Month: May 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

Big, Noisy & Dirty

So far so good! Since Nanjing we have been bicycling approx. 775 kilometers to Luoyang. In total approx. 1200 kilometer, which is just about 10% of the Silk Route we’re following. Getting into a rhythm took a few days, and I managed to get into my pace at approx. 25 km/hour. The roads are mainly long, flat and a bit dusty. And since I apparently wrote too much about milkshakes and the good food, I’ll share the BND experience with you…

However, let me first start with the cycling itself. Sitting on a bicycle for approx. 8 – 9 hours a day can be boring. After a few days there are all sorts of pains between the legs, for which there is no real medicine. Sometimes I’m OK for the first few hours and then it hits my butt, for no reason the irritation may shift from left to right or it may start in the front then move to the rear. And there are different sorts of pain: irritation, red skin or blisters. The latter I didn’t have, but I’m sure that will occur somewhere the next couple of weeks. Then there’s the pain between the shoulders, right below the neck. Not much to do about, other than try to sit in another position, but then again, bicycle options are limited. It’s different than a business class seat! For the wrist, I can change my grip in max. 4 positions. If the journey would take 4 minutes, that’s a change every minute. Doing that the whole day is nuts…

Things in China are Big. I’m really happy that there are so many bicycle lanes in China. Even in rural areas where there are not so many people, bicycle lanes are quite normal. Bicycle lanes are perfect for car parking, selling all kinds of stuff (sometimes complete markets) or very very slow walking without watching what else is out there. When there are no bicycle lanes available, wide shoulders are usually used for the same. Traffic lights are also quite relaxed. With many traffic lights counting down to ‘zero’ before changing to green, most people start driving at ’10 seconds before green’ making crossing the street is easy. The bigger the city the more of all this is there. In smaller cities, the only main road has it all.

Things in China can be noisy. I am OK with pedestrians and bicycle’s (who ignore everything) and electric scooters (which you don’t hear coming). Cars (using the front wheels to indicate where they are going) and trucks (overloaded and not able to stop) however horn as much as they can. Preferable they horn many kilometers before they will pass you. Sometimes to indicate that they are heading your way, more often to indicate that you need to clear the way although there is more than time enough to do so. The real scary thing out there are the busses. They drive fast, don’t stop, quite often drive on the wrong side of the road, pass cars when it’s actually not possible and do short cuts where ever possible. And it sounds as if their horns are switched on by default.

But that’s just the Big and Noisy. There’s also Dirty. The worst thing is the pollution. Most of the time it’s OK, it’s just like a little fog on an early autumn morning. Never a clear ‘yellow’ sun and usually a gray sky. On some days it can be worse. Lucky for me, we’ve had only one real worse day: when we cycled from Yanling to Dengfeng. Due to a light shower that morning, the dirt would stick to everything. Trucks with coal would pass frequently changing everything along the road into something black. It is actually good sun protection, although it can’t be healthy. Face, ears, arms and legs even my nose was dirty and black.

On such a day good company is important. Quite often I ride together with John and Candice. We have the same interests, the same pace and good fun. That really helps and making a stop somewhere in a small village, buying bananas or drinking an ice tea really makes the day!

@John and Candice: I hope we’ll have many more of these days! Without the BND of course 😉

Will tell you more of the Shaolin temple and Kung Fu next time.

Rest day in Nanjing

The third day was again 140 kilometer or so, but now the sun was shining! Again an early start, with a few hills we made it to Nanjing in due time (and a little sun burn of course).

Up till now, I was surprised to see so few Chinese, that I was wondering where everyone went? Did people stayed at home on a Saturday and Sunday? Or was everyone working somewhere. We did see a lot of construction work along the way. You’d expect that one would start building one flat, once that one is sold you would start on the firth and so on? Nope, here in China they build whole new cities at once, for thousands of people made available at the same time.

But even around these building blocks, I didn’t see that many people. The streets empty and the bicycle lanes deserted.

Nanjing is my first experience with the ‘crowded’ China. Although we entered the city outside rush hour, there were many more cars, motor cycles (and all electric!), more noise and definitely more people on the streets. I guess I missed that when I arrived in Shanghai due to late arrival. Still, we’re able to find our route through the city easily thanks to the red tape Paul has used to mark the turns and road crossings. So all of a sudden I arrived at the hotel (looking for the next turn while there wasn’t one).

The hotel is close to the ancient city. Nowadays filled with shops, it has still the ancient atmosphere preserved. On top of modern shops, you still see ancient roofs. Throughout the city you’ll find statues of important people from the past.

There are also many steles around the old city, like the one where Confucius is asking Laozi of the Ethical Codes. This stele was made in 484 A.D. during Southern Dynasty which recorded the personal experience of Confucius on his visit to Luoyang the capital of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty in 518 B.C. where Confucius made investigations on the system of institutions of the Zhou and went in quest of the ways of how to prosper and stabilize the country.

I spent most of my time, in the evening and on our rest day, walking around the old city. It’s great for watching people, their habits and to see a part of history that is important for the Chinese. There is this ‘tree of fortune’ where people can through in a coin with a whish attached. One of the interesting Confucius temples. The touristic boat rides along the Qinhuai River. Tuesday is our first rest day, meaning my body has to restore from the heat and rain and first four hundred bicycle kilometers. Besides all the great food, I thought a milkshake (actually three during the day) would help 🙂

Tomorrow, we’ll be cycling to Mingguang, another 130 kilometer to the west. And after that, another 5 days. A lilly hilly, more countryside, less people, and more pedaling to do!

The second day on my bicycle

One of the things I noticed very quickly is the friendliness of the Chinese people. Of course, it’s a bit weird seeing a group of western people on a bicycle, but once people see you’re traveling through their country they smile and wave. It made me smile the whole 144 kilometer from Pingwangzhen to Xushe J

Every morning we have a riders meeting where Paul highlights the main things for the day, like: ‘no coke stops before lunch’ and ‘lunch stop @ 70 kilometer’. I translated: have a proper breakfast!

There may be no coke stops, but noodles and tea is everywhere. I was riding with John and Mum Yew and we found a little place for a cup of tea. The owner and his wife were so enthusiastic that in the allay we could remove the mud from our legs with a water hose. We did make the restaurant floor all wet but that didn’t seem to bother them.  And of course, we couldn’t refuse the noodles with vegetables. Really great to eat and drink something hot when it’s raining all day. Mun Yew speaks Mandarin and John (in picture) some, and I learned my first two words! Nǐ hǎo and Xièxiè.

Slowly, very slowly, we left the Shanghai area and moved into more rural landscape. Still it was a grey day, with a lot of factories I passed by. It seems that since we’ve started, there hasn’t been any wild life. All the land is assimilated by humans. There were a few small birds, some fish in captivity in restaurants, a few wild cats and dogs, and that’s it.  The Chinese are building enormous factory and office complexes, and complete new cities are build. It seems that they just build a dozen or so 40 stories flats, just in case people might want to life there tomorrow. Where I live, we make sure that we’ve made money out of the first flats so we can fund the remaining construction work. Here, everything comes at once. I wonder how fast these flats will be occupied.

A very important moment of the day is dinner! After 144 kilometer plus a detour due to road construction, everyone is hungry. Lucky for us, Paul and Ingrid found the best restaurant in town! And we all got a huge smile on our face when we saw the table full of delicious food. I don’t know what I’ve been eaten, but it tastes more than great:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so, day 2 comes to an end! Happy people all day! Especially me, when I close my eyes and fall to sleep.

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