I have joined a mad Irishman on a cycling trip around the world.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

HELLOBAMBOO!

So after a last pint or two of London Pride at Heathrow, I flew into Julian's arms at Hong Kong airport. The bike survived unscathed and we found our way to Phil, a warmshowers host from North Yorkshire. He was very friendly and generous and put us up for a week while we waited for our Chinese visas. A submarine/night bus ride took us from Shenzhen to Guilin in China where we met fellow cyclists John and Cynthia from Quebec and Line and Maarten from Holland.

Bruce in Hong Kong

Tightly packed
 
City Lights in Hong Kong
We all set off together on my first day back on the bike in a big convoy. I was a bit wobbly on the bike and fairly nervous of the silent death electric scooters and may have looked like a hunchback cyclist, but we started off well. It was great fun to be back in the saddle and zipping along the cycle lanes and country roads. However, after a few hours our lovely paved road turned into "the worst road in China", rocky rubble and mud. It was relentless and horrendous, it felt like someone was taking a sledgehammer to my elbow. It was dark when we finally arrived in town, and FREEZING! It wasn't quite as brutal a re-introduction as my first day in the Andes, but it was close.

I was feeling pretty battered the next day so it didn't take much persuading from John and Cynthia for us to stay a day and walk along the Li River to Yengdi. It was very beautiful, great limestone peaks like in the postcards and men fishing with cormorants. People yelled "HELLOBAMBOO?" over and over, inviting us to take a lift on their bamboo boats. A little old lady joined us and walked with us for hours. She picked up sticks to fend off the giant vicious dogs and kept us on the right track with much waving for us to hurry up. She didn't ask us for money but we suspected that the lady who's boat we took back may have been her daughter.

Water Buffalo

The Li River

The food in China has been interesting and varied. You can pick your chicken, duck or miscellaneous furry thing from a cage outside the restaurant. Pointing to the menu and asking "Moo?" generally results in offal. Often we stuck to noodles for lunch, eggs and tofu for dinner and steamed buns for snacks which were great. I saw plenty of things to avoid - dog, goat's head and a giant rat's tail which was about three feet long amongst others.


Fried everything

It was sugar cane harvest time in China. We cycled for days through fields and fields of cane as far as you could see. It is fairly quiet cycling in the countryside but the cities are manic, and there are so many cities. The bicycle has been replaced by the electric scooter and traffic is crazy. It is also incredibly noisy. People honk their horns continuously - twice right behind you, three times passing you, and once just to say goodbye. It does get on your nerves. In fact, I am not sure I will miss China very much. The noise, the crowds, and the constant hocking and spitting does start to get to you. Hopefully Viet Nam with be slightly more peaceful. Maybe.