We walked back to the train station with plenty of time before our train in case anything went wrong. We also got a bit uncomfortable on the floor of the shopping centre after 7 hours of waiting there so we were glad to change scenery.
Su came and found us half an hour before the train was departing to escort us to the right platform. Further down the platform we could see our bikes and the rice sacks ready to be loaded so we were confident that would all go to plan. The train pulled in and Su took us to the right carriage, gave us a hug and said goodbye. We were both overwhelmed by how friendly and helpful people had been with this escapade. Once we boarded the train (ex-Soviet style with lots of steep steps up into the carriage) there were people already in our seats on this jam packed train. Luckily we got Su to help us out and we sat down for our 4 hour train ride to Datong.
It was 10pm and dark by the time we got off the train. We had contacted a warm showers host in the city earlier in the day but we felt bad about arriving so late so we checked into a great little hostel across the road from the train station. Before this, we had to receive back our bikes and bags. We found our way to the cargo depot a few buildings down from the train station and handed over the receipt we had. A few minutes later everything appeared all intact and safe! Dead impressed with how well that worked out.
After we had put all the bags back on the bikes we went off in search of the hostel. I had seen a map of the directions and I knew which building it was supposed to be in, but with data on our phone or good WiFi, it took us about half an hour to find. We showered and settled into bed at midnight, glad of the rest.
By the morning my depression has taken hold firmly and I was still constantly on the brink of tears and felt very low. We hung out in the little cafe at the hostel after checking out and had a breakfast of instant noodles. Thankfully they didn't mind us staying so we could sit and plan with the Chinese paper road maps we had bought in Beijing. I split a 10mg antidepressant in half and took one half in the morning. Luckily I have a packet and a half left so with splitting the pills in half I can make them last a little longer and wean myself off of them. After a couple of hours I felt completely normal again and so excited to be on the adventure. There had been moments when it was just me, myself and I awake at night and the fog of depression convinced me I wanted to go home. But that's not at all how I really feel. It does, of course, show how hard depression is to cope with. It makes you not you. It takes away your dreams and convinces you you need to just curl up under duvet and give up. I'll make the rest of my tablets last as long as possible and otherwise try to find and expat western style doctor in case I can get another prescription.
We went to find our warm showers host later in the afternoon and we ended up meeting him at the train station. Our data may have run out but we seem to still be able to text, old school style. Jack doesn't speak much English but his son, Jay, arrives by moped and he speaks brilliant English and told us to follow them back to their bike shop where we would be staying. Sitting down for tea, Jay started telling us all about the western TV shows and films he loved and we very quickly established that he watches Game of Thrones.
"Oh my god, don't tell us anything, we haven't seen any of season 7"
"Oh, I can download it for you"
Yes!! Its incredible how a day can turn around.
Whilst we went for dinner the first two episodes were downloading. Full on dumplings and sweet and sour pork, we went back to the bike shop and took our sleeping stuff and clothes upstairs. We had a room to ourselves which essentially became the whole floor to ourselves as Jack and Jay live elsewhere. They said goodnight and we were left to relax and watch the first two episodes of the new series. These little creature comforts really help when you've been travelling for such a long time. It reduces the culture shock and I could feel the stress reducing.
By morning I was anxious again but we got up and went downstairs to get some washing done. We had asked Jay about a launderette but Jack and his staff brought a washing machine around to the front of the shop and our clothes were washed and hung up to dry in front of the shop. They are such generous people, and this kind of thing is not found to be odd at all. Our clothes hadn't been machine washed since Sofia nearly two months before and hand washing only works so well. The atmosphere up until Datong had been so humid that even when I had hand washed underwear in the stream we camped by a few nights before, the clothes hadn't dried leaving them to just smell even worse. However, now the humidity had dropped so drying shouldn't be a problem.
That night Jack took us to a BBQ restaurant and his friends sat around with us, translating things on their phones. We had taken a taxi to a whole different part of the city, seemingly more affluent with fancy high rises with fluorescent lights everywhere. When people are trying to remind themselves where Scotland is, they all know the film Braveheart. With these guys a rendition of Auld Lang Syne was started which will always make them stand our in our memories.
The following morning I felt very sick and Mike had to run to the bathroom a few times. We don't know whether it was the BBQ food or whether it's just our stomachs struggling to get used to the change of food but either way, we didn't leave as planned. I was relegated to the sofa and napped whilst Mike used Jay's English/Chinese translating skills to find some over the counter antidepressants (the same brand as what I'm already on) to make sure I have enough til Australia where I can potentially see a GP again. Success!!
We were definitely ready to leave the next morning. Jack and his friends were leaving the bike shop at 4.30am to cycle out to the Wu Tai mountain and invited us to join them so they could guide us out of the city. That was a little early for us, especially as we'd just been ill, so we left at 7.30am instead. Getting out of the city was really easy and soon we had blitzed our way through 130KM. We were in a mining area and chose to go a direct route south on a G road. G roads are the ones built for trucks so we after a couple of hours we looked like chimney sweeps. My knee was holding up OK, but towards the end of the day it started to hurt again so we found a quiet spot off the road to wild camp. We've certainly lost our fear of camping here, thank goodness.
Posts by either Mike or Helen. Individual authors will be named.