rain means that I now realise just how much pollution is in that air here as it sticks to my face and isn’t washed away…

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I ended up going a bit over budget on my hotel in Zhengzhou (£22) as I spotted one close to a Bank of China where I wanted to exchange my USD stash into Chinese Yuan. After an hour filling in various forms in the bank I walked out with the remainder of my budget in Yuan and treated myself to a KFC. At least the pricey room had a good view…

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I had the pleasure of navigating a major Chinese city at rush our the next morning. In summary, electric scooters. Electric scooters, everywhere! On the main road. On the scooter/bike path and on the pavement too. It was certainly an exciting morning but dragged on as the city has spread out and merged with it’s satellite towns…

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50km later I finally pushed through a ghost city before being free into the countryside…

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If the country roads weren’t narrow enough it seemed to be garlic selling time. For a few kilometres both sides of the road were lined with trucks full of sacks of garlic, huge coal tracks battling there were along the little bit of tarmac that was left. The picture below may not look so bad, but bear in mind nearly every vehicle in the shot is leaning on their air horn…

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The countryside didn’t last long as I headed into the next big town of Kaifeng, one of Henan’s ancient walled capitals. To keep the budget down I spent an hour hunting down the hostel in the city. This is tough with no city map or GPS, luckily most of the bus stops had a map on them and I finally found the place…

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Locals fishing out in front of the hostel…

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I went online and after an hour the result of the Scottish independence referendum came up on the BBC site stating that Scotland had voted in favour of the Union. Strangely, once this result came up, the hostel staff said it had just come up as the top news story in China. I’ve got a little theory about this that the China state news, keen to resist any support for the various independence movements within China, would only report a “No” vote in Scotland. If the result had been “Yes” it wouldn’t of hit the news here in China at all.

I headed out to grab some random street food and lucked out with this lovely Cornish pasty/Chilli samosa combination…

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The next day I was pedalling into a headwind from dawn until my destination. Some people drive these little electric scooters enclosed in a cabin. They travel at around 20kmh and are perfect for cycling behind to stay out of the wind, much to the confusion of the drivers. I followed this one for over an hour…

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In this also constant urban sprawl it can be tough to find somewhere to take a break. I’ve been pulling up against construction projects that have no one working on them…

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A typical snack break. Coconut milkshake, the fastest way to get pure calories into you in China, Salted rice snacks, to replace what I’m sweating out, water as well as some oreos and a few sips of energy drink for a quick pick me up…

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As I sat reading the end of another of Bill Bryson’s fantastic travelogues (Neither here, nor there: Travels around Europe) I noticed movement in the corner of my eye and saw this little grass snake slithering up to me…

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I ended the day in a small town and checked into the only hotel I could see. Popping out to get some groceries I had the pleasure of being detained by the police for thirty minutes. My crime? Walking down the street whilst foreign. I was marched up to my hotel room to get my passport (Luckily I knew what they were asking for, “Documents” in mandarin is pronounced “Hu-Jiao”) and then off to the police station so they could all take turns flicking through it.

I realised quickly that none of them could read any of my details and I’m guessing were trying to save face by looking like they had done something (Saving face, i.e. avoiding embarrassment, is a big deal in China). I gave them an out by saying “My name is James Finnerty” in mandarin and they noted down my name in approximate chinese characters. I flicked to my Chinese visa, which lists various bits of info in Mandarin, and they noted some of that down before bidding me off.

I’d considered slogging it all the way to Nanjing, almost in Shanghai, without a rest day but decided to take a day off in Xuzhou after finding a reasonably priced hotel. After taking advantage of two things every bicycle tourist loves (fast Wifi and an all you can eat breakfast buffet) I decided to research if there was anything to see in this city. The guidebooks turned up nothing but after digging around on the internet I found to my surprise that there is more than one terracotta army in China.

I set off to visit the museum complex built around the one in this city which was created for King Liuwu and is the only terracotta army unearthed from the Han dynasty. This army is  around 1-200 years younger than the world famous ones I visited in the last post in Xi’an.

Immediately upon entering the main hall you can see just why these guys aren’t so famous. They stand a mighty 50 centimetres tall and a far more stylised and simplistic when compared to the eeriely realistic soldiers in Xi’an…

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Still the fact there are thousands of them makes it a sight worth seeing, as well as the novelty of enjoying them in a completely deserted museum complex, a refreshing change from the noisy crowds of the other terracotta warriors…

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After the main hall you are led out onto a walkway into the middle of a lake. It turns out some of the soldiers were setup standing on the bottom. As silt built up many were broken and instead of damaging them further by excavating they have, rather fantastically I thought, built walls down to the lake bed and drained out the water so you can view what is left…

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After stepping through the sloped roofs above you descend a set of stairs beneath the waterline to see the remnants of the soldiers as they were found…

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The complex also included some museums regarding the King but, being rather burnt out by museums at this point in the trip, relaxed by the side of the lake reading for a few hours.

I hopped on the bus back into town and spent the 20 minute ride attempting to discern the reasoning behind every Chinese bus drivers liberal usage of their ear piercing air-horn. Normally I am on the receiving end of these volleys so it is quite a novel experience to study the driver form the point of view of the passenger. My short foray into anthropolgy yielded little results as I was still just as confused by the drivers seemingly random tooting as I was before I had boarded.

Stepping off the bus I went in search of food and couldn’t help but smile at the image of Ronald McDonald being so over the moon at this new sitting companion…

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I’ve always been one of those people to utter an aloof tut at the thought of dining in a western fast food place when visiting a foreign country but right now, in a weird way, McDonalds is the closest thing there is to a bit of home. It’s taken 11 and half months of cycling across Eurasia but I think homesickness has begun to rear it’s head, thankfully there is just the final 400 miles to Shanghai!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this then checkout my site 121degrees for more info and subscribe to this blog for more entries along the way!

I also want to divert the interest this trip generates towards helping out a charity that made a big differance to some friends of mine. Samuels Children Charity are a Lewes based charity providing support to families throughout the UK who are currently affected by childhood cancer. I hope to raise the sum of £5,000 from people who hear about this trip to help them continue their work, and to also keep me motivated throughout the challenges this trip will provide! If you’d like to see how the fundraising is going (or even better would like too donate!) then click here.

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