So, the way back… well this is where the ‘adventure’ goes a bit to shit.. like some seriously crazy stories… and not the greatest times. Still an adventure, but as the dad of my Chinese family once said to me, it’s an ‘unforgettable experience’ in the way that it’s a ‘cannot forget story’ rather than a ‘memorable experience’.
So，1st of all, we saw this magical sign….Beijing only 299km to go.
Then as we were riding through a small roadside town, there was a truck going super slow up the road, so I decided to overtake normally…by crossing onto the other side of the road…but as soon as I looked, there was a car coming towards me…. But Fin decided to undertake, so ‘overtaking’ by going around the right hand side of the truck, like into the emergency lane kind of thing.
Suddenly I hear this squeal of brakes and then crack, and as I go past I see Fin’s bike having crashed into a woman driving an electric bike going counter to traffic.
Fin must’ve been going 50, and then braked down to about 20~30 or something, and the electric bike was probably going about 10 or something.
So quite a hefty crash.
I saw this as I went past. So stopped just 15 meters up from it.
It turns out that the woman had a child on the back of her bike, which was now crying.
As I parked my bike I realised that Fin had dropped to his knees and whilst he couldn’t speak any Chinese was sincerely crying how sorry he was, and if everyone was ok.
Fin is a sincere and genuine guy and you could definitely see this in the outpouring of emotions from what was in front of me.
Their electric bike was probably drive-able, but all the plastic was broken. Fin’s bike was laying on the ground…headlight completely smashed and detached.
When I arrived, I reached for the woman and calmly asked in Chinese if everyone was ok.
I asked if her baby was ok, then turned to Fin, and if he was ok. Then asked Fin what had happened. He told me pretty much what I explained above. I told him, ‘ok.. stay as calm as possible, don’t get angry at anyone, or shout at them… in this situation we need to be as calm as possible’
Just in this small amount of time a few people had started to gather. This was probably the most interesting thing, albeit terrible thing they’d seen for some time…but that’s just how it is in these country towns… anything that is not the same monotonous stuff…is apparently worth gathering around for.
I again turned to the lady again, and whilst Fin was picking up his bike and then picking up the lady’s bike, I asked her in more depth if they had any cuts, or felt if anything was broken.
She just replied with, “I don’t care about me… I only care about my child”
To which I enquired the same questions about the child.
She told me that he was mainly just shocked, and although she didn’t think anything was wrong she wanted to make sure.
There was now a bigger crowd. Some old guy chipped in something along the lines of “foreigners, foreingers…. You can get a lot of money” .. or.. “I knew it” (but I didn’t hear what he knew) He said it in an aggravating voice, and added with the pressure of the situation + all the people I turned to him and asked, “Are you family of this woman?
“Did you see the crash?”
“Well we don’t need this many people here, we need to sort this out with this lady & you’re not helping”
Around that point in time the father arrived. I guess someone in group had given him a call.
The 1st thing he asked was “are you and the son alright?”
And his 2nd question, although slightly quieter was, “what about the 素质 of these 2?” (pointing at Myself and Fin)
素质 is a bit difficult to translate, but its basically a combination of disposition, character quality, personality… but more like, are you a nice genuine person or not. The quality of your character basically.
His wife responded with, “No, they’re nice…the 1st thing the asked was about our health, …this one speaks Chinese… he told and old man to mind his own business….but in a nice way, ..and they seem like good people… its was just an accident”
And then the wife and father began to talk with me and Fin to understand what happened with the truck.
I asked if we can give them money to fix any damages on the bike. (Although this was going to be difficult because we’d spent quite a bit on repairs before-hand) And then Fin suggested, that while we don’t have much money he can give them his camera which they can sell.
(I think that showed them more genuine-ness than anything could have) Fin was still incredibly apologetic, and I was simply waiting for what they wanted to do.
You have to know that in this situation… we were basically fucked. A myriad of potential outcomes were going through my head…
-Foreigners get blamed for everything,
-Chinese generally don’t like foreigners and are just waiting for something to happen so they can have proof that foreigners are all scum in some way.
-Chinese are also very family conscious & genuine; Fin & I are very family conscious & genuine.. if we can just calmly come to a resolution, there should be no problem.
-What happens if they decide to get the police involved? Or the police just turn up?
-Police in China are about conflict resolution…not so much about doing what is right, or about upholding the law
-Foreigners often get blamed in these situations even with the police
-Fin WAS in the wrong…but so was this lady, but in knowing all of the above… this is not going to play out well for Fin, or by proxy, for myself.
-The first thing the police are going to check is our driver’s licenses + our registration for our bikes… which.. are fake… WE…. ARE….SCREWED.
Then I and the mum basically suggested, ‘how about we go to the hospital and check to make sure everything is ok with your son?’
Which is what we did.
(In China its, often the case that for example 碰瓷 someone jumps in front of your car, then claims they need compensation, and when that fails, they go to the doctors and suddenly require every medical check under the sun to be verified ok… which of course they don’t need, but they have some sort of ruse going with the doctor there to milk as much money out of you as possible)
All of this was going through my head as Fin & I sat in the back seat of the taxi with the father & the mum & her son upfront.
The taxi slowed next to a police station…and the taxi driver actually asked… ‘shall we go to the police?’
Apparently it was such an odd sight that 2 foreigners would be in a taxi with 2 locals in this out of the way place, and so he’d enquired about the story. To which he’d been told… and apparently he had decided that this was now his problem, thus the wording of ‘shall WE go to the police?’
Honestly my heart skipped several beats here. To the mum’s credit, she simply said “No we’re going to the hospital, I care about my son.”
Luckily Fin kept his mouth shut the whole way.. because I think anything spoken in a foreign language would have added to the un-surety or at least the supposal untrustworthy nature of foreigners..
We got to the hospital. (Great modern hospital by the way. )
The registration fee was 300 rmb… for which I found out I only had 330 rmb… so that only just worked out.
And whilst I told the father this, he said, no problem, ‘we’ll do a basic check-up and see how it goes’
There was much waiting around, after about 40 mins the Mother & son went to a general doctor to get a check-up. Apparently he thought everything was ok, but just to make sure he sent them to get a full body x-ray as well… although I think it was mainly for the head.
We ended up waiting about 2 hours to go into the X-ray screening place, and then another 1 hour for the results.
At the end it was decided that there was nothing wrong and that the child was fine.
It was just mainly shock from the initial impact.
We got a taxi back to the site where the bikes were, and when we got out, Fin just as he promised took out his SD card from his camera and gave it to them.
We had explained that since we had spent most of the money on repairs from before, that we couldn’t give them much in the way of cash.
I think we tried to give them 167.5 or something like that… but we were really pulling it out of everywhere, and they could see that.
The husband looked at the wife, and then shook his head and refused. He stated, ‘no you 2 still need to get back… and I don’t think you’re going to make it if you don’t have that’
(Which was true. )
I asked for the husband’s phone number, and when he asked ‘why?’ I explained that, ‘when we get back to Beijing if he sent us his bank account details we could send him the money to cover the repairs to the bike, etc.’
He said, yes…but looked sceptical… and then just basically sent us on our way.
Fin and I drove up and patched up his bike a bit later. [heres a pic of Fin with all the right tools fixing the bike]
Then we were back on our journey, with a directive to just drive all the way straight to Beijing.
We made sure our fuel tanks were fully topped off.. just in case some other shit happened…and got back on the g102.
All was going well for the 1st 100 km , and we were making good time, considering we’d spent so much of our morning/ midday… in not a good place. We had the wind behind us and everything, we’d been pushing it, because we just wanted to make it home.
Going between 80-100 the entire time.
Then Fin did the little flash right, flash left, flash right again with his indicators to show that he wanted to stop. He told me that his bike was getting a little hot, and he wanted to stop and just let it cool down a bit.
So we stopped, had some water, ate a biscuit..and talked about our disastrous trip so far.
The…we tried to start his bike again. Nothing. Well, it started to crank….it tried to turn…and then nothing.
You’ve got to know that we were in the middle of nowhere. Like there were some roadside buildings….for which one was a truck water refilling place, some metal shop and a little further up… quite coincidentally as motorbike repair shop.
Here’s a picture of Fin looking sad that his bike has overheated.
We pushed it to that guys place and asked him if he could take a look at it.
He did something…I can’t remember what he did, but it wasn’t so simple as an oil change.. or spark plug change. We managed to push start it a few times but it never held…. Like it would start, we’d ride it around for less than a minute… and then It’d die again.
So anyway, …he started really taking it apart…
He came to the conclusion that he’d way more time to figure this shit out.. so we paid him for what he’d done so far, swapped wechat details and phone numbers and he told us he’d message us on the parts he’d need when he properly took it apart and that was that.
So from there… yep, Fin got on the back of my bike and we started making our way back to Beijing..this time with pretty much no money.
We had been driving for about 40-50 km, taking it much more slowly and it was now dusk when we reached a town…when I say a town, I mean there were houses and buildings on either side of the main road, plus a little further up it had a post office which doubled as a bank.
There was lots of dust on the road, and trucks were in front of us going 50 but not slowly down for anything… and … well we saw it too late.
We hit a massive pot hole, going near enough 40… I think Fin saw it the same time I did, but by that point it was too late.
Both tyres exploded and the same time, like Bang…and then because of this, just after the pot hole we pretty much just stopped dead.
We had to push the bike off to the side of the road.
The bike was not in a good condition.
And how much did we have to fix this messed up predicament of ours?
Between us we had 6 kuai. 6. That’s all.
That’s the equivalent of 1 US dollar. That is shit.
Then… stuff started running through my head again… the options..
-we could try to catch a lift with a truck driver back to Beijing… or going in the general direction.
-we could buy… 3 bottles of water between us and…start walking? Could we make it?
Basically nope. This was a proper messed up situation.
This is one of the only times where I’ve just had a proper shout out of sheer despair… and not knowing what the fuck to do.
As per always, some people started to gather around us because… that’s just what happens. But being such a small place, this middle aged guy and his son just started staring at us with his hands behind his back and then eventually asked what the damage was.
When I told him.. that we had such a terrible trip so far.. and that we’d already spent all our money, I remember him telling me .. oh well we can donate some money… here’s 5 kuai… to which I thought… ‘how the hell is that going to help?’
Anyway, Fin managed to keep a cool head, I think mainly because even though I’d stay ed calm throughout the whole trip throughout everything that had happened… he could see that I just broke for the 1st time since I met him… and I guess he realised that he had to take the lead in getting this situation resolved in some way.
He called his manager at work… told him of the situation, and started asking for recommendations.
The Chinese guy and his son asked us.. well I guess you can’t go home tonight…what will you do?
To which I kind of replied in despair ‘honestly I think I might just sleep under this tree’
& I was 100% serious.. I’d had enough… and sleeping under a tree and dealing with the shit in the morning… would be absolutely fine by me.
At that point the guy start… ‘no, no, don’t be silly, you can stay with us tonight, we have a spare room’
So that was really nice of him.
I really don’t know what the answer was from the schools manager, but the fact that Fin was doing something.. as apparently I had lost it.. got me to get my head back on straight.
We pushed the bike across the road to where there was a motorbike repair shop… Which ..I thought was mighty suspicious.. that a repair shop was just opposite this massive fucking pothole….making me think that that guy might have made it himself..and probably makes pretty good business from it.
But we asked that guy, how much it would cost to fix.
He quoted us a 900rmb. Even though he knew we didn’t have any money. When I asked why it cost so much… knowing full well that a front tyre + front tube might cost max 120 rmb, back tyre & back tube + changing might cost 160 or maybe a little more.
And he told us that not only had the tyres exploded front and back, but the back wheel…like the cast metal had actually deformed on impact… .so that needed to be changed too.
Still, I think the true expense should have been around 600… but I guess this guy knew what our plan was going to be. ..
I called my Chinese family, explained what the situation was… and asked if they could transfer me some money onto my card.
I did the same with a good friend of mine, Maxime.
This was before the time of wechat wallet…and instant pay. You could technically use internet banking but it was seriously difficult. Essentially both of them had to wait until Monday morning, to go down to the branch of my bank to transfer me money. Or something like this.
You could just make a transfer at an ATM but it was a little more difficult at that time.
So had to wait until Monday morning when the banks & ATMs near them officially opened.
I think that’s why the mechanic stated a 900 rmb price. He knew that’d we’d get the money from some friends, OR… that we’d just go ‘fuck it’ and leave the bike there.. and then he’d get a bike worth around 2500 from all this.
We knew he was ripping us off, he knew that we knew… and we knew that he knew … but we couldn’t do anything about it.
Here we with the guy taking the wheels off to see if there was any other damage. And Fin trying to explain something to me. (I think it helps to go over the event, to figure out and calm your mind… )
Here’s also a picture of the pot-hole we hit. It was full of water, but it was basically 3 inches deep either side, and had some jagged large rocks in it.
So from there, the nice guy that invited us to stay, showed us back to his place… he was running the local restaurant.
We put our bags down, and he invited his immediate family over to say hello. He then took us for a tour of his place, which included the toilet out the back… pretty smelly affair, no doors kind of thing.
Then showed us to our room. It was nothing fancy, far from it, but it was inside, and had a bed… with albeit a very uncomfortable mattress… but we were happy just with that.
Then he invited us downstairs for a meal. And even though we weren’t hungry and were stressed as hell, in this situation the best thing to do is to accept his generous offer.
So we did.
I honestly don’t know what he cooked… there was pigs ear…noodles, some incredibly salty soup for which was made from a vegetable I’ve never seen before, toufu, lots of veges… it wasn’t the nicest meal I’ve had, but under the circumstances, it was ok.
Fin of course spoke no Chinese, so the entire meal I was just translating all the basic questions, and then moved on to tell the story of our trip (minus the crash part) what we were doing in Beijing etc. And then of course we asked about his family there.
Turns out he’d trained as a chef in Tangshan, which we found out later was actually a pretty big town, famous in china because it had a massive earth quake a while ago. .. but all we knew of the place, is that it was a drive in, drive out…pass by kind of town… in fact we didn’t even know it was a city at the time we drove through it.
Anyway… nice family.. but country-side mannerisms. (this basically means.. all the weird Chinese mannerisms are amplified)
I’d told Fin about the general ‘what not to do’ kind of things, and what Chinese people are sensitive about and what not… but then the guy did something that left me stunned… and Fin nudged me to break me out of my astonishment.
The guy just spat on his own floor, or his own restaurant.
My jaw was just open in shock. Hahaha , I really wasn’t expecting that.
But … in the end, I guess it’s his restaurant. And I guess he can do whatever the fuck he wants.
Oh yeah, we also told him the situation that we originally had 2 bikes, and that we’d have to return eventually to pick up the other bike once we’d bought the new parts. From there he very graciously offered to help us when that time came. We said ‘ no no no’ …but knowing full well…that it would be great.
Went to bed, and we were very glad that we accepted his offer for staying with them… because it rained heavily that night. We ended up just sleeping in our clothes with our shoes on ..because it provided more cushioning as the bed was so hard…and there were no real blankets.
In the morning, we came down to see that the guy had made breakfast…. Massive bowl of dumplings in soup and noodles, some eggs, a few other dishes, and some leftovers from the night previously.
More of the family and neighbours came over to meet us.
Apparently we were only the 2nd group of foreigners any of them had ever seen. Well Fin & I were the 2nd, & 3rd foreigners, because apparently 2-3 years ago some guy came cycling through the town on his bike.
Here’s a picture of myself & Fin with the guy.
I rang my friends, and asked them how they went with trying to transfer money. They’d both had a go, and weren’t sure if it had gone through.
The guy drove us in his car… pretty fancy new Hyundai Elantra up the road to the local post office / bank. And we tried to withdraw the money. It took us several attempts and several more messages, but we eventually got it.
Went back to the repair man, and he started fixing the bike properly. He’d already attached the new back tyre to the new cast wheel, so it actually didn’t take too long.
We packed up our stuff, thanked the guy and his family so much, got his phone number, took a couple more pictures and then set off on the rest of the journey.
This time way more slowly. Although we were both supposed to be at work for Fin, & University for me.. so we still wanted to make it back in the same day.
I think I drove the entire way, Fin just listened to music on the back. We stopped at a nice Xinjiang (muslim food) restaurant nearby the Beijing provincial entrance to gather our minds and just have a chat about how crazy this journey was.. and then how much more we still had to go.
-Order a major part on Taobao for Fin’s bike
-Catch the train back up to this middle of nowhere place
-Pay and grab Fin’s bike back
& then ride it all the way back (4-5 hour journey)
And then we went home.