Day 5. The Half

The fifth day in China became for me a kind of turning-point in my trip. Also I should say, that in this day I haven’t hitchhiked a lot, and though in certain moment I’d like that day finished as fast as possible, in the evening I was very grateful to such useful and interesting experience, which gave me a lot of good memories and new acquaintanceships.

All had began from the awakening. During the night, from the roof of the building behind which I slept, on my raincoat dripped a lot of water, so my canopy couldn’t resist and in the morning I woke up fast and freshly. After this I had nothing to do, but pack all my things in backpack, not to let them become wet, and go on the road to push my luck.
The weather for hitchhiking wasn’t so good: the rain became stronger and it was difficult to see anything. But with the help of my bright yellow raincoat I not only protected myself from the rain, but also made myself visible on the grey road. Moreover it wasn’t cold and I didn’t “suffer” a lot before finding a car, which moved in my direction.

Rainy morning

Rainy morning

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And grey

Happened so, that this time the driver was alone and I didn’t have anyone for communication. That’s why, when he wanted to write to me something, he did that with a risk for both us.
He headed to Xi’an, 西安: one of the most ancient Chinese cities,concurrently the previous Chinese capital, starting point of The Great Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.(And for the most watchful readers also the city of my future wife :)

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From the distance I thought, that there were written “Mexican”. But in fact just Meixian. I think, they probably did a mistake in the name

Unfortunately my way this time laid beside the city, that’s why I asked the driver to drop me on the bypass. He didn’t like my plan. Started to persuade me not to do this, said about bad weather and drivers, who won’t help me, and that I am very lucky because he had stopped for me. As it turned out later, particularly he was right, but then I just turned the conversation on another topic. I showed him how belarussian money looks like — before my trip specially for this took the money of a small value, because according to my own experience from the last year I knew, that this is one of the best souvenir in China. Here is the Cyrillic alphabet, and unbelievable high amounts which amaze people who used to the prices with one “zero” in еhe end, and also the pictures of the unknown places, more over from the alive foreigner.
From time to time the driver talked by the phone, and when I heard among his words Bái’èluósī, then understood that he is talking about me :)

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Smile is the universal language!

In one hour we arrived to the bypass, where I told goodbye to the driver and began to look for a new place for hitchhiking. Soon rain had stopped and it seemed that I have the all conditions for this.
However, everything wasn’t so easy! The danger of the bypasses near big cities is that there are a lot of roads coming in and out of the city and it is difficult to predict, where will move the traffic flows. So was in my case: I was on the west from Xi’an, and the main traffic there made local cars and trucks, who moved on the North (Beijing). But I had to go on the East. That’s why after waiting around one hour without any result, I decided to go on foot to the crossroad which I needed, though it was 30km further.
The decision was quite good, but it turned to be no the perfect one, according to the passed rainуd and my old sandals. To walk with 15kg-heavy backpack behind the back, in wet sandals which rubbed the skin on the feet wasn’t so easy. I’d like to walk barefoot, but with such weight behind the back it could be too big load on the spine, so I kept going.
Another negative thing about Chinese cities — noise pollution. In few minutes walking around Xi’an, to protect my ears from different sounds I had to plug my earphones and to wear the hood. After a while it seemed, that they don’t help much, but when one earpiece fell, I realised that great difference “before” and “after”.

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The view of the “modern ancient city”

In 10 minutes the passed by driver decided take the initiative and stopped for me. He could take me only 5km further, but it also was OK.

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After the rain everything became gently pink.

And the next help to me came only after few hours, and it came from the side of guardians of law and order. Yeah, here they are, my heroes :)

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Chinese police take care of us!

In the beginning I thought:
— Ok, so probably now they will take me to the city, trying to understand why such strange foreigner is walking on the highway.
More over no one of them knew English. But used in right time tablet prevented this unpleasant possibility, and sharing our Wechat ID’s (Chinese messenger, something like Skype or ICQ), they decided to take me right to the road leading to Hubei province (湖北省).

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Dusk

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Cheap way of gaining food

As result — they took me to the wrong crossroad. So I had to walk few kilometres on foot again. To the moment, when I arrived on the needed highway, I was ready to sleep and go wherever. My feet were a sad sight — all in blood and hurtful.

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Step by step

I took off my backpack, unshoed and by my “fairly earned” calluses felt the coolness and rude relief of the wet asphalt. That was the most pleasant moment for the whole day, better than any massage ever!

Here I started my second try to hitchhike. It was quite late, and the traffic was small. Here first during my travel I met drivers who asked money for the ride. It is OK, they could ask — I could say no, by the reason that they stopped far from me, I ran there to arrange about the lift, after came back for my backpack and with 15kg behind my back hobbled to the car, and only then they told me, that they need money.
That’s why when stopped another driver I didn’t hope too much. But finally he allowed me to sit in the car and didn’t say a word about money.
We went to Shangluo, 商洛 — the city 100km from Xi’an. The landscapes around were really spellbinding: mountains covered by forests and muffled by a dense fog, bridges under the falls and endless range of tunnels. It became dark very fast and though the darkness is not a big problem for me in finding a place for sleeping, but the common sense and pain in my feet motivated me to make a pause, and treat my injuries in a dry and clean place, such as a hotel. So I told about my decision to the driver.

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The feel of the city: right in the entrance there were huge gates, and from all sides on the mountains shined the lights of Chinese walls and chapels, like a sleeping dragon, lying on the ridge.

After arriving to the city, when the second passenger left the car, I saw that he paid to the driver. I thought, that I will need to pay also, but when I asked him about this, he said “You are a friend, I shouldn’t pay”. So it was. Later he helped me to settle in a cheap hotel, invited me to have a dinner and finally let me to have a rest in my room. As I realised later, in the trunk of his car I forgot my melon and raincoat, but we shouldn’t depend on things, should we?

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Messy morning in a hotel

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No time for cleaning

The omega of my day was quite positive. Should say, that I am collecting flags of that countries where I am travelling. After Kazakhstan I got a new aim — Chinese flag. Because of the fact, that I mostly moved on the highways, it was difficult to find a flag — it isn’t sold on the petrol stations. Step by step I began to understand, that there are a lot of flags around me, almost in every rest station, all I need is to climb and take off one of them. And at that time, when I walked on the bypass my thoughts already looked like “Oh, how it will be nice if the wind pull off any flag and it will flew right to my feet”. So imagine, how was I happy, when going downstairs in the hotel, I saw in the corner lonely, twisted red flag! That’s why at night I liberated the Chinese state symbol from the dusty corner. And took it on the trip with me :)

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Red and yellow!

The fifth day became a frontier for me: physical,temporary and moral, which I successfully overcame. If before this I moved from one place to another without big difficulties, now I had to feel on my own skin the wish of the luck, when at the same time on me crushed bad weather condition,unsuccessful position and physical tests. It took me the whole day to make 300km distance, but still I think, that this price is commensurable to that experience, what I got. And finally I could take a shower and dive in a soft and clean bed, emerge from which I planned only next morning.

The fifth day:

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