Biking. The China Way.

I may not have mentioned, it’s twelve billion degrees here in Yangshuo with two billion percent humidity. Not my favorite weather. But after a brief  rain shower the skies were uncharacteristically blue and bright so we took our lives in our hands and headed out this afternoon by bicycle.

The Chinese truly are skilled in Kamikaze driving. Really. Most of the many drivers on the roads have had their license for fewer than five or ten years. And NONE of them stop, yield, or signal — not when entering a main road, nor when making a left turn. They just blow their horns to let you know they’re coming. They blow their horns when they’re passing you too, from either side. Beyond the fact that there is apparently no Chinese character for “No Passing Zone,” the most startling tactical maneuver on the road is if there’s too much traffic to your liking on your side of the road, or if it’s not moving fast enough, simply dodge the oncoming traffic on the other side of the road. For a first time to China visitor, this Nascar approach to transportation takes some getting used to. Our driver in Beijing told us that in driving in China “the laws are not that important.” Still, a California rolling stop would be a welcomed tactic. Though their system seems to work about as well as any other we’ve seen; except for one dump truck-tourist bus head-on collision we didn’t see as many accidents as we would have expected.

It’s been a long time since we’ve been on bikes so we decided it was better to not add our tentative biking skills to this uniquely Chinese mix of cars, motorbikes, scooters, tuk-tuks, loud barreling construction trucks, public and tourist buses, more bikes, streetside vendors and restaurants, water buffalo and really, who-knows-what. We stayed mainly on country roads. Some of these “roads” were nothing more than cattle paths, others jagged cobbled alleys through ancient villages.

When it came time to cross the Yulong river we took the “local ferry,” a bamboo raft. Our bikes took another raft. When Jack stepped onto the raft even the driver worried it was going to sink and quickly steered him to another, slightly larger raft. I was guided to the rear of the of bamboo sled and we were both told to squat low. Propelled by the driver pushing us along with a thin bamboo trunk, we made the short ride across the grassy water. The whole time I was devising plans for saving my camera and gear should the boat capsize, which none of us was certain would not.

Once across the river having regained confidence in our biking, we ventured out onto the main road that would most directly bring us back to our hotel. There aren’t many photos of that leg of the trip. Trying to get a photo while biking in all that madness would be akin to texting while driving in, well, China.

Other than returning entirely drenched from the heat and exertion it was a wonderful and super memorable outing. Did I mention it’s twelve billion degrees here with two billion percent humidity.

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