I mentioned last time how disappointed I was that after spending more than a week indoors, now that it was nearly time to leave Yangshuo, the sunny skies had grown completely overcast – obscuring the magnificent peaks for which the region is so renowned. But if I was going to make it to Shijiazhuang in time for Chinese new year, I had little choice. I couldn’t wait it out – I had to depart on schedule.
Still, since this might very well be my last chance to see the few remaining “Must-Sees” in the area, I headed out anyway – for one final cross-country (er, I guess I should say “cross-region”) bikeride.
My planned route was to follow the winding Luoyang river up to the Dragon Bridge, passing through half a dozen of little country villages along the way.
I probably got lost twice that many times before reaching my destination; luckily, I happened upon a pair of Danish girls on vacation from their teaching jobs whose Chinese language ability turned out to be more than enough to keep us pointed in the right direction.
And while the day’s ride would’ve ordinarily been just the type I love, for some reason it was during this ride – with just a few weeks until my flight out of Asia and back to Los Angeles – that I began to think “maybe it is time to go home.”
Perhaps it was just the crummy weather, but somehow I never once got that jittery feeling I usually get when exploring a new and unknown location; the feeling that always drives me away from the typical grind of doing the same thing every single day, and back to a life of constantly seeking out the new and interesting.
Or perhaps it was the fact that my travel gear was really starting to break down and rot away. I’d already gotten used to my smaller handheld cameras deteriorating as my travels continued (I reserve the SLR for “safe” activities only – whipping out the small ultracompact for parties, beaches, bikerides, and the like). But today things REALLY started to fall apart.
At one point I actually had to backtrack to find the metallic front panel that had fallen completely off while the camera body dangled from my wrist by its lanyard (Note: the lens cover was already long gone). Keep in mind I’d just replaced my backpack (in Korea), cellphone (in Hong Kong), and have been re-soldering my headphones almost monthly since Japan. My necklace from Egypt ripped apart one night in a bar on Xi Jie, and my silver chain disappeared somewhere in Hong Kong. I even stopped to retie my shoe once on this ride…and the lace tore right off.
The time for small tuneups of my gear was long past…I needed to go for a complete restock 🙂
I headed home feeling just slightly down…not that there was a particularly big reason to, but I did feel it nonetheless. “What am I doing out here?” I thought.
That is, until the next morning – my very last in Yangshuo – when I once again felt the rush of “this place is just wonderful.”
It’s almost shocking how strongly my mood is influenced by the weather at times; because now (writing about it more than a month later), I still clearly remember the lonely feeling the day before…and the fantastic, energized feeling of zooming about the countryside the very next.
For although I’d long planned to spend my final day wrapping up personal business and blogging…the shining sun just wouldn’t permit me to stay indoors.
It’s being out in the wild on days like this that make it so great to be alive!
And the countryside, with its winding rivers, towering peaks, and sprawling rice terraces couldn’t have been more perfect.
This time, I made my way up the main road to the next town of XingPing – and by “main road,” all I really mean is “paved road.” Vehicular traffic consisted almost exclusively of dumptrucks overflowing with villagers, motorcycles carrying families of five (and 3 chickens dangling upside-down), and those silly tractors with the engines sticking off the front.
Little old farmers walked along the roadside in their fluffy Russian hats, sons helped keep the bulls in line with short bamboo sticks, and orange groves and sugarcane plantations unfolded in every direction. It was like something right out of a storybook. Or off the back of a $20 bill.
…Or, a 20 yuan bill.
I can honestly say that the scenery around the small farming village of Xingping is some of the most majestic I’ve ever seen. Even as the sun was starting to set and I knew I had several hours’ ride ahead of me, I couldn’t stand to tear myself away.
So instead of riding, I flagged down a “bamboo” raft, threw my bike onboard, and headed downriver to Yangshuo.