A small taste of things to come: le voyage à Jīnshí tān

I've had Stella, and all her accompanying gear now for a few months, but haven't had the time to really put her to the test. Hence I decided the 4 days I have off for National Day was the perfect chance.  I wanted to test out the weight of the bike fully loaded, and test out my camping skills. Of which, I have little experience. I packed the bags rather casually the night before. Knowing that when I eventually set of I will put alot of thought into it. This however was just a one nighter. So need to worry.

I had no set route. Just a rough idea of which direction I was heading; just outside Dalian, on the road to Dandong. After treating myself to a lie in I had my usual Dal and Chapati before slowly getting ready. It was about 12 by the time I hit the road. With 7 bags on Stella, 4 on the front, it took a while to get the balance of the handle bars. It was exciting to know that in the not so distant future I will be doing the same thing, but without looking back...

The road was quite flat and after about an hour I found the exit I remembered from the bus. I had a quick stop, only to find the rear tyre was now flat! It wasn't flat when I stopped. Bizzare. I was prepared this time, so I thought. As stupid as it sounds, I'd never changed a tyre before. A couple of months ago I got a flat, but having no tools with me had to walk it back to the bike shop. I was annoyed, but slightly relieved. I needed to start learning some basic bike repairs. Today was a good chance!

Changing the tyre was easy enough. It was putting it back on that was the hard part! I brought my tools, but appeared to have forgot the only allen key that i needed! I had to remove the derailler to put the wheel back on, and without it, I didn't know how I was going to get moving again! I checked my bags, remembering that I did pickup the multitool the night before. But I couldn't actually remember packing it. It was only on my third, and most thorough check did I find it. Relieved, i got to work. It should only take about 15 mins to change a wheel. It was taking me alot longer! However I was inexperienced, so naturally it would take a few tries until I was that proficient...

At last I got moving again, worrying that flat tyres would be a regular occurence, due partly to the heavy weight on the back. I remember watching the 'Man who cycled the world' and Mark Beaumont getting several flats in his first few days, and his bike cost several thousands of pounds.. So I wasn't too worried yet. I imagine the wheel is just getting accustom to the weight. Like anything, it needs some time too to find it's feet, so to speak.

I turned off the main road and it was the first time today that I felt like I'd left Dalian. I was now in the countryside. The people stared, the building were derelect.. the flash cars however were still cruising by... I had set myself a time of 4pm to stop and find a campsite. Right around then I found my place,  just off a main road, next to what looked like a quarry. I set up the tent with ease. A really good purchase there. Then looked to get dinner cooked. This time I was testing out my stove, which I hadn't yet used. The stove was a multifuel, so a variety could be used. I went for unleaded. Again, it was quite easy to use, and it boiled water mighty fast.I sat down and enjoyed some tomato and pepper pasta, imagining the road that lay ahead. It will certainly be an adventure. Today was, and I only rode a few kms from my place.

I slept OK, however it was alot colder than I anticipated. My sleeping bag is several years old and I think perhaps it has lost its zeal... I have to say I was very impressed with the tent. Very easy to put up and pack away.

I set off at 9 and it was great to cycle out into the morning, passing the small villages along the way. When I arrived at the main road I had two choices. Cycle back the way I came from, or veer left towards Jīnshí tān, the 'Golden Pebble Beach', the top draw card in Dalian tourism. I'd been before, and I knew it would be busy, but of course I headed left. A couple of steep climbs later and I arrived. Again several people shouted out in shock when they saw my bike. It was fully loaded. Too  much in fact, carrying an extra bag that I didn't really utilise.

After a quick sightseers cycle around the beach I decided to make a slow start back. I had a rough idea of the direction, but in reality was going on instinct. Thankfully my intuition paid off, and after 30 mins knew for sure I was heading the in the right direction. I ended up on a lovely cycle path. If only paths like this existed in the UK!

Just when I was coming to a crossroads a fellow cyclist stopped and started talking to me. He was from South Korea. His English was OK, and he insisted on guiding me back to Kaifaqu. We gradually made our way back, talking about riding, and travelling. He was 46 but didn't look a day above 30! Once back in familiar territory he said his goodbyes and sped off into the distance.

I arrived back at 1pm, having clocked over 100kms. My legs certainly weren't used to it, as they were aching immensely! It had been a good two days. Good preparation, which has given me a few ideas about things I need to change in regards to gear and packing, and in reality the flat tyre was a blessing in disguise!

With winter fast approaching it wont be long until Stella goes into hibernation for a few months. By spring, her and myself will be rearing to go!

Click to see Pictures!


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