Monthly Archives: July 2014
The road from Guilin, Guangxi into Guiyang, Guizhou, was long and hard. When I left Guilin, I was hopeful for truly beginning my adventure. I was not disappointed. With about 600km to cover in front of me, I set out. My route was not planned, but brought on by a whim and a feeling. On these long cycling adventures where roads lead in every which direction it is important to keep an open mind and a patient sense of humour with your prospective route. Leaving Guilin, was not an easy day. Though I was excited to get back on the road after a few days off in beautiful Yangshuo, I was feeling quite down about leaving someone behind. ‘What am I doing?’ I thought out-loud as I cycled through the morning traffic into the mountains. Leaving behind the person I love for a bicycle ride. I must be insane. But, on I went. The morning ride cheered me up as the traffic petered out into slower moving vehicles. The mountains began to appear and up I climbed. My legs feeling like rubber bands after over a 2000 metre climb. After some heavy breathing I was allowed to coast downhill for the next 45 minutes. The rice terraces ahead in Longsheng County were fabulous. Well worth the sweat and fatigue. The next day, after a sound sleep, a decision needed to be made about my route. I could either follow the road along the Nuliu river and head towards Guiyang, which I knew little about, or head north and eventually cut west towards Chongqing. Both looked to be challenging and beautiful. If I took the river road then I would be able to see more local beauty in daily Guizhou life. I made my choice, taking a left.
The next four days were full of spectacular riding. The view on the left was of a flowing river with amazing mountains of rice terraces. Hills of green, looking like heaps of scooped ice cream. The right side of the road was scattered with quiet villages of the local Dong, Shui and Miao minority groups, each with distinct dress and style. Amazing to watch pass by as they go about the daily routine. The traditional clothes and wags of doing things very much still apart of local life. Old hunched ladies carrying more up a hill an I ever could. Though traveling Southern China in the summer means a lot of rain, it is green, green and more green. The rice budding, ready for harvest in a few weeks time. I camped in a monastery. Saw two terrible car accidents. Stumbled upon a local festival with music, parades and dancing. But most of all, I enjoyed the view as it passed me by. While riding along river I had an insider view at the hardworking local culture. The women working to prepare the daily meals. The men out in the paddies tending the crops. These are some of the poorest of people in China. You can see it in their faces. But you also see a great kindness and intrigue like no other. The land is hard, but giving. Most work is still done by hand. The old handmade homes and the rice fields passed down through the generations. The people were kind and welcoming. Giving a long stare at the strange man on his bike and young kids running to wave hello. It was some of the best riding of my life, and the best so far on my trip.
However, the road itself was unforgiving. Sometimes reduced to not much more than a pile of jutting rocks. The poorly maintained road was at times like an obstacle course as I chose the less painful pothole to hit. My back like a crumpled accordion, I powered on and awoke feeling a bit stronger, but more broken each day. Waking I would be hopeful that just maybe the road would be better that day. Very quickly I was disappointed. On the dreaded G321 I fixed my first puncture, like a total amateur, after hitting a comet sized pot hole at 40km an hour. But I was proud of myself and more confident about the future having fixed it well. Then one morning I set out with about 2 days of riding from Guiyang remaining ahead of me. I was feeling good and looking forward to a day off after what would be a solid week of riding 100km a day through mountains. But all of the sudden the road put a big crack in my plans. After 20km of completely bumpy morning riding I heard a very unusual snap and was not able to move my bike. Getting off I saw that my back rack carrying the majority of my few possessions had broke in two. Calmly assessing the situation, I quickly found a ride the next few kilometres to the nearest village to try and fix the break. After a feeble attempt at welding the pieces back together, I knew it was hopeless. Aside from leaving all of my things behind, I had no choice.
My dream of cycling the world on my own was already broken. After some waiting and excited waving, to pick the wild looking foreigner up, I hitched a ride with some kind Chinese police officers and they took me to the nearest bus station. Sitting in the back of the police van, I didn’t know how to feel. I was in action through the whole thing, continuing to make decisions. Whether they are the right ones or not, you have to keep making decisions. The hard part is living with the outcomes later, as you beat yourself up over the quiet hours of riding. As I bumped back down the road I had just came from, I was completely down. Unable to find a bike shop I was forced to make the next 150km of the trip to Guiyang by bus to find a bike shop with the part I needed to continue. When I got to Guiyang the people working at the bicycle shop gave me the back rack for free. Another check on the kindness list and some excellent Chinese hospitality. Herein lies the lesson. Be okay with what happens to you in the present. Go with the flow, because days and weeks later, that terrible feeling won’t mean much anymore. Everything works out in the end.
Am I disappointed I had to take a bus to fix my bike? Yes. Was a disappointed about the break in my continuous cycling route? Of course. But there is nothing much more I could have done. The road behind gave me some of the best days of riding yet, but also took from me a piece of that dream. It all comes out in the wash and just maybe you will get lucky again. It has been working for me. There are lots of things in life that we can’t control. But by making the best of every situation we all become better and stronger people. Stay positive. Be apart of the flow and when you get to the end of the river, be happy with how you got there. I know I am.
When the light rises and touches the morning horizon I begin my ride. The cooler morning air blowing on me in the first moments of the day. The rotation of the pedals and bearings caught. Scratching metal of shops opening up are the sounds. The bubbling broth of morning noodles is the smell. A colourful cart of fruit struggling to market, is the sight. Mountains of limestone loom like powerful giants in the distance welcoming me into the good morning. China coming alive in the early daylight hours is an orchestra of sights and sounds. Being there while it happens is all I need to find the power to ride for another day.
After over 850 kilometres and 10 days of riding I have reached Guilin from Sanya. The ride here has been in a word, beautiful. Everything I could have hoped for so far on the trip. The people have been overly generous and curious about my ride. Equipped with my ‘Magic Letter’ in Chinese, I am able to share my adventure with the people I meet. Each day is completely different. If I think of where I started my day and where I end up at the end, it is sometimes hard to believe it is the same one. A free lunch here, an invite for tea there, fresh fruit and water breaks with powerful vistas. I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m in no rush. The intense heat scorches me, with temperatures remaining in the mid-forties for most of the day. The bumps in the road. The honk of the passing horn. I’m along for all of it.
I have a lot of respect for the hardworking nature of the rural Chinese. The work they do is thankless and full of backbreaking effort. It is a difficult life and for the most part, a simple one. Guangxi, though close to Hainan, brings with it a completely different culture. I enjoy the relaxing afternoon tea, the morning rice porridge with a wide array of condiments and having mountains on both sides of the road all day. The people have been nothing but kind to me. Acts of Kindness 4, Acts of Cruelty 0. I expect it to continue that way. I am fortunate. I am happy.
“I shall never sell the land! Bit by bit, I will dig up the fields and feed the earth itself to the children and when they die I will bury them in the land, and I and my wife and my old father, even he, we will die on the land that has given us birth.” ~ Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth.
Years ago I read her book about a Chinese man named Wang Lung and his connection to land. I now understand it a little better. I see the people put their hard sweat into the fields and drag their tools through the earth. They have a connection. A connection I will never fully understand. They are one.
The Province of Guangxi. Beihai to Guilin. It has been challenging and exciting. I’m stronger and more focused. Now it is time for a few days off to explore the beautiful Li River and the karst mountain formations of Yangshuo, as my wonderful girlfriend visits for a few days. Back on the road next week as I tackle the mountain roads of Guizhou on my way to Chongqing.
Thank you to everyone once again for supporting my charity with ‘Free the Children’ and ride over the last few weeks. Only $3000 more to reach our goal of $10,000, and the road to a new schoolhouse. Together we can make a difference. If you would like to donate, please click ‘HERE’.
Keep following along and showing your support. Until next time!
Leaving Sanya was a mix of emotions. I felt great sense of pride and happiness for beginning my ride, but I also had to leave behind my old life. There are certain comforts and aspects we take for granted in our daily lives. I know it may sound cliche, but it was bittersweet. That first step out my door. The first rotation of the pedals. The first realization, it is here.
The longest journey starts with a single step. ~ Lao Tse
After a nice send off, I was left to my own devices. I started riding hard through the morning traffic, as if off to a marathon. The adrenaline of the initial start fuelled me through the first section of the day. Then the reality of the situation began to set in. The weight of the bike, the rising mountains and inescapable heat. Temperatures scorching at a top 47 degrees in mid-afternoon and a cooler low of 25 at night in the mountains. I was feeling it.
The first days from the road. A lot can be said. I have made it through the centre of the island of Hainan. From sunny Sanya to Haikou. Through mountains, little towns, beautiful green places, smiling faces and curious eyes. Tough climbs that turn into twenty minute declines. Each day it rains. The heat of the day building up dumps upon the island for a cooling shower around 5pm. You can see it coming for miles. This means it is time to look for a place to stay for the night. On the last day I cycled over 100 kilometres through torn up gravel road and construction. A strong start to say the least.
Though Sanya is known for it’s tourism, most of the island sees few foreigners. This makes for lots of double takes and curiosity when having a break. I had explored a large portion of the island throughout my time in Sanya; however, there was still a great deal to see. This was the exciting part. After a the end of the second day it was all new territory. This is where the trip really began. From that point on I didn’t know what was coming next. What would I see? Where would I sleep that night? How do I get there? All questions, that needed figuring out as I moved into my repeating future. With patience and time, all things are answered. Keep making decisions, never giving up is the key.
I’ve gotten to know my bike. I’m finding my groove. Minor fixes, general maintenance and self-awareness. The road is open and I am in control. Hainan has been a good place to start. With a hard few days through the mountains, it allowed me to build up the some strength and stamina to tackle those long days. Each day I’m tired, but I sleep well and wake with a sense of purpose. There is always something to do, I am never bored.
As I leave you for the next leg of the journey via Ferry to mainland China, I would just like to express my thanks. Everyone behind me makes this trip all the more possible. Thank you for your generous donations to my ‘Charity’ with Free the Children, your little boosts of confidence and all of the positivity you contribute to my ride. It has been an amazing few days. I know as I move to the start of China’s Guangxi Province, this is only the beginning. There is a big and diverse country ahead, full of wonderful surprises and challenging days. Nice to have you with me!
Today is finally here. I have been planning and thinking about this day for a long time. There is still so much left to do, but there will always be something left undone in these situations. It is time to leave. It is a mixed bag of emotions as I look back on the days past and smile.
To know I have led a good and fortunate life. It is hard to think about the people I have met along the way and the ones I am leaving behind. I will miss all the relationships I have made throughout my two years in Sanya, China. A beautiful place that will live in my mind forever. Maybe one day I will return, but for now it is goodbye.
There is not much else to say other than thank you to everyone for all their support as I have been preparing to leave over the last few months. Recently, there has been a flood of amazingly generous donations. Over the last week, we have more than doubled our donations. Almost 3/4 of the way to the goal of $10,000 for the schoolhouse project in Guang Ming, China. Thank you to everyone for their support, we are making a huge difference. I can’t believe the kindness that everyone has shown.
So as I leave I just want to say thank you. Goodbye to old friends that have made this journey possible. For all those times when I was frustrated with the preparation process, thank you for continuing to encourage me. For my girlfriend, who has supported me throughout and continues to put up with me with all her heart. To the Sanya community and the parents of the Canadian International School of Sanya. To my parents and relatives for believing in me. To everyone who has been a part of this experience, a deep and heartfelt thank you. Please follow along and continue to support me. I need it more than you know. Time to cycle across China. Into the morning sunshine I ride.