Conor reports from the Bamboo Road cycling tour:
A fascinating aspect of bike touring commonly discussed while in the saddle or in camp is the different ways that we see changes develop all around us. When travelling around 20kph your scenery slows down enough to notice the smallest details; from the plants alongside the road to the people that you interact with. Progress is marked with the day’s ride drawn in slightly further along a map, sometimes an inch at a time. Even within the short time the Bamboo Road has been headed south, the group has noticed many tangible changes within China alone.
“We’ve noticed so many more people saying hello” remarked Patsy, noting that the locals we have had the opportunity to interact with have become increasingly friendly. Although we’ve consistently garnered plenty of interest as a group of bright spandex-clad cyclists, many of the riders have noticed more smiles, waves and greetings as we have moved south and out of the larger urban areas.
As well as the amount of language used with us, there has also been a change in the local languages and dialects. Although the majority of our riders wouldn’t notice the difference (many of us have perfected miming our basic needs to locals we meet), full tour rider Sterling has been able to note the changing languages since he has studied Mandarin and Cantonese among other languages. “At the start of our trip essentially all language was in Mandarin, however as we move south we’re starting to hear more and more Cantonese as well as isolated areas where locals speak Hakka.”
From our perspective on the bike we have also noticed the changing scenery and vegetation. Whereas we started in the low lying area of Shanghai, after a few days of riding we had traded the bustling metropolitan areas for misty mountains and peaceful tea fields. Occasionally this transformation happens at the turn of a corner with a new view of the surrounding area, however it’s more likely to happen without us even noticing the change as it happens so gradually. Just like the mountains which slowly came in to view, the plants gradually changed to incorporate “more rice fields, more bamboo, and more bananas” as rider Patsy noticed “plus the pomelos!” Pomelos have quickly become a tour favorite as a juicy fruit that became more and more common as we rode through the Fujian region where they are commonly grown.
An additional difference we’ve come gradually to notice is the growing number of roadside Buddhist shrines and symbols. Starting with tiny shrines just large enough for a sculpture and a few candles, signs of Buddhism have grown as we move slowly south day by day to massive grandiose temples with larger than life statues and busy sanctuaries filled with locals. As we make our way across this continent we have the opportunity to experience change at a pace well suited to really feel the changes we’re seeing. All the while slowly marking our progress on a map bit by bit.