Week 1: Baozi, dust and hidden treasure

What a first week it has been.

A stressful send off from Shanghai with a one day delay, goodbye to friends, girlfriends, camera crews and sponsors, forgotten laptops and bank cards.

Life on the road has started.

Sun down near Suzhou

The first month is going to have consistently bad air quality as we pass through China’s industrial eastern seaboard.

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We have passed countless power stations; factories building cars, bricks and paper clips; building sites preparing to add to the already cluttered skyline; the mighty Yangtze as it feeds supplies to the hungry cities along its banks.

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For man and bike this may seem the antithesis of what a touring expedition is looking for but the truth is quite the opposite. Scattered in between the heavy industry are excellent roads, flowers in bloom and a new experience at every turn.

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We have been cycling between 50-95km per day to keep to our schedule to arrive in Zhengzhou for the Operation Smile mission on 10th April.  Legs and bottoms are sore but on our first rest day we can reflect on what we have seen and the people we have met.

A fisherman using cormorants to catch his livelihood

A fisherman using cormorants to catch his livelihood

A goat shepherd who stole the smile of the week award

A goat shepherd who stole the smile of the week award

Lovely lady making "meat-in-bread", a bit like a naan bread burger

Lovely lady making “meat-in-bread”, a bit like a naan bread burger

Each day we rise at 8am, look for a Baozi (white bun filled with meat) and Dou-Jiang (hot, sweet soy milk) stall in the street, pack up our bikes and hit the road around 10am. We ride for 5-8hrs depending on our planned day.  We don’t know what terrain we will pass or what we will find but not one day thus far has disappointed.  Only this morning whilst out Baozi hunting through the back alleys of Fengyang, we stumbled across a beautiful structure supposedly built in the 14th century (we suspect it has been rebuilt since!) by the founder of the Ming Dynasty,  Zhu Yuanzhang, which is not even mentioned on Wikipedia.

Not even mentioned on Wikipedia

Not even mentioned on Wikipedia

Sitting now in the Rabbit Tea Cafe in Bengbu., sipping on a nice cup of honey green tea with weird lumpy bits, the only question on our minds is “what will tomorrow bring?”

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