Disaster strikes suddenly, our chances of victory in the Tour de Yunnan are dealt a sever blow with Charlie waking with a deathly pale visage after a horrid night running to the toilet. A tummy bug is a wretched thing at the best of times without being stuck in a foreign bed having to tiptoe past everyone to go outside, down a flight of stairs to a squat toilet. Safe to say that Charlie didn’t chalk up the best nights sleep ever, so one distinguished member of the team is in the bus for the 46km day 2. Before a peddle can be pushed though it’s food time, the recurring theme of abundant food looms as the most welcome problem we might possibly have this trip. A village noodle stall is to provide our energy for this morning of Le Tour.
True to my impressions of China there’s not a huge amount of aesthetic beauty around, functional purpose reigns supreme over a population that works and achieves. Again that name rises, Mao and the cultural revolution. Basically Mao’s great shake up to purge senior party members he feared might take his power threw the nation into chaos in what can’t be said to be biblical proportions, it’s more than that, it’s Chinese proportions. One of the endless atrocities was the destruction of anything old as a rejection of luxury and decadence. Books were burned, temples destroyed, the arts were essentially outlawed and schools were abandoned for about four years in the cultural destruction that we still call a revolution. As a persistent lag that very possibly still exists today all these years later the Chinese hold a reputation for being without appreciation for aesthetics, heritage and natural beauty, the worlds greatest population was reduced to the designation of worker ant.
In a small space of concrete, factory style shutter doors, colorbond roofing and a tractor sits our noodle stall below comically cheesy houses with bling adorning the eaves. It’s forgivable to imagine that we’re not impressed with this clunky setting but far from it, it’s fantastic. Unperturbed by what we would call at home a completely uninspiring industrial setting without the hipster cool attached to it we’re in the midst of a true experience and the noodles are delicious. A distasteful history leading to this style does not preclude it from being a true experience none the less, sitting in this little driveway come dining room feels unmistakably like were in China. In this respect Mao’s destruction of the aesthetic lives on but far from denying an influential facet of recent history it’s part of the tapestry that makes China as we know it today, the China we’ve come to see.
Noodles slurped, Charlie is bundled into the van without the toe tag that usually accompanies a corpse and we’re off. Today is shorter in distance and immediately it’s pretty clear that it’s an easier day than yesterday, the G8 breathes a sigh of relief. Where yesterday was influenced heavily by the visual landscape of agriculture today is less so influenced, rather dominated by it. Rubber tree after rubber tree flies by, I’ll be happy to never see a rubber tree again. A lush hillside screams of forest at a distance only to reveal the incriminating lateral scars of terracing upon approach, it seems that absolutely every scrap of land is utilised. On one hand there is the fantastically rich hippie ideal that in this part of China food is grown, not bought. On the other hand there’s nowhere that seems in any real way natural with even waterways often seen as rubbish and sewage canals. Conflictingly it’s industrious as well as high impact, the concepts of simple over population response compete with a culture that doesn’t seem to value nature or beauty.
Finally we pull up at the restaurant for lunch, thankfully for Charlie it’s a short day but none the less his time at the restaurant is punctuated with his head on the table in a hopeless attempt at rest. Still the heat saps us all and Charlie is suffering the worst, it’s time to round up the troops and get to the hotel. Chopsticks down and helmets on, we’re heading back and I can’t say it’s too soon, I’m definitely worse for wear even after a far milder day in the saddle. On wobbly legs we limp into a posh resort spa with all the fashionable bling from a style magazine printed in the 90’s. This very new money style is fast becoming quite fun to be honest as it’s even easy to look past the safe gentrified style as being tacky and see it as just being Chinese.
Into our room it’s a painful procession through looking after Charlie while not feeling the best myself. We both opt for sleep in place of dinner time as we pass out without the barest of contact, affection can wait for a more energetic time. Managing to haul myself up I take a bath just to sap some of the comfort out of this posh room that surprisingly enough is pretty tasteful, but it doesn’t take long to get back into bed and be dead to the world. Just like the cheap copied goods that come off the production lines of this country, the cliches just continue to tumble forward. Our room only has a bathroom that floods but everyone else’s has a list of things that don’t work for some reason or other in a show of typically shoddy Chinese workmanship. A new cliche to me reads: China: almost finished. It seems in the flood of recent wealth China hasn’t quite gotten up to speed with ideals of design, refinement and quality assurance. And so the cliches continue to tumble into the big vats destined to countries near and far bearing those famous three words: Made in China.