We’re taking a day off to rest in a town in Cixian County, over 500km south of Beijing and just off the main trucking road that we’ve been following since leaving the capital on Sunday morning.
We had some interesting experiences at dinner last night. Strangeness has been nothing new for us this week, but thankfully this was the warm, fuzzy “Isn’t-that-nice?” kind, not the “Get turfed out into the dark, cycle 20km while being followed by government lackeys and sleep under a bridge” variety.
During dinner, our waitress asked if we would mind having our photo taken and we, stuffed from one of the best meals we’d had all month, consented only too willingly. To our surprise, we were ushered in front of a man brandishing a rather swanky Canon and flashgun, evidently a local snapper who’d been called in specially. We laughed at the idea of being part of a celebrity endorsement – “Look! The foreigners ate here” – and wondered, somewhat belatedly, if we were entitled to any royalties or image rights.
This wasn’t the end of the weirdness. One of the other diners approached and asked where we were cycling to, a clue that I should have picked up on immediately, but didn’t. He hadn’t seen any bikes. Why did he say cycling?
When we explained who we were, he seemed a little taken aback. He told us he had met another cycle tourist in October 2007 in this very town. An Englishman,” he continued,. “very tall…on his way from Korea to Africa.”
Four pairs of eyes widened as we each willed him to say the words that would finish the conclusion our minds had already jumped to.
“His name was, uh… Dan… ”
“Martin!” we chimed in unison.“You met Dan Martin?”
It turned out that not only had he bumped into Dan – two-trip intercontinental cyclist, living legend, and source of many great pearls of wisdom for the BB team – on a street corner less than 100 metres from where we sat, but he had also aided him in finding somewhere to stay on the south side of the town.
It’s a small world indeed. I’ll leave all the permutations and computations regarding the chances of this chance encounter to the experts. Whether coincidence, destiny, or pure dumb luck, it was nice to feel that we were following in the (rather large) footsteps of a friend.
The icing on this cake of quirkiness came when Jared went to pay the bill and spotted this on the counter:
I kid thee not. Not only had we been photographed professionally, but the guy had popped off, printed, framed and returned with a 5×6 glossy in less time than it had taken to finish our sweet and sour pork. They certainly don’t waste any time in this town.