On a very hot and muggy day we headed for Greystones 20,000km West of Shanghai, and into China. By the time we’d picked up fresh visa extensions, and taken some touristy shots of us with Shanghai’s towering cityscape in the background, it was already mid-day and the sun was high. As a result we didn’t make much progress. Early evening we stopped at a grubby restaurant for dinner exhausted by the heat, and managed to order several dishes through the medium of mime- the dellboy spanish of South America has been replaced with mute gesticulations that even Marcel Marceau would have been proud of. Unfortunately, while mime is an excellent medium for communicating the nature of what you’d like to eat, it’s not all that great for communicating quantities, and we began to worry when dish after dish continued to come from the kitchen well after the table in front of us was full. When we couldn’t eat another bite we nervously mimed for the bill and braced ourselves for the damage. Although we have a combined chinese vocabulary of three words, two of which are chow mein, we quickly understood that the meal was on the house as the girl who served us refused to take our crumpled 50 Yuan note. Our host then hoped on his electric scooter and took us to a park, a perfect camp spot, speeding off silently into the orange dusk leaving us sated and contented.
We were up with the lark for our second day, determined to make some decent progress. The heat, however, put paid to that and we spent the day ducking into the air conditioned bliss of roadside petrol stations for chilled drinks every 45 mins before our overheated cores spontaniously combusted- at least, that’s what it felt like they were about to do. That night the heavens opened and the rains fell hard. We awoke to a steamy and sodden countryside, with freindly locals peering in into our tents.
At 9.30am the sky began to darken, and we stopped and looked at each other with puzzled expressions. We marvelled at this strange land with strange phenomena for a few minutes before it dawned on Si that this must be the eclipse that everyone had been talking about for the previous week. I felt like a bit of an eejit, as it was all anyone had talked about since I arrived in China, and an Eclipse is possibly one of the most impressive natural phenomenons, one guy in the hostel in Shanghai had travelled from Frankfurt to see it, and I was letting it pass me by without a comment. Fully informed, we marvelled with gusto as the sky turned black and then daylight returned again- reminded of the earth’s rotundity and our quest anew.