Day 19 – Doing a lot between Fei (Linyi) and Lijiazhuangcun

Cycling on roads that are about two trucks wide. With trucks going both ways. Slow when it’s going up, fast when it’s going down again. One after another after another. And trucks overtaking each other. And cars overtaking the trucks. While it’s getting dark. Trying to look for a campsite.

This does not feel good… as in safe. It’s my first night camping ahead of me and – to be honest – I am dreading it that’s why I am still cycling. No chance to get to Jennie’s and Phil’s place, as it’s still more than 50km. So, I check the map for gas stations in the hope that they would let me stay.

The first one is right opposite a hotel – so I assume my chances are rather slim. I pedal on. 10k further on there is supposed to be another one so I aim for that while trying to spot a camp site. My chances are rather slim – I can only see my side of the road, have to concentrate on the trucks and it’s getting darker. I spot tiny patches but they feel too close to the road. All other places are used as farmland and I don’t really want to destroy crop for a nights sleep.

Finally, I arrive at the gas station. But they refuse. No way I can pitch my tent somewhere. Shoot. I aim for the river near by and end up setting my tent up in front off an empty house. I can’t really tell if it’s deserted or not and there is no where around to ask. Half way through a man comes around, rubs his bare belly while trying to talk to me.

And to be honest, I don’t attempt to talk to him. I am tired. I feel beat. I am going to spent a night in a mosquito ridden, hot tent. At least, as long as this is not his house and he is unhappy about me camping there. Then I would be facing more cycling. In the dark. With the trucks. Even though I already did 130k. To spent a night in a mosquito ridden, hot tent a few k further up the road – So I try to appear harmless and polite and therefore try to smile while I repeat “tingpudong”. Even if I tried, I don’t think I could have produced any sentence where the tones where important.

Eventually he goes away. I finish pitching the tent, get in and take a dozen mosquitos with me. After four hours off dozing off and waking up again I fall asleep for another four hours.

When I wake up, I look like an offering to the god of mosquitos.

The day of cycling was pretty flat, unexciting G- and S-road riding. Most times with a shoulder, only the turn off to the S341 the road gets smaller and looses it shoulder.

A city disappearing in smog
An AAA-tourist-attraction. The photo on amaps promised waterfalls so I am surprised to find a park at a river without waterfalls but with an impressive number of all kinds of statues.

Day 17 – Peixian to Linyi

My friends mother made sure I wasn’t leaving hungry. The plate with the amazing amount of scrambled eggs is not in the picture. Oh and I got TWO cups of soymilk.

A day that holds everything in stock that biketouring has to offer – it felt like bicycletouring in a nutshell.

A lovely goodbye, a warm welcome. Headwind. Rain. Sun. Bad climbs. Awesome downhills. New pavement. People waving and smiling at me. Picture taking and exchange of WeChat contacts. Cars stopping to hand me ice cold water. Practicing my new Chinese sentences. Awesome views. Dirt roads and dead ends. Going in circles in a small village. Finding my road again. Garbage dumps. Lush green mountains. Rivers and lakes. Even nice picnic places for my first and second lunch.

Purple sweet-tomatoes for lunch under a bridge…
… where some stone tables and chairs stood around. Cards lying around are telling a story about this is a casino at night
Quiet, flat roads for lunch part 2

After saying Good-bye to my friend and family – I am so happy that we are going to meet again – after a huge breakfast with panniers full of food, I am looking forward for a relaxed ride. Just see how far I could get on a day like this, rested and well fed, before dark. So I start off towards Linyi where I had been a touch with Yana, an Ukrainian girl through Couchsurfing. The weather is lovely – cloudy and on and off rain. Hardly any sun, but headwind.

My feeble attempt of sight-seeing. I followed one of the tourist signs but whatever they were offering here, was closed

Not having a specific goal in mind I enjoy cycling along, stopping for photos, smiling at people and having a small conversation with a girl on a e-bike when I meet a student from Qingdao. His dad stopps their car, so he could get off, talk a bit and hand me a cold bottle of water. You never realize how thirsty you are, until you see a bottle of ice cold water. Finding out he’s a student in Qingdao where I am headed we exchange WeChat-contacts before I rode on. Maybe we can meet there?

I did 80km since I left seven hours ago. I go small roads through the mountains. It’s exhausting and breath-takingly beautiful. I wonder, if I even make it to a 100 today, even though it’s cold. I estimate less than three hours until sunset. My heart is happy and I can’t believe that I can spend my time like this. I feel grateful.

If I can cycle here – how can I be anything but happy?!

It’s almost 6pm, I am at km 105 and I am climbing. Somewhere in the mountains. The sun is in my back, not fierce anymore. When will it get dark? How long is the climb? I don’t want to loose the sunlight before I finish the descent. My body aches for a break but I push on. I don’t want to have to break because it’s too dark to see. A motor-tricycle overtakes me, the three kids on the cargo area spot me and get excited. When their dad stops to work on his field, they ask for his mobile phone and start walking towards this weird, sweaty figure that I am to bravely ask me for a pic and the girl takes happily a selfie with me.

I am at km 125. It’s only 25 more to Yanas place. I will make it – would be ridiculous to stop now that I am almost there.! . I was getting carefully optimistic when I left the mountains at km 90 not being aware that I would reenter them again. I am starting to get exhausted but I am having a runners high as well. It’s past 7pm and the last k I spent cycling along a huge lake, framed with mountains during dusk. A part of me wants to stop for pictures but another part of me wants to get as far as possible before dark. My phones battery is at 5% and it’s dark now. With shaking hands I search for my battery pack and eating fruits at the same time when two guys on a motorcycle stop to strike up a conversation. They leave and I watch bats while the last bid of sunlight sips away. If it’s possible I am even happier than before?

Happiness!

I am km 140. It’s dark, I am wearing my head lamp for extra light – to see and to be seen. I am climbing, it’s a slight climb but I am starting to feel the day through the runners high. I stop to gobble down eat my noodles from last night sitting on a big rock in someones deserted front yard.

Km 145.27! I message Yana. I am here. She is a lovely host, has prepared dinner for me which I enjoy after a shower and half a liter of water, offers use of the washing machine and invites me to stay another day. I accept even though I still feel the runners high. I know I will thank myself tomorrow!

Cycling in the rain? lets you look forward to a shower before betime!

Day 13 to 16 – Peixian

So many things happened – I will need some time to write down the stories.
But I had an amazing time in Peixian, experienced the culture, spend time with my friend and her family. It was relaxing, even though we did many different things and I experienced so much I would fall asleep at 9pm.
And I got around to organize so much – especially since I had her help.

Details will follow, I just leave you with some pics for now.

What’s most important for a cyclist to relax? Knowing her bike is safe!
The prettiest mantous ever! Huan has so much fun experimenting with colours and shapes
One of the best and most special experiences in Peixian!
.. that’s all I am taking to Korea with me. I sacrificed everything long-sleeved apart from my rain-coat.
Sending some of my stuff to Yunnan

Day 12 – Enjoying my life and being delighted in Peixian

Mantou! The triangle-ones are sweet ones filled with sugar!
Jiao-bing. My favourite kind of pancake

I simply enjoy hanging out a lot but looking at the pics I realize how much I experience everyday anyway.

I am writing – actually finished my second article for saporedicina.
I am Organizing my student visa.
I am relaxing.
I am learning new words. Huan is a great teacher. Very encouraging but strict on the pronounciation. Not teaching me too fast and keeps repeating the words and correcting me.
I am eating the best food. Loads of veggies and fruit as you can see on my instagram as well as the specialities. I feel like I am a person in one of these travel books I love to read.
I am sleeping. Sleeping in in the morning. Having a nap at lunch time. Going to bed early.
I do yoga and go for walks while everyone around me worries about me melting.

I am jogging around a temple in the evenings! How awesome is that?

If anyone would have told me 5 years ago, that I would do that in some Chinese village I never-ever heard of before in 2018…
I didn’t have anything to do with China at that time of my life. I was getting out of a bad relationship. Going through a really bad time and with some parts I don’t know if I would have managed if I didn’t have wonderful friends around me supporting me. During these awful and dark times I just had a glimpse, an idea, that my life will be better in one point of the future. I was just about to finish my college education and I am grateful I found the courage and reason to do so.

I am really happy that life led me this way – even though I would have prefered to fall in love with a country were the visa stuff would be a whole lot easier!

Day 11 – Xuzhou to Peixian

Huan wears a beautiful flowered dress as she stands at the corner of the street to pick me up. She is looking down the main road, trying to spot me. I approach her from the other side as I missed a turn-off and had to circle back. Seconds later we hug, happy to see each other again.
Our friendship began four years ago by now when I boarded my first flight to China in Helsinki. I was nervous when I got onto my seat. In seven hours this plane would land in Shanghai, where I knew no-one, where I had to figure out how to take a taxi that would bring me to the hotel my new employer had booked for my first two weeks in Shanghai. I knew pretty much nothing about the country and despite the language class I had attended, didn’t know the language either. I sink into my seat, notice the girl next to me and get my phone out. Probably to set it into air-plane-mode, when she suddenly says “Bist du aus Deutschland?” – “Are you from Germany?”
As it turned out, she was not only one of the most impressive Chinese girls I ever met, but a German-language-student who just returned from one year in North-Germany and a fluent German speaker. I felt so relieved, so less alone, so excited as we both fell asleep during the night-flight.
She had an amazing amount of hand-luggage with her – “I love books.” – and in return for me helping her, she helped me get a taxi, told the driver where I had to go and not to screw me over. Which he didn’t, even though I fell asleep on the ride. Just before Huan and I said good-bye at the airport we exchanged our email-adresses and as I had we-chat we started writing there.
We met up in different places in China – in Shanghai, where I lived; in Tianjin where she did an internship; and developed a deep friendship as we are two like-minded souls that love to discover the world.
And now – I am invited to stay with her family for a week! To cook baozi, jiaozi, explore her ‘little village’ that is about the size of Hamburg and meet her family.

Such a lovely welcome 🙂
The other half of the lake. My friend and her brother asked if I would join them on a short walk through their park at sunset. So I only took my phone with me as I didn’t expect to encounter so much beauty!
Lake in Peixiang – part of it is empty due to the heat
Emporer of China – Liu

The ride itself had been pleasent and short – only 60k on smooth roads so I was easily averaging 19k per.

Salty tofu-jelly-soup for breakfast.

Day 10 – Xuzhou

„No – it’s way too early to sleep.“ where the lasts words Yan uttered, seconds before falling asleep at 9pm. We had a rest day ahead and no riding in the heat to worry about. Beauty of the rest day. We slept in until half past 6.

Just like our rest-day in Nanjing – we were very lucky to have a cloudy day so we simply started walking around Xuzhou towards the big lake where a lot of touristy stuff is to be found. Xuzhou doesn’t feel like the industry city it once was. It has a lot of parks and lush, green hills. Through one of them leads a tunnel with an extra level for e-bikes, bicycles and pedestrians. The cars pass through the lower level and everyone else through the top one. The space along the road is full of stores – you can buy fruit, bicycles or clothes – a wine cellar and storage spaces that double as safe areas during hurricanes. They go deep into the mountain, are comfortably cool but wet. Fascinating to walk in and a bit scary to think about having to stay there with 5000+ people while a storm is going through the city.

Tunnel Wine Cellar
Fruit stall in the tunnel

We enjoyed the old and the new Han Stone Gravings museums and opted out of taking the cable car to the viewing platform as it was getting hot.

Old Han Stone Graving Museum. Basically a bamboo garden where they display 2000+ year old carved stones
Holiday drawing class in the Xuzhou Han Stone Graving Museum
Readers of the local newspaper – a lot of neighbourhoods have these billboards with the current newspaper. This one is right in front of the building of the Xuzhou Newspaper

Day 9 – Daluxiang to Xuzhou

The guy on the motorcycle stops right next to me as I am about to enter a store to get a cold ice tea. I greet him – we waved at each other before as he saw me cycling past and he passes me a bag with two bottles of ice tea he just got. I say my thanks – as there is not so much more I can say in Chinese – and we exchange WeChat-contacts.

We cycle through stone-country. Many places exhibit and sell this kind of impressive stones around here. A small one actually gets through my tire and I have the first flat of this trip. Apart from that, we just get our head down and try to get to Xuzhou.

When we get there, traffic gets heavy – of course – and I lose sight of Yan again on our last up-hill of the day. After check-in and shower we feel up to leaving the hotel – it’s less sunny and therefore less hot today. But we opt for busses and taxis. It just seems impossible to walk 1.1km to the – very interesting – Xuzhou Museum.

Before dinner, we even get a proper thunderstorm but it doesn’t cool down.

Stone country – one of these, very small indeed, cut through my tire and tube, causing the first flat
Three men working at Xuzhou Museum. They are actually live excavating a tomb!
I like how museums are a place to chill as well
Foooooood!

Day 8 – Wuhe to DaLuXiang

4:45 am. I leave the hotel. Instead of the freshness of the night, the air feels like a wet blanket. I sigh and get onto my bike. Wuhe is still asleep – hardly any traffic on the road, not even hawkers are selling their trade of mantou and soymilk at this time of the day.
I keep pedalling without breakfast then. Following the main road I leave the city centre behind as the sun starts to rise. This is going to be our hottest, but although prettiest day of riding so far.

Sunrise
Sunrise
Dinner leftovers for road-side breakfast!

The road is smooth, it’s a slight down hill and I am doing a good speed. Depending on the point of view despite the heat or because of it. Nonetheless it is 10:30 and awfully hot as we get to the first hotel of Daluxiang. We don’t care about much when checking in apart from the air-con and skip lunch, determined not to be outside again before the sun goes down.

She is selling fresh soy milk in Si Xian- you can see a packed cup on my handle bar

The town itself seemed rather poor, the store across from the hotel looked almost like it’s been looted. But dinner was at a surprisingly good at a muslim restaurant which had the air-con on and all fans running at maximum speed so it felt a bit like eating in the middle of a very refreshing thunderstorm.

Can you see the heat?

Day 7 – Zhangbalingzhen to Wuhe

A bunch of birds flies off as I walk past, pushing my bicycle, to get the most out of this short piece of fresh, lush forest along my way. I’ve been cycling for about 50km this day and my body is pretty happy about this change in the way of movement as well es temperature. I am still on the G-road but it leads through some dense trees for a few kilometers.
I don’t dare to really sit down and stop and temperatures are still rising and are supposed to get up to 36°C again and unfortunately this idyllic piece of federal roads ends soon, if I looked straight ahead I would see the sun burning onto the tarmac but instead I look to my right to soak in the beauty of nature while trucks and motorcycles zip past.

Wow – this pic looks like it’s hot and this part actually felt nice and cold!

Getting out of Zhangbalingzhen was some more undulating hills, longer even then before. In total, we will be climbing until Xuzhou, but do get downhills in between. The G-road 104 changes from wide, with a shoulder and everything to two lanes and no shoulder and back. It leads around one bigger city, past some smaller villages until we are there.

At 11:30h, 5 1/2 hours after we started, I finally cross the bridge into Wuhe, counting the meters to the hotel where Yan is already checked in. When the receptionists see me, of course, they know who I am and where I want to go, so a few minutes later I can start admiring the air-con.

Almost there! Just across the river
Who finds the house?
Food! In some deserted, touristy area next to the hotel. In front of the restaurant where two soldiers from the Terracotta army but inside was nothing Xi’an-style

Day 6 Nanjing to Zhangbalingzhen

Racing along empty streets, running most lights as there is no traffic yet anyway, enjoying the temperature at a comfortably cold 26°C – that’s how we appreciate our really, really early start at 4 am. No crazy, dense Nanjing traffic, just us, a car here and there, some motorcyclist and the first food stands at the crossings.
We arrive at the ferry dock to cross the Yangtze-River at 4:45 – a bunch of motorcyclists are also waiting for the first ferry that will leave in 15 minutes. Enough time to get some breakfast-pancake.

Pancakes!
Almost sunrise at the Yangtze

The rest of the ride is rather uneventful. We get past some factories, some fields, some smaller rivers – and some roadworks for about 20km. The same undulating hills that lead into Nanjing on one side, are leading out to the other.

And around lunchtime we made it to the nicest hotel so far. Rather unexpected. Over lunch the restaurant owners told us, that they do get a lot of cyclist here but hardly any foreigners. Only one french guy that married a girl from this city and me so far.

Day 4/5 – Nanjing

Since both of our live-stories are entangled with Nanjing we stayed for two days. Okay, in my case the entangled bit is overdoing it a bit. But my roommate’s from Nanjing and she was so lovely to set me up with her parents. A lovely, nice couple of Chinese teachers who invited me for lunch, showed me around the tourist area and explained a couple of the typical Nanjing-style things that were sold in the stores. So lovely, so awesome and they just kept talking despite my almost non-existent Chinese skills. I didn’t understand every single word, but recognized some and then there is always context, gestures and just feeling yourself into it while accepting you just understand some. I had a great time and tasted so many different dishes. Her parents were even kind enough to walk me to the metro and explain where I had to go. They double checked with their daughter to make sure I understood it. And I had. (At this point, imagine me smiling in a very, very proud way).

Yan’s live-story is much closer to Nanjing as it’s his father side of the family who lived there until the Japanese massacre which they had to flee. There is a very well done, very interesting, educational and foreigner-friendly as everything is written in Chinese, English and Japanese. It really gripped me to learn that the Japanese are denying this massacre. So of course the Japanese people aren’t very well-liked in Nanjing. As to quote a taxi-driver “Japanese and Germans are all fascists”. This goes as one of the Chinese sentences I understand without any further explanation.
Until the massacre his great-aunt had a leading position at the observatory which was opened in 1934 and was married to the man who was leading it. Nowadays it’s a great exhibition that shows modern equipment from the opening times as well as ancient, Chinese utensils to tell the position of celestial bodies. These had been taken away by German and Japanese troops in 1900 and eventually returned five and twenty years later.

The Observatory is one of a few tourist attractions on Purple Mountain. The Tomb of Sun Yat-Sen, the founder of modern China, is the one that is most visited. After we’ve climbed the many, many steps to go there, we went to an ancient one of one of the emporers of China who was much more humble when it came to the point of how much work you have to put into visiting his tomb.

Some of the stairs you have to climb to get to the Sun Yat-Sen tomb
Love the details and fierceness

From there we hiked towards the Observatory and I saw for the first time, Chinese people that were going for a swim in a lake in the mountains. If I lived in Nanjing I would spent many weekends there. The hike, even though exhausting, was what I enjoyed most on this mountain.

At a restaurant – notice how pretty her dress is while she’s chopping the veggies

Day 3 – Changzhou to Nanjing

Lost in the loneliness of beautiful mountains with impressive, Daoist temples in which’s shadows I hide from the fierce sun – what more could I wish for?

Sophias Mouse and I had a small photo session instead of lunch or fresh water. It was totally off-season and apart from the temples not so many people seemed to live there. So, no restaurants, small stores or gas stations. My initial plan was to hide in some restaurant and write and read around lunchtime but since I got lost on some disappearing X-roads I didn’t get back into any village until almost Nanjing so I dismissed this plan.

Out of the mountains I kind of followed an official green-way but it must either be given up or out of season. I came past a huge official information centre, really excited about finally getting water. I had none for the last couple of hours in 35°C but it was closed. There even seem to be some rest-places for cyclists but they were – even still in a good shape – deserted and the door broken into.

10k further down the road I toppled into a gas station and hardly ever had I been happier about a cold drink!

The last 30k or so were soft, undulating hills were I enjoyed the downs and loathed the ups as I was already pretty exhausted. Traffic in Nanjing was slow, a lot and annoying – if you can get there earlier in the day, try so.

Day 2 – Suzhou to Changzhou

Early start to try to beat the heat? Or be rested and better able to deal with the heat?
It was a late start and for me, it was great. The heat didn’t feel as bad since I was rested. Different for Yan though who really belongs into the arctic.

We finally got a bit outside of the big cities and followed the Grand Canal for a long time. So far the nicest part of the riding. We stayed on the river side of the road, ignoring the bicycle-motorcycle-way on the left hand since that side had all the streets coming onto our street. This way, we only had to worry about traffic lights if there was a bridge.

Day 1 – Shanghai to Suzhou – past my favorite pancake lady

Riding out of Shanghai was simply beautiful. We started at about 5am to beat the heat and were on the roads before the traffic was. And – my dear friends – I am sure I have told you all about my pancake-lady? I had one of them for breakfast every morning I went to work in Shanghai four years ago. Four years are a long time, especially in Shanghai. So when I realized we were riding towards my old place I started wondering if she would still be there.
And yes! She was still there, doing her business. Actually upgraded it to having a real, small store instead of standing in front of one that wasn’t opened yet and her husband was now working with her selling drinks.
Luckily we hadn’t eaten yet so I could fully enjoy my fresh made pancake.

The rest of the ride was rather uneventful, city-ish riding with a lot of traffic lights. Traffic itself felt okay, most times we had a shoulder that was very well apart from the traffic.
We got so Suzhou around lunchtime, exhausted and hot.
Yan decided to stay within the air-con while I set off to be a tourist and explore the Humble Emporers Garden. It’s really beautiful but was pretty busy on this hot day in the middle of the summer holidays.

18.07.2018

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Being a tourist at home – a photo essay of North-Germany

A couple of weeks ago I cycled around 170km round-trip to visit my grandma. I decided to take about the same kind of pictures I took when cycling in Asia. As in..Well, See for yourselves – in no particular order:

A nice spot to have a rest – a bench and a table at the road side welcoming travelers 

Typical cattle for North-Germany – black-and-white-cows. They are mainly used for milk, so they have to get a calf every year. Mother and baby get seperated as the baby is not supposed to drink its mothers milk. The cows are killed after a few years, when their milk production decreases

Memorial site in a small village for the sons that fell in WWI

That’s a very typical modern house in North-German-style made from red bricks and having a red roof.

Old farm houses. The lower one is a square-framed one.

 

Memorial for a beloved person who’s been killed in a car accident

 

Typical graveyard

 

The sign reads “protestant churchservice Sunday 10am” and these kind of signs fascinated me badly as a kid. Villages and some towns have them so everyone knows what time they can go to church. Especially Catholic ones would quote more than one service a weekend – which impressed little-me very much. Like, one Saturday night and two on Sunday morning. I kept wondering, who would believe in God so much, that they would go to church so often or so early, like at 6am, on a Sunday?

I followed some beautiful, small and quiet avenues

 

No country-side photo essay would be complete without a picture of farm workers, would it?

And never ever any essay without a food photo. That’s my lunch. 

 

Some crop to my right – that’s corn growing here. I also cycled passed apple trees but didn’t take pictures at that time.

 

Some more road.

 

Something surprisingly purple in a midst of grey – yes, that’s a picture where I took the same one in China. I was cycling on a rainy day, everything was grey. There were no colors at all, when – all of a sudden – a purple building appeared. So of course I had to stop to take a pictures of this purple wagoon

Finding a place to sleep in Thailand

Do you know this game “Never have I ever…”? Thailand was the reason I had to drink on “stayed in a police station over night” I would have to get out my travel diary and count to find out, how many nights I spent there. Unfortunately I had most of my police related photos on the phone that got stolen and never did a backup on.

No worries. I never was in trouble. I was a guest. Thailand wants tourists to feel safe and the police is accommodating to that. There is actually a special tourist police around – even came past a sign once: “The tourist police – your first friend in Thailand” and a phone number. Once they even slowed down, rolled down their window and asked me and my companion if they could be on any help to us and if we wanted directions.

So for you as a foreigner feel comfy, rural police stations have a place to sit in front where you are protected from the rain. Most offer drinking water and some of them some snacks. Once I was even invited for dinner.

Some police stations would even offer wifi to visitors. And – to get back to the topic of this article which is sleeping – I was invited to spend the night and given an opportunity to shower. Sometimes I was camping near by or I would sleep on the floor next to the head of the police office and his wife.

 

No tent needed – my bike and I spent the night in the prayer hall

Another safe bet for a place to sleep are monasteries. I would walk up there during dusk and friendly-smilingly underlined with a lot of gestures tell a bit about me and my tour as well as my desire to pitch my tent somewhere.

Only once I was turned away but found another place to sleep with no hassle.

 

Met this dude when having an iced tea and got invited to camp in front of his house

I stayed with people I met as well. Even getting into the really special problem of being offered to stay by TWO families at the same night.

The down-side of this is that you don’t get to sleep in as monks, police officers and everyone else, gets up early in the morning and so do you as their guest. I didn’t mind as I appreciated cycling in the cooler wee hours of the morning.

Finding places to sleep never was as easy as in Thailand. Unless I wanted a hotel, they were hard to find. Especially the ones that didn’t have a bunch of girls sitting in front.

That’s it – flying home

Getting a taxi at 5 am went so smoothly that I still wore my helmet as I was checking in – being totally oblivious about that fact. I stressed about that half of the night thinking about the troubles Yan and I had the summer before in Bangkok.

Emirates (who doesn’t charge extra for bicycles in boxes) checked our boxed bicycles without any hassle and didn’t care about the two or three kilogramm my luggage was too much. I was just confused at the confused looks the staff was giving me but as mentioned before, I was totally unaware of wearing a bicycle helmet.

Twenty-two hours later back in Hamburg

Can’t wait for my next tour!

Feeling blessed – meeting old friends in Hong Kong

On my first bicycle tour I was stuck there for two weeks during Chinese New Year as I had to apply for visa and it turned out to be the most amazing way I could ever be stuck in a city. Trying to describe this in a blog post really doesn’t give justice to all the amazing-awesomeness of that time!

Imagine roof-top camping for two weeks and feeling as a part of a Hong Kong family who even take you to all their New-Year-family-gatherings.

Thanks to the strong solidarity in the bicycle community, christian hospitality and a lot of luck I met Cat, Mike and her sons who agreed to have me sleeping in their living room for the first two nights and allowing me to leave my stuff there when going to apply for the Chinese visa (which is essential as there seem to be some troubles in getting visa for China as a cyclist).

Thanks to the prelude you already now where these two nights led to. And they were delighted to meet up again.

Cat and Mike had planned out a lovely evening with sight-seeing, dinner and seeing their new home. We were reminiscing about the first time we met and catching up on each others life with promises to stay in touch and see each other again. I am really looking forward to the next time!

Pre-dinner Sunset over Hong Kong – amazing, isn’t it? They took me here last time as well, but this time we had a much better view

 

Taiwanese-dinner at the very same restaurant they took me for dinner on my first night in Hong Kong.

Getting into Hong Kong

Arriving in Shenzhen at lunch time, it took us only all day to get to Hong Kong. Thanks to the bikes it wasn’t too far to get to the border (maybe 10 oder 15k?) but I wanted to have a last lunch in China and finish off the mangos I bought in Zhaoqing the day before.

And I was reluctant. I didn’t want to leave China. So we were loitering in front of the big border building for a bit.

Getting through went smoothly without any hassle – and then we took a wrong turn. A turn I thought that was impossible. We were outside. I was convinced that there is no outside. There is only the metro to get out.

***

Excursus: The non-existing-exit

Two and half years ago I arrived in Shenzhen for the first time and asked on the Hong Kong side for the exit – I was determined to cycle. But was told by the tourist information lady “You can’t go outside. There is no exit. You can only take the metro.” I was frustrated but since she was very firm on this being the only option – I sucked it up and pushed my bike to the metro. (This is actually one of my favourite stories of my Shanghai-Singapore-bicycle tour.) And that’s were it got hilarious. I was told, I could not take the metro with my _BI_cycle.

So I was stuck. I could not go back to mainland China for not having a visa. I could not exit the border station as there was no exit. And I could not take the metro which was the only way out towards Hong Kong where I could get a visa to go back to China…

I did the only sensible thing that was to do at a situation like this – and started laughing. 

For some reason this sensible reaction caused some confusion so I got explained again that I was not allowed to take my bicycle onto the metro. I explained that I perfectly well understood what I was told. And that I was stuck.

And then I learnt some magic. I got handed a tool to take off my front wheel. Because something that has only one wheel attached to it, cannot be a bicycle anymore.

***

So you might understand my confusion of being outside at a bus port. But since we agreed upon no more cycling than was inevitable this was not the option I wished for this time.

Magic!

Only took us about an hour to find our way back to the metro, going some no-return-lanes the wrong way and squishing into elevators.

Yepp, that’s Niklas and his bicycle with all it’s wheels in it’s appropriate places on the bus. I was pretty impressed and didn’t think we would ever find a bus driver who would allow the bike on board regardless of it’s wheels.

My first two nights wild camping

A post in the bicycle traveling women facebook group reminded me on my first night at the road side. On my fears and my loneliness and my non-existing-appetite despite having cycled all day.

I felt lonely. I don’t think I ever felt as alone as I felt that very first night wild camping. It wasn’t my Shanghai-to-Singapore tour yet, but the try-out. I had left my apartment in the center of Shanghai in the morning and cycled and ferried (is that a word? I took the ferry. I simply love ferries when touring. It’s like free kilometers) all day towards the wet-lands. My piece of forest was technically still Shanghai.

No-one seemed to life in sight of it. No-one saw me turning of the road. No-one was on the road anymore as it only let to the wetland park which was already closed.

I chose the spot wisely. It wasn’t too obvious from the (deserted) road, no houses in sight and it was already dusk when I set my camp up.

And still, I was so so scared. I hardly dared to turn on my headlamp. I even worried the screen of my phone might give me away.

What if someone sees me?
What if someone chases me away?
What if I get robbed?
Is that a dog? Somewhere in the wet lands? With me? Yes… someone is walking their dog. I hold still inside my tent. I better not breath. Please go away, dog. Go away. I try to do some magic thinking and of course, eventually, dog and owner leave the scene.
Should I lock up my bicycle? If I did, it’s harder to steal. If I didn’t it’s easier to get away. – I actually don’t remember my decision any more. It didn’t matter anyway as no-one came past what-so-ever.
What if, what if, what if…
How do I use the stove?
Did I stomp out all the leaves that caught fire?

Nuts and a cereal-bar proved as a sufficient dinner and I don’t remember falling asleep. But I must have and maybe even early. I had a book with me as well as a puzzle a student gave me. But I couldn’t use them as I was too scared of the light of my head lamp giving me away.
Eventually I must have fallen asleep. Sending messages to friends about my loneliness as well as my fear off all the above-mentioned and more simply wasn’t enough to keep me up very long after 80k or so of city cycling.

***

Later that month, on the first solo-night of my trip, I simply willed myself to sleep.

I was scared. But what was I to do? I was on my tour, it was getting dark, I did the k I had to do that day (seriously had to for visa reasons) and put up my tent at the side of the road.
So, I just did it. I didn’t have a choice. I was scared first. But then I decided to sleep anyway using pure will power to fall asleep, realizing that way I would at least be rested if anything would happen.

I trusted on my body to give me an Adrenalin rush if needed so I would be bright awake if anything DID happen. But nothing ever did. Apart from once, were people were offering me a room but that’s a totally different story and nothing to be scared off.

 

Park in the center of a Chinese City

Park in Beihai

Last lap – riding into and in Zhaoqing

We felt atrabilious breaking camp in the morning.

Well, at least _I_ felt that.

Niklas was looking forward to air-con and showers and no-more subtropical-camping and being home again. And a little bit atrabilious.

We followed the G-road we followed before and slept next to. We stopped detecting the noise from the trucks.

Until we left the G-road. And enjoyed the silence. The quietness. The absence of constant cars going past and honking. Our ear-drums unfolded while we enjoyed some ice-tea.

So yummy, so happy!

And then, that was is.

Less than 20k from where we started, we checked into a fancy hotel.

I abandoned my plans on cycling or busing to Kaiping the next day. Instead I slept. Got up for food. And slept again.

I remember a bit of sight-seeing in Zhaoqing – It’s a beautiful, cute city with a picturesque lake, good air-quality and a bit too much traffic for our taste – but mainly I remember being in the hotel room. Sleeping. Being lazy. Doing nothing.

   City wall and view from the city wall which was- surprisingly – free of charge

“What did she post THAT for?” is what you are probably thinking right now. Well – it looks like it’s out in the country side, right? Zhaoqing city centre is literally right around the corner – but there and then, it was quiet and felt secluded.

 

And then, two nights later, the bus to Shenzhen…

… with specialized bike storage spaces

 

Great service and great language skills by the waitress of the Kung-Fu fast food restaurant.

Distance vs Height – Yongfengzhen to almost Zhaoqing

Freshly showered and with fresh motivation we were on the road again.

We had been pondering, if we cycle into Guangzhou and then Shenzhen. But since none of us enjoyed cycling in Shenzhen at the starts of our tour, we decided to keep west of these places and eventually take a bus. So our last stop would be Zhaoqing, Guangdong. A small city of about 4m, enjoyed by many people from Guangzhou for it’s fresh air and beautiful scenery.

Depending on the route we were 70 to 90k away from there. So this could have very easily been our last day of cycling and of no-more camping.

Last day – first(!) flat between the two of us

We set off with this bittersweet feeling you get, when you know, something is about to end. A bit sad, a bit looking forward to going home (Niklas at least; I could have gone on for… let’s say, a while, at least).

I was at ease with the kilometers we were doing – depending on the time and progress, we would camp a last time outside Zhaoqing before going in a really nice hotel.

Having to roads to choose from, we opted for the shorter one. Even though, we would leave the s-road for the smaller x-road. We saved 20k in total for 20k on the x-414. And heavens… we really worked for every single kilometer of that.

That’s the view we got – I was too exhausted to care enough to cross the street for a better pic

First, the road was full of potholes, but flat. Then it started to gradually climb before the real climb started. We got slower and slower and realized, we would be totally exhausted if we stick to the plan of having lunch once we left the x-road or in the village that we would pass pretty much at the end of it.

So after looking for a nice spot to rest, a tiny, deserted construction site served as our napping-and-picknick-spot.

Our construction site – the village was in the valley so going down didn’t seem worth the effort

This really nice car overtook us, stopped and one of the passengers got out to take our photos as we were almost at the top. So we stopped as well and I walked up to the then terrified looking guy, smiled, hold up my mobile and successfully asked for their wechat to get the photos.

Two kinds of highway, water and road – and we ‘sleep’ in-between

We put some effort in finding a secluded camp on one the side roads, but eventually gave up as every spot of land was either field, dump or a house. Camped between the river and the highway.

Looking for a camp – pretty sure, this building was deserted.

 

 

Fruit for photos and a fellow cyclist – Xiangtang to Yongfengzhen

This day, again, we were allowed to stay on the roads we wanted. Lucky us, huh?

But still – after breaking camp – we just felt like we were doing something, that had to be done, instead of enjoying our time. Like, we were in need for a real rest. But we felt like we didn’t have the time, since Niklas wanted to spent some time in Hong Kong and there weren’t so many more days left of our tour.

Seriously -touring for a few months feels sooo sooo different, when it comes to rest days and stuff. I can only imagine what touring for a year or more must feel like. The feeling of independence and freedom is so much greater the longer you tour.

As it got a titsy-bit cloudy, we decided to postpone lunch for a bit and put our heads down, to get a few more k done. When we were, or at least I was, finally reminded, why I was doing this shit:

A young guy in his car stopped us to hand as some water (which happened a number of times to me) – we just gulped down half a liter each, soooooo good! – and some wet wipes (THIS never happened before… and with having skipped the improvised shower the night before due to the thunderstorm and just had a quick wash in the tent – I wondered how bad we must appear by now….). Turned out, he was a cyclist himself. Thanks to that (my Chinese skills are very low and the bit I know is very much based around bicycle touring) and his eagerness in communication with me (I really depend on the will, patience and skill of the person I’m conversing with) I was able to learn that he cycled to Lhasa, Tibet (compared to that, we didn’t experience any hills whatsoever) and tell a few details of our tour (where, how long, how far in a day… stuff like that).

Only bummer is that I forgot to ask for his we-chat.

Later, at one of our many ice-tea-breaks I told the story of our tour to some other customers that then passed it around each other and to the shop owner. She eventually asked for a photo and I got some fruit in return – I don’t think I ever tasted anything as refreshing as these dragon eyes that must have been in the fridge until then.

  Best-ever dragon eyes

 

Stuff, we came past, but never understood – fire crackers are being laid out along side this field. Every night, we would here fire crackers going off and in the morning cycle past the remains. My theory is that it might keep birds or other vermin away from the rice.

Es geht weiter, wie es aufgehört hat – Xinduzhen to Xiangtang

Also, was wünsch ich mir als Radfahrerin, wenn ich endlich mein klimatisiertes, schönes Hotelzimmer verlasse?

Genau – eine Erinnerung darum, wie es eigentlich ist auf Tour zu sein. Ausgesetzt den Wetterbedingungen. Dem Verkehr. Der StraĂźenqualität.

Und so bekamen wir alles – die Baustelle, die auf der einen Seite in die Stadt fĂĽhrte, fĂĽhrte auf der anderen Seite wieder raus. Also viel Verkehr, schlechte, kaum befestigte Wege, Schotter und Schlaglöcher. Dazu noch ein bisschen Regen.

Nachdem der letzte Tag sich so sehr nach Kampf angefühlt hat, war unsere Stimmung entsprechend gedämpft. Ich hatte echt keine Lust mehr. Warum bitte schön, tu ich mir das an? Warum stell ich mir sowas unter einem schönen Urlaub vor?

Darum, zum Beispiel:

Unglaublich schöner Ausblick – und ein riesiger Bereich, der da, anscheinend von nur einer Person, bewirtschaftet wird.

Unser Nachtlager zwischen Bäumen – leider trieb uns ein Gewitter viel zu frĂĽh in die Zelte.

***

Diese Gruppe Kinder spielte ein Spiel, indem wir anscheinend den wichtigsten Part darstellten. “Wer traut sich am nächsten an diese komischen Menschen im Restaurant?” Ganz wichtig ist es da natĂĽrlich, anschlieĂźend lachend und kreischend wegzulaufen, nur um dann wieder zu kommen. Zwei ganz Mutige sind zu mir gekommen, als ich zu verstehen gab, dass ich ein Selfie mit ihnen machen möchte.

Just a bit of road-works going on – Yangtouzhen to Xinduzhen

Seriously? It’s five? It actually feels like the right moment to turn around and have another nap before getting up. But up we get, pack and hit the road before 6 am. A nice morning ride, flat, little traffic and not hot at all. Like, only 27 degrees and moon instead of sun in the sky. Rice paddies all around us.

Awesome. This could be like all day! Wasn’t of course. It got hot. It got steep. It got city-ish. Okay, at first, the city-ish part was great as we got fried noodles, soy-milk and mantou at the side of the road for energy as well as really well maintained public toilets for the morning routine even before we reached the city of Hezhou.

It felt like we were climbing so much – I couldn’t believe the downhill wasn’t there yet. Niklas claimed we had a gradual downhill but too much headwind at some point but I still claim it only looked as if but wasn’t. I was tired, exhausted, dehydrated – and then the road was blocked. A short look on the map –  as well as all the motorcycles and cars turning off the street – showed us which way to go or… to climb. Well, at least it was beautiful and idyllic. Oh – and uphill. At the end of it was a look-out-point. So we would get water there and probably go up and have an even better look-around. But no – it was closed. So, no (extra-)view and no water.

***

“Nah, we just get water at the next village” I said after having a look at the map. We just had lunch as well as my bag fixed in Butouzhen and the next villages were marked on the map. So no problem there and we still had a bit in our bottles. We set off – and the road was closed. … The map indicated we had to go the long-way-round and no villages until the very end. I checked with Huan, who we sent pictures of the road-signs, if we really had to go around. But since that’s what the signs said (“Drive slowly” as well as “Road blocked”) and ALL the motorcyclists went around, we eventually did the same.

Appears to be a perfect road…

Of course – it was even more idyllic than the first turn-off. It would have been perfect for camping. If it was just a few hours later and we had just a bit more water and a bit more food.The road was in exact the condition, you would expect a small road to be that’s been used as a major road since May. Not-so-pristine. That and the (up-)hillyness of it – and we needed an hour for these 5k.

Please mark the road conditions we had instead.

When we finally got back to the main road, we couldn’t make if the road was really blocked by roadwork or if there were just these signs. It looked perfect and new from what we could see and a car emerged from there, right there and then.

After 12 hours on the road, we made it to Xinduzhen. I was exhausted, Niklas high on endorphines. We spent our last cash on the nicest hotel I could find, feeding Niklas some cake and me a fancy-pink-pitaya-drink, getting some souvenir tea for Niklas  and a hair-wash for me.

Such beautiful, intense colours!

Before we dragged on to the next ATM. And the one after that. And the one after that. And the one after that. They wouldn’t take Niklas credit card and we just spent our cash on all the above mentioned essentials…

Eventually, we were successful and I fell into a deep slumber.

The roadworks we followed for kilometers and kilometers in the morning

  The view you get for all this hard-work!

Shanghainese-style eggs with tomato and a lot of sugar. All gone, eaten by half-starved-me in 15 minutes during the end of the day.

No camp in the hills after all – Pingle to Yangtouzhen

Never ever have I taken my tent down and packed my bags as fast as I did then. We were just sitting in front of the tent, enjoying the evening, talking, blogging, waiting for the dusk to settle and the temperatures to drop at least a bit before we would crawl into the tent to sleep.

We were relaxing after a days ride – going pretty much only uphill in the morning until we had a long break at a cafĂ© at the edge of Yuantouzhen. From there to Zhongshan we went fast – enjoying a long and graduate downhill that allowed us to up our average speed by more than 2km/h. Just before Zhongshan – as the name predicts – we had to go uphill again, but not in a bad matter.

Most of the day we had spent following the G-Road, with a lot of trucks, noise and dust from trucks that were carrying split and always loosing some. So we really enjoyed the times, were we left it to go along the village road.

So – here we were. Off a pathway from the smaller road that led through the mountain area, beautiful, kind of quiet – and still packing our stuff as if we were going for the world-record in speed-packing. A thunderstorm just started and whatever you would call our camp – idyllic, quiet, picturesque, relaxed, beautiful, kind of hidden – ‘safe during a thunderstorm’ just wouldn’t come to your mind.

We had 30k in the dark until the next hotels, which we were racing for. Rain came with thick, cold drops, and Niklas could see even less as his glasses got wet. 25k to the hotels, when we got to Yangtouzhen – and our new campground in front of a store. The lovely Zhong Qiuxiang from the restaurant next door organised that spot for us. It was so nice meeting her and we were really happy for a safe spot. Even though we got up at 5am so we would be gone when the store opened in the morning. Inside the tent it was hot as the concrete heated up during the day and didn’t cool down, dogs were barking outside and we were right next to the G-road, something we didn’t think about when we were just glad about not having to race through the rain anymore.

Please take in the beautiful-blue, not-thunderstormy sky we had all day!