Hefei – China
The rain was falling heavily as we headed towards the town of Nanjing. The spray from the trucks soaked us through from head to toe, our socks squelching with each stroke, but at least it cooled us down. We pushed on through the rain, knowing that on the hot days we’d long for wet days like this, and we should be glad of the cool droplets running down our faces. The rain seemed to help my “prickly heat” rash which we’ve found is caused by excessive sweating. The only remedy is to stay in air conditioned areas and shower often, both a rare luxury for us!
After following a circuitous route into Nanjing, we eventually got into the centre and with the help of many locals, we finally found the bridge that crossed the mighty Yangtse river. The next task was finding the way to Hefei and again, by asking locals every few hundred meters, we found our way out of Nanjing. The last guy we asked for directions, a young Chinese lad on a shopper bike, gave us directions then a few minutes later cought up with us saying that he’d head to Hefei with us. I wasn’t sure if he was serious, he looked like he was heading down to the shops, and was still wearing his flipflops. Hefei was 170km away, it’s like being in Dublin, someone asking for directons to Waterford, and going, “sure I may as well come along with you”. We couldn’t pronounce his name so we just called him Joe, and Fearghal was shortened to Fig since the Chinese can’t pronounce their R’s.
The road wound past padi fields and through lovely tree lined avenues, the soft dappled light a welcome break from the glaring sun. After waiting for nightfall, we camped in a park in the centre of the town of Chouzhou. It was Joes first time camping and I had to explain that it’s more common (and fun) to camp in wild open areas than in urban areas, but he enjoyed it all the same.
We woke with the sun at about 6, the heat already rising fast, and by the time we had packed the tents I was sweating profusely. The sweating only increased as the sun rose even higher and by noon, I was dreaming of torrential rain. I was digging into a huge bowl of noodles when a lovely chinese girl came up and started chatting to us. She had been asleep, but her mum who owned the restaurant, woke her and told her that there were some foreigners in town. Obviously they don’t get many foreigners there since she got of bed and came down, just to talk to us. She taught English at one of the local schools so we were invited to meet the students there. We were met by many smiling and giddy kids, who no doubt used our arrival as a break from studying. We must have looked a sight, filthy dirty, with sweat pouring down our faces, and in our logo’d lycra kit.
Mercifully, the sun relented and we finally made it to the outskirts of Hefei. Thinking we were nearly there, we stopped for ice cream and some snacks, but it turned out that Hefei is absolutely massive and it took another hour weaving past scooters, tricycles, taxis and missing manhole covers until we finally made it. We sat outside eating lovely spicy street food and drinking cheap beer. I felt the cool evening air on my face and savoured the feeling.