Scouting the Bamboo Road
Just finishing up my scout of the Bamboo Road bike tour in China, I’m getting a couple stationary days in Beijing, and time to reflect on what I expected of China, versus what I’ve actually seen.
Riding from Shanghai to Hong Kong, then to Vietnam is not a walk back in time. There are no untouched villages, unchanged by the crazy momentum of the Chinese economy, or places where time stands still. There are beautiful country-sides, farmlands and mountains though, and we take as many small country roads through China as possible. That’s the challenge when scouting a new route, while not wanting to add too much complexity to the directions, as it’s a little hard to enjoy the scenery if you’re constantly worried about getting lost! What has surprised me is how often I felt at peace in China, and well away from the constant buzz of the crazy cities.
I would never have expected to see so much nature, and I feel ashamed of the judgements I’ve passed on China in the past. I expected every kilometer to be confronted with environmental destruction, and polluted areas where you wouldn’t trust food pulled from the soil, but it hasn’t been like that at all. After a few days of driving through forests, and farmland, I realized that I hadn’t seen a single clear-cut anywhere. Sure, the edges of the cities are levelled at an astounding rate for new 40 story apartments, but leave the cities, and you’ll enjoy a great mix of plant life, twisty roads, and ancient agricultural infrastructure. Sure, farmhouses are all mini apartment blocks, but when you use so few machines for your farming, you’ll need lots of people living near by (I just wish they weren’t literally blocks).
It might sound silly, but when I drive a new route for bicycles, like this one in China, I try to picture if I would send my mom on it. To my astonishment, in China I would. I’d tell her to ride slowly in the cities, and to expect people to do the unexpected with their cars, scooters, and livestock, but she’d love it! Sure, it’s busier than Indonesia, but has similarly striking scenery, and fewer hills, which she’d like…
So, I guess I haven’t quite fully wrapped my head around China yet. I’m not really sure how long it would take to. It’s definitely not all good, but I’ve loved the food, the amazing scenery, and the people. Sure, I could say China is destroying the environment at an amazing pace, but we have to remember that it’s also making all the products that the rest of the world “need”, like our bike parts! Missing out on seeing what that actually looks like would be a shame, sad to say, but it’ll only happen once. So, come see China while you can still afford to enjoy yourself here, but kick your coffee habit first, the Cappuccino I’m sipping on while typing, is costing me an astronomical $8!
See for yourself on the 2015 Bamboo Road bicycle expedition!