wild

10000km, The Ride

“The Ride” just kind of fits doesn’t it?

Now, referring to my upcoming trip with such a dramatic title may be silly. People spent years riding bicycles across the world. But they aren’t me, and this is going to be the biggest feat I’ve ever undertaken. Certainly, it isn’t small.

But, The Ride is going to be somewhere between 10000 and 11000km (roughly 6200-6800 in American). Australia itself accounts for over half of the distance. It’s hard to judge distance by using Google maps, since large sections aren’t mapped well. And it certainly doesn’t account for altitude gained and lost on the route. If you estimate that I ride 100km a day (I wont) it will take me 100 days. I’m thinking a minimum of 6 months, including rest, relaxation and getting lost. The Ride is going to take me from my current home city of Chengdu to Sydney. Yes, I’m fully aware of large bodies of water in the way; thank you, jackass.

The Plan

The first thing to know is I’m planning to build my bicycle for the trip myself, entirely out of bamboo. Chengdu is kind of famous for pandas and bamboo, so I want to take a part of that away with me. Also giving myself a greater sense of achievement.

Beginning in the Chinese province of Sichuan, I’ll aim to ride south to Yunnan to see Kunming and organise a few important visas. Next following southwards through Honghe to cross the border into Vietnam. I’ll begin a southeastern route towards Laos crossing at Tay Trang. Through Laos I’ll continue this same direction rising more northward to cross into Thailand most likely at Huay Xai. I’ll then move south across northern Thailand (sounds, like an oxymoron) towards Myanmar, crossing at Mae Sot. I’ll continue southerly crossing back into Thailand at Kawthaung, and keep this direct route to Malaysia. I have two options either Sadao or Pedang Besar each having it’s own unique advantage or disadvantage. Finally, I will cross Malaysia into Singapore over the one bridge accessible to bikes in Johor.

Not quite done yet, I intend on a ferry crossing to Indonesia to ride across to South Sumatra and another ferry to Java and carry on until I reach Bali where (hopefully) my first airplane ticket will be purchased. Me and my little bike will be carried to Darwin where the intention is to detour to explore Kakadu before heading down into Katherine. Probably head down the 66 to Rockhampton (or Townsville to include Whitsundays) and from there follow along the coast seeing Brisbane, the Sunshine coast, the Gold Coast, and finally arriving in Sydney.

Throughout the trip I’ll let myself rest for days or go off to explore exciting local things. The journey is real important, but also what I see will be unforgettable and needs to be appreciated.

The How

Pedalling, obviously.

I intend to have on the bike; front and rear panniers plus one handlebar bag. I want to travel lightly, so that also means stinky. I’ll have minimal clothes and extras packed away. Basic camping equipment included; varying my nights between tent, guesthouses and possibly friendly people’s homes. Piled in every place will be equipment for filming, charging, entertainment and health! Food can get stocked up on every few days as you cross through small villages so it’s not so necessary to have it stockpiled. Snacks and emergency food, however, will be critical. I’m a snacker you see! There will without a doubt be plenty of miserable days due to the minimalist approach. However, I think the effort saved on packing, unpacking and lugging around too much stuff will be well worth it.

I’ll be doing the majority of filming myself, since at this moment; there will be no crew and no partner coming along. So I’ll have to be thinking carefully about shots and locations.

Before leaving next year, I’ll give an in-depth look at what’s in the bags and what probably should get left behind (that wont).

Challenges

There are a ton, in drafting this blog; my list here exceeds anything from the lists above! They could even be subcategorised, which I probably should do, but I think it looks weird.

The most pressing challenge is my birthday and my personal goals. I’ve wanted to do the Australian Working and Holiday visa for a long time. The cut off is 31 years old, if I turn 31 before the visa is granted I’m out of luck. So if it is coming too close, some section, however regrettable, will be getting cut out. I don’t want to give up that opportunity; it won’t lessen my achievement at all. Though… maybe numerically it does!

Visas are possibly the most awkward part of this trip, only 4 countries require me to get a visa. However, due to the nature of my trip it gets complicated. Normally, American passport holders get 30 days in Thailand without having to apply for a visa, for me crossing by land with no onward departure evidence… 15 days. The first section of Thailand is about 900km, which means I’ll probably have to “cheat” and get on a train or hitch a lift. This is a theme throughout the Asian leg of my journey fighting visa time-constraints. It’s all part of the adventure

The dangers I guess are the next real challenge; unsafe riding conditions, theft, injury, murder, mayhem, alien abduction… Again these are all part of the adventure. I’m actually only fearful about theft and injury, I’m going to be carrying quite a bit of fancy kit with me while travelling in remote places. So preferably to make the situation the most ideal, I’ll manage to have partners or a crew for the majority of the legs.

Boredom and loneliness will go hand in hand. Hopefully, I’ll have human company for the majority of the trip, which will really help with loneliness and boredom. I’ll have with me some type of e-reader and about a million books. I’ll have my notebook for journaling/blogging… Additionally, you can expect me to vlog a bit and film the things around campsites and exploring areas.

Getting lost, probably will happen, however I’ll be doing my best with a GPS map and laminated printouts of trickier areas to ask locals. Falling back on a compass in emergencies.

Funding this trip, well, this is the hardest thing. I don’t really want to spend my own savings to support it. Though it’s completely expected I’ll have to pitch in. I hope to convince enthusiastic people in this great wide world to fund me with a crowd-funding page, my goal of about £5000. This should be able to cover all of the electronic equipment and majority of visas and food costs. I hopefully will get a sponsorship deal from a drone company because they decide “Hey, you’re alright! Have a drone you cheeky devil!” … For the kick-starter I’m thinking offering the funder’s name in the credits of the documentary for the first tier of donation. Tier two includes the credits plus early copy of the documentary, the final tier would be inclusive of the first 2, plus your name engraved on the bicycle.

Oh! Electricity you shout! Well I’ll be using a dynamo hub to generate the power for the various bits and bobs I am carrying around. Plus a solar panel, I will be living the dream! Endless power! Nothing will stop me! Apart from the fact the drone I want isn’t able to connect to USB ports right now… More challenges!

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The image above, obviously isn’t my route… Mine will be way more wiggly.

As always, I’ll keep updating you closer to the set off date… Thanks for getting on board.

Why “The Ride”

The Ride. I guess it’s the only thing I can call it for now.

Inspired by Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright’s antics in their Sufferfest videos… I began thinking of how I could do a pretty low budget, low impact, “old fashioned” adventure.

I really just wanted to have a challenge that is wildly out of my depth, a challenge also accepted by great friend who can share in the suffering. All the while documenting the kind of pain that will later be fondly remembered, alongside the genuine camaraderie and humour that comes with a friendship tackling an epic together.

Slowly my plan evolved, from motorcycles back to England, to riding bicycles to Kathmandu via Lhasa (so much trouble with entering and crossing Tibet as a foreigner…) to finally riding my custom bamboo bike from Chengdu, China to Sydney, Australia solo. Solo isn’t ideal, but I’m not backing out for anything!

In beginning to really think hard about the trip, I thought what does riding my bike for a few months and several thousand kilometres actually do for me? It can’t just be all about me! So I will be inviting the crazy people I know for legs or if someone can come from start to finish, they can. Yet, I wasn’t done thinking. Now, importantly, I feel that not giving back in some small way would be a crime. Whether highlighting any issues with health, environment, or supporting sustainable tourism. This trip is sustainable trip, using a handmade bamboo bike and bringing money into the local communities buying goods and sharing their lives to a wider audience, which may highlight any issues we can help with.

As these thoughts blossomed, development of the documentary started processing in my mind. You can’t just film aimlessly for weeks and put it together. It’ll be absolute shit.

So a new challenge arose, what would the purpose be of filming my trip, if it’s just me riding a bike week after week? So again I had to search for a better reason than just me, my experiences and development will still be a large part of the story, but it has to appeal more widely. Too much thought was going into the creation of a story to tell with the documentary, and it was obvious the whole time: How to have an adventure and deal the challenges faced while doing it with a whole lot of cultural education.

Showing people the process before undertaking something, that you don’t need to spend ridiculous amounts of money, that a lot of planning still goes into simple ideas, and the fact the adventure comes from just pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Combine with these ideas with my own personal story, my self-development alongside my friends who will (hopefully) join me for legs or the whole tour… and also the fun interactions and dramas that come from remote challenges in other cultures… That’s where you get your entertainment!

My goal with the documentary is to help show others what little is required besides some effort and a little confidence (I’m still not so confident in my cycling stamina), share experiences, and to educate viewers on the human issues, cultures and places I cross. In addition, I will share the sights that only are found in Nat Geo… Drone shots, action shots and pieces to camera. And even live streams are possible with a little phone data and a drone!

My goal with the trip is to challenge myself completely, be completely out of my depth from start to finish and then also to see what it takes to complete this trip. Along the way I want to explore other people’s reasons for trips like this, through conversation with friends accompanying me or with other souls that are making similar trips! See if maybe I can develop a philosophy for myself about life and fulfillment.

Now maybe, these reasons aren’t strong enough for some people to accept as for why I want to do something like I’m doing. But it’s what I want to do, and being able to find a deeper meaning and purpose to a challenge like this, to me, is better than “Because I want to”. I’m still figuring it out for myself, but that’s all part of the adventure.

In a few months, when I’ve planned more thoroughly, you can expect a better description and pitch with a link to a kickstarter page. I reckon I’ll just need enough to cover the millions of SD cards and paying someone to edit for me. But it will be a visually beautiful documentary considering where the trip will take me and my current vision.

 

Few shots from other adventures… Italy and a lot of China.

CNY Part 3: Revenge of the Bike Seat

After the most deep and full night sleep we’d had on the trip, we decided due to the unknown problem with Ruth’s derailleur we’d take the train from Zigong back to Chengdu. The problem was resulting in our inability to climb steeper hills because her chain jumped off the cogs and lodged themselves in between the spokes and hub. The distance between Zigong and Chengdu is about 200km, but there are some rather large hills (mountains) spread through the area and no direct route by train, so it would be 6hrs

Zigong was pretty close to us still; we’d definitely make it on day 6. We’d checked the timetable and could get the overnight train back to Chengdu. So we’d take our time enjoying the route but still had to get to the train station for about 6. As we rode along we crossed through many small roadside towns and we decided to grab ourselves a last helping of water before Zigong. We stopped at this store full of people, a family, eating outside and very friendly. They also had an amazing looking little special needs puppy! It was so inbred and ridiculous! It was enthusiastically falling over itself and winning me over with it’s antics.

We had quite a number of small arguments throughout and when our turn of bad luck returned. We arrived at the train station and it looked very, very closed. I started asking around, enquiring whether the station was open or not. Fending off all the usual chit-chat questions and conversation; “Where are you from?” “Your Chinese is really good.” “What do you think of Sichuan food? Spicy?” “Where are you going?” … I was fielding many questions from various people while asking all my own. Ruth got impatient and wandered off to go into the station and check. The security guards didn’t raise a question to her, which is why we hadn’t attempted originally!

After establishing with the folks outside that we would have to return early the next morning to get our bikes onboard. I went into the station to tell Ruth the good news. I found her sitting after having spoken with the ticket man who just told her no no no no. With the information I knew from locals and the fact there was a baggage/freight office at the station we’d be able to take our bikes.

I had a turn at the window, speaking to the man and then another woman, we established that what was meant that it would be impossible to get the bikes on the late night train because the other office had closed. So I returned to the line and dealt with Chinese people and their frustrating cultural difference of “me first” so cutting in line. Thankfully, my Chinese has improved enough I can have small arguments and make it very clear I know what’s up. Successfully purchasing our tickets for the 9am train I went back to Ruth.

We had another falling out, because she wanted to find a place to camp, but my argument was we couldn’t camp in the city very easily at all and leaving city limits to try and find a camp would also be so difficult. So if we didn’t get a cheap nearby hotel we could all night it at the station. We did have camp mats and all the things to have food and stay comfortable. Very reluctantly, we booked a hotel nearby for the night.

The next morning we were up early and at the station before they opened. Checking our bikes into the train put my Chinese past its limit! After some round and round discussion, we paid 60rmb total and were told we weren’t going to be able to get the bikes right away at the other side and ride home. They would HAVE to be delivered to my home.

Another small bit of trouble occurred when we decided to keep hold of our gas canisters hoping to get away with it. NOPE. Berated in Chinese and then my passport photographed we were away!

The rest of the trip was a little boring and lonely, since my partner in crime became very quiet. This wasn’t so fun as the trip was still long way from done.

After about 2 hours I hear “外国人 -Waiguoren…” and I replied “不对,我是中国人 – Budui, wo shi zhongguoren” … The little girl looked shocked and ran away, she kept coming back and forth before deciding to show me her English homework and we ended up speaking for over an hour. She didn’t have an English name and I gave her one, Joanne. Her name was Jiu Yuan, so it worked! But bless her she was telling me she didn’t have many friends and her classmates called her ugly!

When we arrived in Chengdu, I rushed up to the freight area and spoke with the guys about how to get the bikes at the station rather than wait. They told me where to go, Ruth and I were soon back on the road sleepily and quietly riding back to our places. Mostly silent, we got back and said our goodbyes. I immediately ordered a take away and sat down and began considering washing my stuff and unpacking.

About Me

About me

Finally.

My unnecessary quote comes to you from Henry David Thoreau:

“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”

Well, this is probably the wrong time to do an “About Me” … but I have never been interested in doing things how they should be done (at best “kinda” or in Chinese, chabuduo “close enough”)… Oh well! Let’s continue.

I was born and raised for the most part in the United States of America… I wanted to full name it, because it has been rather naughty lately. The latter half of my life in England having lived in London, Essex and Man(couchCREWEcough)chester… I will always identify as an American, however, I do prefer the lifestyle and social outlook of the life in Europe.

At 14 I moved to London and my life was forever changed. CLICHÉ ALERT! I went to a high school, which had academic standards beyond what I was accustomed to and was nearly kicked out a few times for poor grades. My friends were from all over the world, either very wealthy or parents in government. I was not. I hadn’t lived in a place were public transport wasn’t called “Mum” and “Dad”… I was surrounded by very intelligent, successful people, who could do anything they wanted. At least, that’s how it appeared to me. This would cause me endless issues in confidence and expectations of myself throughout my teens and early 20s.

Through these experiences I became driven for success, enthusiastic for travel and learning, and very jealous. Though, I had not yet discovered how to channel all of these things positively they were my strengths.

Skipping all the over-sharing and needless paragraphs of self-discovery, the result is the guy writing this now. Sublimely confident, self-motivated, self-disciplined, unreasonably positive and irrepressibly happy. I’ve discovered that you make everything yourself, someway, somehow… If you want it enough, you figure it out and it doesn’t have to be fast. I’m still years away from reaching my dreams, but I do now have a path. It only took me to 26 to realise what made me happy and how I might achieve it. Some people aren’t so lucky, look around, many people don’t really know still!

So now I travel. Not enough, I’d say, but way more than most. I used to travel to just tick things off a list! Believe it or not, just to say I had been there. I didn’t have a reason. Then I discovered skateboarding and I got pretty good too. So I wanted to visit the best spots in Europe. As I got older still, I rediscovered my passion for nature and that is what still drives my exploration. I want to go and experience these wild places, test myself in them through climbing or paddling… Pantheism, the belief that reality is akin to divinity… That is why I go. I have to understand the world you see, but I have to do it myself. In some other part, I don’t feel like I yet have home, I have yet to be someplace I could call my forever home.

Boring you now, I’m sorry. Let’s talk about dreams. I want to live my life playing and having fun. And now I’ve discovered exactly how I want to live my life.

Before leaving the UK I was doing some work with TV producers, doing some big shows too. But I would be pigeonholed. Red Bull TV. However, inside I want to be Attenborough. I want to share and encourage education and learning. So to stand a shot, I need my masters. So with gentle persuasion, I could apply palaeontology (my childhood passion) with my degree at two universities in England.

Fast forward to: an opportunity to work a lucrative job in China came before me, I saw it as a chance to increase my life skills and learn an important language. So now I’m here, almost two years on, learning Chinese and saving money, and using the overly high salary to explore Asia.

The next step is taking advantage of the Australian working holiday (after 2 big adventures; 3 weeks on a horse in Mongolia, followed by a bicycle commute from China to Sydney)… Afterwards, I will hopefully attend either Edinburgh University or Bristol to read my MSc in Vertebrate Palaeontology while working on my presenter career in various societies and clubs and attending castings in London… The end goal is to be a lecturer who gets to write and make interesting and exciting programmes for TV. And in my free time have some adventures. Oh and speak Chinese. God damn it I will!

The only advice I’ll offer in my blog, well, life advice:

I think it’s critical to success and happiness to ever at most have a rough plan. Don’t fill it with details, because you’ll never be able to break from the script. You’ll be too focused on the next thing. Just do what you want, when you want or can… Or at least that’s my feelings. I’m not here to tell you how to win at life, just it’s working for me!

Chinese New Year… Pt2

I had a hunch we weren’t in too much trouble, but we still opened the tent door as quietly as possible to get a better look. The light had been coming from directly in front of us, which would have meant we could be seen dead easily. However, besides the path, which we were next to, in front of us was a steep hill where a tall brick wall lay to keep people out of the very scary Scooby-Doo-like factory. Relieved that we weren’t going to have to move, or deal with any late night language barriers we got back into our sleeping bags and got back to sleep.

I was aware of Ruth getting up and getting out of the tent, but was soon dozing again, as it was very late still.

“KEITH! KEITH! THERE’S A DOG!” Ruth shouted, at the same time I was being scared that she was about to be savaged outside the tent, her voice clearly scared the dog who replied with a flurry of barks and yips that were growing ever fainter. This was the ideal result as I was mostly undressed, completely dazed and half tripped out of the tent as Ruth returned. I certainly couldn’t have fought a vicious man-eater to the death.

Officially waking up to day 2 was just as hard as day 1. My little fitness tracker started vibrating and I sleepily told it to “fuck off mate”. Slow to start again due to the night-time shenanigans, we did start. Me as the groggy grump and Ruth with the sore legs. Honestly, I was so happy Ruth constantly turned down my offers to help with food, so I used the breakfast time to pack up and organise camp a bit.

Finally packed and ready to go at about 10am we started walking down the bumpy train back to the road leading to Pengshan. Arriving in town we made friends with a woman who led us to a quieter path to Meishan. This road though, blessedly empty of traffic, was also the longest and most boring section of the entire trip! It was about 50 out of the day’s 60km covered.

Meishan was pretty nice and relaxed, but to find a safe camping spot we’d have to keep going and get outside the city limits. We started passing through a smaller town with several lingongyuan (tree parks) and decided to pull up at a bus stop across from what seemed the best location. Many tall mounds of earth, away from the road and lights, it would be perfect for stealth camping.

One problem though: Grandpa. As we sat at the bust stop next to his little workshop, we prepared our meal and waited for it to become darker so we could get stealthy. Grandpa, however, seemed to know something and stood outside watching us. He crossed the road and walked through the trees to a small house in the distance then back… But he was always watching. To score our campsite, we had to outwit gramps.

Together we cleaned and packed away our cooking stuff, still under grandpa’s watchful eye, and prepared to set off. It was now very dark so we used our mighty strategic brains, turned on our bike lights and started riding down the road until we were far enough away, turned off our lights, and crossed the road and returned. Grandpa was fooled! We hurriedly rushed into the park and laid out the tent. Our tent, a Vaude Hogan Area, was super quick to set up and with an olive flysheet we blended in pretty amazingly. Suddenly, we heard shutter doors closing and saw the flashlight of grandpa coming over the road through the park! We dived to the ground like some super lame special forces commandos and let him pass. Great success! We finished up and like the night before- asleep by 10.

“Keith!” Ruth’s anxious voice woke me up, along with her CPR skills, “There’s a motorcycle outside and I don’t know what he’s doing.”

For the third time I was “awake” trying to process what was happening and what was likely TO happen. We decided to wait it out, our valuables were with us and our bikes were locked together very securely. In the end, the bike moved on and there was no further drama.

Day three was another early planned start, the only successful one, however we did not leave until late still. As we set off, we were discussing our plans for that evening. We would be reaching the first city on the trip, Leshan, and had to decide if we would find a place outside the city or stay in a hotel for the evening. I suggested that it was best to get the hotel, so at lunch I booked one that was cheap and when we arrived we were really (I think) pleased with everything. We had our first showers, rinsed our gear and went out for a restaurant meal! After just snacking on some seriously greasy food, we got back and got into our nice comfy beds.

When we first got into the city, crossing over a bridge, Ruth was starting to have a few issues with her bike. We stopped to check the map, realising we had missed our turn suddenly Ruth’s bike was done with us. The chain kept popping off if she went below 4th gear, very challenging when we were surrounded by hills!

After an evening in the city we headed out at our now standard 10am after having, possibly, the worst free breakfast I’ve ever had.

This was by far the most frustrating and tiring days. Up, up, up. All day we just were working up a steady gradient, passing through many similar roadside towns. People were obviously surprised and excited to see foreigners. Some were a little over enthusiastic, so much so, that Ruth left a store because she felt uncomfortable.

As we left one town I saw a little ball of fluff as we pedalled past. I pulled up for a snack break and to check on the little puppy. He was a little scared but decided that Ruth’s bike would be the best shelter and protection. I was looking at him and we gave him a bit of food. As we left I was really sad to be leaving this pup, if I could’ve safely taken him with me on the bike I’d now have a little white fluff monster.

As the day got later it was feeling harder and harder to push on. It was also starting to feel like finding a comfortable/safe place to camp would be impossible. It was really late by the time we found a place it wasn’t ideal but it also was the best we’d find before the sunset and the roads got dangerous. It was directly across from a family home, on a busy road and amongst a patch of bamboo. Besides all these things there were a huge amount of small ditches and hard earth everywhere so it was a challenge to pitch the tent. Handily, the bamboo had shed a lot of husks that we were able to use to level out and soften up sections of the ground!

The evening passed by a little uncomfortably with many people passing in and out of the house across from us. Followed by the late night passing of lorry after lorry, the road vibrated both physically and audibly. Sleep was fleeting and it was morning all too early. Achy bones ached as we sat eating breakfast. We blankly went through the routine of packing up camp and began our climb up the hills. We really were struggling, the kilometres passed slowly… one… two… four…Suddenly, down, down, down! The freezing wind whipped through my clothes as I had layered myself for being hot from climbing! 16km we rushed downhill.

Oh man, it was so worth it! All that climbing the previous day, being able to cruise down winding mountain roads, completely validated the pain. We arrived at the bottom of the mountain and hurriedly I threw on my jacket to keep myself from dying. As I did this Ruth was checking our location to be sure those 16km hadn’t been in vain!

Relieved we weren’t lost, we began to pedal slowly trying to find a nice spot to stop for our lunch. We finally found one, more or less in someone’s drive, and settled into the routine of cooking.

The following road was about 120km to Zigong, our next big city. No turns, not a bit of interest along the route. As we passed through the roadside towns, hearing “Wai guo ren” called our behind us, we could smile because these folks were so puzzled as to why foreigners were coming through. I got pleasure in shouting out to people in Chinese, which also got a lot of laughs either because of my joke or they were so surprised this white fella was speaking their language!

Ruth and I shouted back and forth in the wind over our plan for camping that night. In the end we decided from 4.30 we’d start looking for the perfect spot! AND! Would you guess what? By 5pm we were setting up our camp in a small bamboo forest and finding the joy in stealth camping again. Relaxing on our camp mats, reading books and drinking hot chocolates… it was amazing.

 

China Cycling: Bliss and Rage

The magic and rage of biking

Riding a bike is nothing new. I’ve been at it, like many people, since childhood. Unlike most though, I didn’t really ride much past 10. I ‘ve collected more hours riding a unicycle than a bicycle.

Now China, a country not famous for great or revolutionary traffic conditions, it’s much the opposite. I’d wager many of you wouldn’t be at all aware of what it’s like to be following the rules of the road and being the person getting all the dirty looks!

I have in my time here, used every form of transport and even owned my own motorbike. Never have I had such a constant enjoyment of being in the road, but similarly I’ve never been cussing and shaking my head more!

Chinese roads have their risks; number one being the foot traffic, people just walking – they have this terrible habit of having their faces pressed against a screen watching TV or messaging and just stepping out in front of you. Phones are also a risk because drivers, motorbikes and bicycle users are all glued to them too! On top of this when they aren’t using their phones – road users don’t actually have an awareness of self or surroundings. Added to this are the road oddities, such as the legendary tricycles stacked with Styrofoam and of course folks riding on the sidewalks causing their own personal mayhem for pedestrians.

The pedestrians are about 50% of what you need to focus on as you pedal around the city! They far outnumber the seemingly endless streams of motor powered or pedal powered contraptions whizzing at you against the flow of traffic. Usually they are glued to their phones, interested in the tiny universe in their hands as they step into the bike lanes- often causing a chorus of beeps and honks alongside my own “你有眼睛吗?!” or “Do you have eyes?!”… More often than not, you’ll have them shoot you a look of contempt – How DARE you cause them to look up into the real world as you cruise the canal of asphalt made for your road boat…

When you aren’t having to dodge the moving speed bumps you’ll probably have to deal with the other travellers on their various contraptions; pedal/electric bikes, electric scooters, other bicycles, surprisingly frequent cars, motorised trikes, and pedalled trike-cart things ladened with; boxes, Styrofoam, a furnace with potatoes resting on top, grills and further unexpected apparatuses dangling chaotically in all directions. Often you’re pedalling along overtaking the road sheep, putting along on their e-bikes while using their phones. The uniquely maddening thing is that they drift aimlessly honking their horns with no knowledge of self in space… While this occurs you also have to look ahead for the same thing coming against the flow of traffic on the narrow thoroughfare. If you aren’t in China, next time you try cycling through a carnival with all the weird and wonderful things to dodge and it’ll be something like that. You must have the reaction time and piloting precision of a fighter jet pilot.

As a foreigner one of the things that is so hard to become accustom to is the constant and seemingly unnecessary horn usage. Almost like a flock of geese there is a constant communication of all road users. It’s hard not to want to shout, “Fuck off” when you’re being honked at incessantly as people approach you. “Yes I see you, I pay attention”… there is a quick use of horn in China too. Pretty much the second the light changes if you weren’t moving before it was green you’re being honked at to move. However, as I’ve made out above, it’s kind of a requirement to be honking and making noise because nobody uses their mirrors or moves their head the slightest to check their blind spots. Just meandering across… I unfortunately haven’t a bell yet so am left shouting “HONK! RINGRING” at the top of my voice.

There’s a bit of an unwritten culture that might makes right here. So a bigger vehicle is going to do what the fuck it pleases when it pleases it to do so. Often you will find yourself in the cycling lane about to approach a junction and nobody is there and as you’re reaching it to continue onwards a car flies up and either forces you to stop or turn into the junction yourself to avoid being hit. I however know that even though it’s common it is not proper road usage here and if I’m hit then the driver is in some trouble. Not only have they hit somebody and are at fault it’s a blond haired foreigner too. Nightmare. So often if the driver isn’t in full idiot mode I go for it.

With the outstanding amount of negativity I seem to put on this – I, for the most part, love everything about these lunatics. But be warned if you aren’t ready for anything you might not make it back!