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David and Adele Arthur
Adele Arthur
"One Wednesday Morning"
Part One

Copyright © Adele Arthur, 2004

One Wednesday Morning

Riding in China is always entertaining. We early learned that you should always take the camera on every ride even if you have ridden that way fifty times before because China always manages to come up with something new. Wednesday morning it was to do with roadworks. A huge pile of dirt had been deposited right across the road probably with the intention of keeping traffic off the next section while road construction was in progress. Of course the local traffic was not so easily deterred and a pathway had quickly been made over it on one side. We stopped to watch several mini-minibuses negotiate the obstacle. Only the best drivers managed it on the first attempt, most needed two attempts, some emptied out their passengers.

During a lull in the proceedings we walked our bikes across then turned to watch the action from the other side. Because of the height of the dirt it wasn’t possible to see from one side to the other which caused many near misses as minibuses roared up from each direction, skidding on the mud. We were just about to ride on when a vehicle that is very common in China for carrying large local loads arrived. The cab is like a small tractor with a long trailer on behind. This particular vehicle was carrying a load of logs and bamboo and with lengths of over six metres it constituted a very "long load". We waited to see what would happen and sure enough it was unable to manage the slippery incline.

Because it was effectively blocking the roadway (except for a few bold motorbikes that would squeeze past anything) there was soon a small crowd of minibus passengers gathered to solve the problem. David lent a hand with the pushing but it soon became apparent that the vehicle was bottoming out on the crest of the hill. One enterprising man turned up with a hoe and set about flattening out the problem area, while others helped themselves to poles on the back of the vehicle and stood ready to apply pressure behind the axles on the next attempt. Eventually after almost murdering the clutch and accompanied by clouds of exhaust smoke success was achieved. Then there was a general scurrying of passengers back to the minibuses to continue their interrupted trip - one man made a quick detour down the bank to the rice paddy to rinse the mud off his hands. Wonderful free entertainment!

Just a few hundred metres further on a local market had been set up beside the road and we stopped to buy some fried breadsticks for breakfast - two pieces for one Yuan. One man was selling ducklings and chickens from round woven containers. If a potential customer showed interest he would reach in and pick up a double handful of ducklings, then drop them back into the basket from the height of a metre or so giving the customer the opportunity to choose the most healthy looking birds. Purchases were carried away in the depths of a supermarket plastic bag.

There was still one more diverting event in the morning’s outing. Back on the main highway we saw five road workers wearing reflective vests walking down the middle of the road. They each carried a large kettle from which they poured tar into the gaps in the road surface. Nothing prepared the traffic for their presence, everything just went around them. We thought they should be given bravery awards.

Just another ordinary morning’s bike ride in China!

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