Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pushing on Through

Definitely. Check it out: two weeks ago I was riding through rural, extra-superrural Guangxi Province in SE China. Two days ago, I was suspended in midair in an airplane. And now, here I am in Australia. I got a job that pays more than twice the Oregon minimum wage, I got a phone and soon I will have an address. Life moves fast, this is just a simple example. It moves so fast that:

The last time there was any post on this website, we were in Xizhou, in Yunnan Province. Xizhou is the capital of Baba and BBQ which means tasty food for Nate and Jaco. We left this capital in pursuit of roast duck, but we were held up in Dali, because of a curse on Jaco's knee. He tried everything from accupuncture to stretching to red flower oil given to him by a guyu named Sea Dragon. So while Jaco waited to find out what in the heck was wrong with his knee, I sorrowfully continued riding through Yunnan, in the hopes that Jaco would join me again in Bamei, a LEGENDARY village at the end of Yunnan in Guangnan County.

The first time I heard of Bamei I rolled my eyes. Jaco informed me over a year ago of Bamei's existence. He said, "Hey Nate, are you down to go to this village in SE Yunnan that's only accessible by a boat that goes through this cave?"

I said, "Yeah Jaco, whatever," not really believing him. A village in super-populated SE China that is only accessible by boat through a cave? Yeah right. China has a way of exploiting tourist sites that will make the most positive optimist look down at strolling feet and feel the weight of this quickly developing world. So I didn't really believe him when he told me about this place, nor did I believe Head Royce Jayhawk Rochelle when she confirmed his story. I was prepared for disappointment. A disappointment that quickly vaporized upon entry to the cave. A man pushes you with his bamboo pole through the obscurity of the darkened cave. You can't see a thing, but finally a slam of light hits you hard.

And this is Bamei. Staggering with maladjusted eyes, I made my way through the village. It was exactly as advertised. Karst. Karst. Karst is rocks that extend purposefully from the ground, and sometimes trees grow on them. It is column, or kolumn, after kolumn through valley after valley of incredible rock formations and misty mountain tops. There was sugar cane and palm everywhere. Jaco and I stayed 2 nights in Bamei, soaking in the absolute paradise, and pessimistically and realistically imagining what the town would look like in 10 years. After all, they only got electricity 3 years ago and now everyone watches terrible music videos from Germany in the mid 90s. And it was being developed.

This is where we split. Jaco's knee kept him off the bike, and I was left to do the homestretch solo. The karst turned into rolling hills, which are incredibly frustrating. You just can't find any rhythm. But I continued to cruise and cruise, and before I knew it I was below 500m and making my way straight to the coast: I would hit water in 2 days!

The riding was rural, and the locals were thoroughly entertained at seeing a foreigner in their town. The dumplings were unnamable and rich, and the roast duck was unavoidable. It was good. And finally I was in Beihai. North Sea, that is to say.

Beihai is projected to be the fastest growing city in the world. Upon arrival, one is struck by the construction. It is everywhere. There is a hotel that they're building that has an ad saying, "like the dragon, world domination". Definitely. I rode as fast as I could past that hotel until I hit the sea, into which I walked then ran. I jumped in and screamed. I looked back at all that land to the West, and "I crossed every pass, rode through every long valley, and got hit by all the snow that came at me!" I was ecstatic, and swam and swam and swam. Then I feasted on roast duck and pomelo, a combination which comes with my highest recommendation. And I missed Jaco enormously. It didn't feel right. This wasn't a solo mission, this was very much a joint effort, and to finish alone on account of a bum knee just didn't feel right. Encouragingly, Jaco was having a great time elsewhere, but I was lonely there on the coast.

But I would soon rejoin Jaco upon reentry into the developed world. I took a bus from Beihai to Guangzhou, a city of 10,000,000 outside of Hong Kong. I had my last roast duck in China, then split to Hong Kong on day 90 of my 90 day visa in China. I made it! Soon I was on my first metro system since Uzbekistan, hurtling at post-bicycle speeds towards Jaco, at a place called Sunny Bay. At Sunny Bay I got turned around. "Can't ride bikes on this road, sir". This was my first experience with the closedness of Hong Kong. Can't sit there, can't spit there, but you can shit at one of the 100s of public toilets in the city. Hong Kong is not China. In China you can spit anywhere even indoors; you can sit wherever you like; and there is nowhere to shit. OK, maybe there's a hillside somewhere in town.

Hong Kong seemed like the land of restrictions compared to the anything goes atmosphere in China. However, by a huge stroke of luck we were invited into the home of Siu Ming, on Lantau Island. She had banana trees growing. This was very nice. She also had a massive garden, of whose fruits she was so generous to share. We stayed two nights here, then headed into Central Hong Kong to Occupy Central Hong Kong. This was a disappointing experience, due to the lack of communication and structure at the camp. But we met some cool people, and bided our time there until Jaco's parents arrived in Hong Kong. Then everything was excellent.

We ate dim sum every day, and had some roast duck in between. For me, this was the last bit of unexpected hospitality shown my way. It was an appropriate, Berkeley bookend to a great trip. After so much time staying with total strangers with whom it was almost impossible to communicate, it was great to have a strong dose of familiarity to end it. It made it quite comfortable, and I hope that someday I will be able to treat my child's friend to such hospitality.

And then I got on a plane to Australia. Here I am, in Fremantle, a suburb of Perth on the West Coast. Two weeks ago I was riding through rural China, two days ago I was on a transcontinental plane, and two hours ago I was hired to work in a cafe. Here I begin my way home, via sailing vessel, to the Americas.

So far so good. I may start another blog, I may not, but if I do I'll give the address to this one. Jaco continues to travel in SE Asia, and hopefully will make it down to Australia in time for me to knee him in the knee.

I sorrowfully and nostalgically end this last blog post,



  1. Thanks, Big Time. We miss you and we smile for you.

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  3. nate, you write like you talk! and you made it to australia!! congradulations!

  4. You are amazing. I love you. I adore you. Most of all I miss you! You are amazing.