Along the River
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.
Posted on July 29, 2014, in Adventure, Around the World, Charity, China, Cycling, Motivation, Thoughts, Travel and tagged Beautiful, China, Culture, Cycling, fun, Guizhou, Lovingit, motivation, Rural China, Travelpics. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.