With skies (mostly) in our favor on day five, we headed out of Jiangxi, via another collection of less than sub-par roads, and made our way into Hunan with sights set on Changsha. A sweltering morning outside of Nanchang had us figuring out ways to cool off (Jieming opted for the cross-fan unzipped pant leg), but a soaked western Jiangxi had surprisingly a lot to offer including: a gravel quarry with great views and lot of broken machines that Jie decided to fix, willow tree lined roads, and folk tales about almost every slightly interesting natural formation, recounted to us by an extremely nice gas station attendant.
Crossing into Hunan in the mountains, we floated down from the fog through a series of ten to twenty minute long tunnels, like riding the longest slide at a water park, and found ourselves shot out into Liuyang, the worlds largest producer of fireworks (60-70% global market share). Not knowing how to mix motorcycles and fireworks just yet, we continued in to Changsha.
On the way we also met another long-distance rider, Lv, who was on his way from Wenzhou to
Kunming. Not only was he covering more distance per day than us, but was doing so with much, much less gear. Armed with a 250 Kawasaki dirt bike with no mirrors and an "extra gas tank" made
from a plastic canister dangling able the muffler he’d fully taped his phone to a charger – and his bag to the back of his bike—with packing tape to waterproof them. Impressed by hist Lv’s
resourcefulness and disappointed at our own lack of innovation, we rode together for a while before parting close to the border.
We spent the next day in Changsha resting up, running errands and soaking in the first full day of sun in a long time. Jie was born in Changsha, and his mother’s side of the family still lives there; Nate’s close friend lives in the city too, so it was a good day to catch up with people close to us.
On day seven we made our way off early on another bright day out to northwest Hunan. The first two-thirds of the drive from Changsha were warm but nothing spectacular, but as soon as we passed Changde the ride along the S306 became increasingly beautiful. Villages lush with full rice fields backed by green on white mountains fell backlit against a late setting summer sun. Feeling good, we pushed on and found ourselves arriving in a canyon cut deep by a wide flowing river. As the night got darker, we rode into the end of the day light up only by a long dropped sun and the twinkle of the lights from mountainside houses turning on for the night.