Mountains By Scooter

busy street in Yangshuo

I woke up at 6:00 again with a coughing fit that left me wide awake. The flashing of the lights in the room did not help ease me back into a peaceful slumber and I felt a bit unnerved after having a nightmare about getting a job interview at Ed’s Scoop in Toronto only to find out I lacked the personality and fashion obsession to scoop ice cream at their new Queen Street West location.

I decided to go see if my mum was on Skype. I went downstairs to sit in the wreck room but was startled by a sleeping man there. So, I went outside instead.

mountains at dawn

To my delight, I found myself amidst a misty mountain setting with a sliver of peachy light seen between the clouds. The crickets were still in full swing with bats flying overhead as the birds were just beginning to stir, singing tunes previously unheard of by me. Everything was wet with dew. Large droplets glittered on the long, tall grass along the perimeter of the garden and made the colour of the wood benches and mud stone wall an intense rusty red.

After an exciting shower (the shower was between the sink and toilet and had no screens) we went downstairs to rent a scooter. As it was morning, no one had taken the good helmets yet, so we grabbed two motorcycle helmets that made me feel like we were part of Daft Punk.

Nicole drove us into town. It was a very exciting ride as we were both a bit nervous and still getting used to the scooter. We parked it in town and wandered the streets in search of coffee. I said I wanted to try the crepe we’d seen in Guilin yesterday, so we wandered through the cart sellers in search for a tasty pancake. Instead, we found what looked like a potato latke which we bought for 4¥.

on a table sits a scooter helmet, a cup of coffee, and a bowl of mango and yoghurt

A cafe advertising mango and yoghurt caught my eye, so we went there. Nicole got a banana and chocolate pancake and we each ordered coffee: me a Yunnan coffee and she a coffee shake. We then split the potato cake in half and ate it- still unsure what meaty substance was part of it. We sat on the patio with a cluster of dragonflies dancing above our heads to the backdrop of the mountains… and then a young man dressed like a basketball player with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth came out of the quaint little travel agency in front of us on a four-wheeler.

We rode out of Yangshuo after breakfast. I sat on the back while Nicole drove. It was very exciting! I kept thinking “There’s no better way to see rural China than on the back of a scooter!”

view of mountains

We drove through the lowlands and up through the mountains through farmland and rustic villages. We stopped at Shangri-La which was suppose to have a beautiful view, but there were too many tourist buses to get any good pictures, so we left. We then noticed a small road that looked as if it went behind where the buses were. It took us into a village instead and down a windy footpath and over stone bridge. It was a nerve wracking experience, but we made it!

Next on our activity list was the Ancient Stone Village. It was a mix of old stone building made with no binding agent and newer mud and concrete houses. It was very ghostly there. No one seemed to be around and the only sounds were that of flies buzzing and roosters crowing in the distance.

laundry hangs to dry in front of an old stone house in the Ancient Stone Village in China

Despite the silence, the houses showed signs of inhabitation, and we saw the occasional old lady bent over 90 degrees but smiling, or an adult saying a cheerful “Hello!”

Once back on the road, we drove through some beautiful scenery until we came to a sign for the famous Nine Horses lookout point. We drove past where the sign said to turn as it didn’t look right, but after some consultation, we figured we should go down the road. This turned out to be a big mistake.

The road was gravel. We thought at first it would be a short patch as we’d safely gone over early. However, once Nicole saw it was not a small patch but a long windy road, we slowed to stop and turn around… Then wiped out on the gravel.

Nicole landed on the mirror, her knee a grazed, bloody mess. She was okay though and I was unscathed. Once we pushed the scooter off the road, we got out my first aid kit and together cleaned and bandaged up Nicole’s knee.

two smiling young women, one with her knee bandaged up

We noticed there was a strong gasoline odor and stood contemplating whether it was safe to ignite the ignition. Fortunately a young couple on a moped stopped to see if we needed help. They said it would be fine, but when we put the keys in the ignition nothing happened! The scooter wouldn’t start!

Everything looked fine except for the broken mirror and some scratches, bends, and holes in the exterior. The young man got out his tool kit and fiddled around with some wires, but nothing happened. Nicole then called the hotel to explain what happened and they sent a taxi for us.

We went and sat at the bus stop for awhile until enough time passed that we felt uneasy about leaving the scooter unattended on a country road. The bus stop might as well be abandoned- no traffic went by as we sat there.

As Nicole spoke Mandarin, she walked into the village looking for water while I stayed with our bags. She didn’t find a depanneur, but an old lady brought her into her house so she could fill her water bottle with a hose and gave Nicole a fruit that looked like a cross between a lime and an orange. We couldn’t drink the water and neither of us were a fan of oranges, so once Nicole showed me her bounty, we discretely disposed of it in the bushes.

The hostel staff were quite amused when they arrived after we spent an hour waiting in the bushes. The first thing they tried was to stick the key in the ignition… and to our shock- it worked! The scooter turned on!

Nicole had done some research while we’d been sitting in the grass, and apparently what could have happened is that gas got into the air filter and create a temporary vacuum seal.

The staff asked if we wanted to continue or drive back to the hostel with them. We decided to continue what we’d started. So, the mechanic drove the scooter up to the main road for us. We asked them where we could get food and water, but they said there were no restaurants between here and Yangshuo, but that we could probably find water at a village shop somewhere.

We gave them their 200¥ fee and got back on our scooter. Nicole drove for the first little bit until they’d past us, then got off and handed the scooter over to me.

Now, this was not the ideal landscape for driving lessons. We were up high in the mountains on a skinny, windy road that had an incredible drop at the side of it. Nicole got off and walked behind me until I got the hang of maneuvering the scooter before hopping back on. I was extremely nervous and drove under 10km/hr for most of the time. I drove through the mountains for about an hour or so. We decided to switch back closer to the city as Nicole was more confident on the scooter. So, after a near encounter with a truck at the top of a mountain with a sheer drop, we switched back.

Street below mountain with white houses and pedestrians

We arrived back in Yangshuo around 6:30. We were famished by then as we’d only had soda crackers since breakfast that morning. We considered getting the district’s specialty, the beer fish and snails, but the fish were too large and Nicole didn’t fancy snails, so we got eggplant and spicy beef to share between us instead.

We were sunburnt and absolutely exhausted, but we decided it would be good for us to walk around a bit before heading back to the hostel. We went and got ice cream with me choosing two flavours I had never heard of before. One was like fruity bubble gum and the other was like fruity gasoline. It was a very unusual mix.

The ride back to the hostel was very, very dark. We could only see a few feet in front of us with the scooter’s headlight. It felt like forever until we got home. We were both so tired, but decided to have a celebratory beer to cheers being alive and well.

We ordered two local beers and sat on the patio, drinking by candlelight while world music played on the outdoor speakers. It was the perfect end to a chaotic day.

  • Photos taken with an iPhone 4S
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4 responses to “Mountains By Scooter

  1. I have to say you two are having some adventures…Hope Nicole’s leg is not too badly cut…Thankfully you had a first aid kit with you… Ice Craem that tasted like Gasoline…not sure of that!! Enjoy but pls stay safe !!

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