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Bicycle Race

This being China we hired bikes yesterday. I got a nice shiny new boys mountain bike with too many gears. Is it me or are most of those gears superfluous? I suppose they're designed for those irritating adrenaline junkies whose idea of a good time is peddling up the north face of the Eiger.

Pat plumped for a classic ladies sit-up-and-beg model, replete with basket for your handbag. 'Is he a ladyboy?' enquired the man at the bike hire shop.

We also hired a guide. A female guide called Julia. Rather conveniently when the Chinese are taught English – usually by Westerners it appears, they are given a new English name. This makes life somewhat simpler as trying to remember the Chinese names is about as easy as under water soot juggling.

After a brief ride though the mountains we stopped off at Julia's house to meet the family. It was a strangely rudimentary dwelling, all bare brick with few adornments. I couldn't really decide whether they are poor or just like it that way. Still, there was a TV, DVD player and all the other technological accompaniments of modern society, so perhaps they do just like it as it is.

Later we embarked on a river trip. The boatman lashed the bikes to a bamboo raft and we sat in rather comic regal fashion on two chairs strapped to the centre whilst he punted us down river.

The scenery was spectacular and you really feel like you are deep in rural China, surrounded only by the mountains, trees and the occasional paddy field. What happened next therefore came as somewhat of a surprise.

Every mile or so the river has a man made weir, presumably to calm the flow of water. The boatman would expertly punt us over these adding to the excitement of the experience. A miniature water ride if you like.

Approaching our second or third weir we heard a distant voice shouting to us. I couldn't quite make it out at first. Then listening harder..'smile'

There was a Chinese guy taking our photo as with bounced over the weir. I was curious to his motivation. Was he collecting photos for his personal photo album? Or was he going to try and sell us the picture? If so how on earth was he going to print it out, here in the middle of nowhere?

Our boatman pulled up to a rudimentary bamboo pier with a ramshackle hut alongside it on the riverbank. I climbed down from my Queen of Sheba seat and look in the hut.

There was a computer, two colour printers, a scanner and a laminator along with various other sundry equipment. It looked like someone had transplanted my home computer system into the middle of nowhere. Marvellous. My first reaction was to burst out laughing.

I bought a whole pile of photos off them. How could I refuse?

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