Cycling Ding'an and Chengmai - Day 1 of 3
June 8th, 2019 (52.12km)
It wasn't until my bag was packed that I realized I had forgotten my only pair of sneakers in Bo'ao, which was a good 120km away fr om Haikou and in the opposite direction. I ended up biking in my flip-flops, not all that upset because I needed to buy new sneakers anyways.
But I did eventually get on that bike. I biked my regular route out of Haikou and took an unfamiliar road leading towards to Ding'an County (定安县). As I left the main highway, two blank and obviously unfinished traffic signs indicated there was an upcoming fork in the road. I was on a road to nowhere and if the sky wasn't so blue, it might have been ominous. I took a left and was almost immediately met with a large herd of pitch black goats being led from behind by two farmers. What might have been a second omen for some, didn't even cross my mind as such at the time. The two elderly farmers gave me a curious smile, but dared only greet me with a simple "nihao" assuming among themselves I wouldn't understand anything else.
I continued forward until I saw a detour for a small "ancient" village. I for one make a firm distinction between historic and just old, but the detour seemed worth it when I saw a large tree with several unoccupied hammocks hanging from it. By this time, I had biked +30km nonstop in scorching heat and was ready for a break.
But my break was short-lasted. Two toddlers playing with toy trucks and airplanes not far away took notice of my presence and started throwing rocks at me. They giggled and I made the mistake of encouraging them by pretending to throw rocks back to make them laugh harder, all so I could practice taking portraits with my new phone. I got some nice shots and it was all good and fun until I remembered why I no longer teach children. Small rocks escalated into clumps of dirt. I tried to shout at them in Chinese because I was genuinely starting to get really annoyed and just wanted to rest in my hammock, but the more rocks they threw, the more they giggled, and the more they giggled, the more difficult it was for me to keep a straight face and tell them to knock it off. I just don't have it in me to discipline kids, which is why I only teach adults now. That and because kids can be kind of dumb.
A Canadian in rural China always attracts attention, especially from kids. I would have been perfectly fine just on my own in my hammock, but more and more kids were gathering around. There parents were playing cards at a table under the same ginormous tree. Eventually their mother saw them and scolded them for being such brats, but not before I was covered in dirt.
I heard two older kids say I was American and I corrected them. The oldest of them told me he is in the fifth grade and spoke with a confidence well beyond his age. He asked many questions about the strange and distance land I call home before I asked if he even knew wh ere Canada was. He didn't, but I think he liked to ask questions more than he cared to listen to answers. He was a funny kid so I didn't mind humouring him for a bit.
This somehow turned into him teaching me to speak Hainanese. I told him the half dozen words I knew and in his rustic accent he said, "Not many people around here speak Mandarin. Especially older folks. Some of the grownups can speak it. Some of them can't."
"Ocean? Tree? Lake? Car? Bicycle? Glasses? Pants?" In rapid succession he listed off dozens of words in Mandarin telling me I should also know how to say them in Hainanese. I'm not so sure about his teaching methods, but I give him an +A for the enthusiasm he has for his native language.
Further down the road, I met more farmers herding large oxen. "You want to buy one?" asked a lady on a e-bike following beyond them.
"Buy what?" I asked.
I politely refused before she continued with further questions. "Hey, you're not from around here?"
"Yeah, I'm from Canada."
"What are you doing here?"
"You can't exercise in Canada?"
She continued on her way, having not been rude to me, but legitimately confused as to what I was doing here, a public, but still middle of nowhere road, if for no other reason than to buy an ox.
Know any good cycling routes around Hainan? Ever do a full circle around the island? Let us know about your favorite places to cycle in Hainan in the comments below, and keep an eye out for the second and third part of this story coming soon.
Ricky Barrett Jamer is a travel writer from Canada. You can keep up with his travels by staying tuned to Hainan Life and following his page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FromChinatotheWorldBlog/
And as always, enjoy exploring Hainan!
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