After 585 kilometers and 9 days on a bike I became the first foreigner to complete a solo cycle trip around Taihu today at 10:45am. A definite sense of accomplishment eluded me, though I am very grateful for the words of encouragement many people sent to me. It’s somehow easier to take pride in other people’s accomplishments than our own. In any event, a month and half ago, while I was on the metro in Shanghai going to work one morning, the idea of circuiting Taihu first took shape in my mind. A month and a half later, it is done. I have done it. It’ll all sink in later I suppose.
It was difficult to point my bike towards Suzhou, back towards civilization. Even if a sense of accomplishment eluded me, a sense of being on another planet didn’t. For nine days my life was orthagonal to most everyone else’s. I didn’t travel in any conveyance powered by anything other than my legs (except for half an hour on a ferry). I lived off whatever I could fit in my panniers and found that I didn’t need that much. I stopped where I wanted to stop. When I wasn’t stopped I powered ahead, eyes on the goal. Fitting, of course, that the goal was to end up right back where I started. That’s life in a nutshell.
Not 100 meters in from the lake and I was back in the land of horrors. Trucks spewing exhaust and blasting their horns. Black Audis making painfully slow turns right into the bike lane. Random people everywhere. Everything the color and smell of cement powder. Back in Suzhou, sitting alone along picturesque Pingjiang Lu having a beer, I watched a man and woman deeply involved in some heartbreak story. Later on, from a second floor perch in Pin Von, I watched some old local lady go ballistic at the chengguan, moaning and screaming about some injustice. Yes, indeed, back to civilization.
So anyway, I left the Taihu Tuhua Hotel just after breakfast, everything was shrouded in mist. I followed the coastal road, no traffic, as it threaded between the gunmetal grey of the lake and the green of the mountain. A few spots of development here and there but not much. It’s coming though, never you doubt.
I got to the big bridge which crosses to Xishan. I hesitated. I didn’t do it. It would have been a 40k detour. The Factory Five guys have a nice post on riding Xishan. Anyway, have to leave something for the next guy to do! After that it was a quick push to the starting point which I reached, as I said, at exactly 10:40am. A Chinese cyclist was there and he took a few snaps for me to commemorate the occasion.
So that’s it, that’s how the Tour de Taihu ends. No big reception chaired by the mayor. No brass band. No deep revelations to share. The environmental part? Everyone already knows that: take care of it, don’t mess it up. You can’t do much more than that, you shouldn’t do anything less and if everyone did it, things would be just fine.
The Taihu environmental situation is not bad–there’s fish, there’s crabs, there’s enough clean water. And when you’re in China and you can say that about anything involving the environment you can call that a huge success. So let’s leave it at that: huge success.
There will be a few follow up Taihu posts, as I digest the experience a bit more and get my photos organized. All the photos posted in the blog so far were taken with my phone. I took a bunch more with a real camera.
Once again I want to thank Factory Five in Shanghai, Serk in Beijing and World Health Store for believing in this idea and providing material and promotional support for the Tour de Taihu.
How about we do a Save the Glaciers Himalayas ride next?
Beautiful. Evocative photos, effective writing. Thank you, son! This trip will take some time to perculate through your life view; savor the perks.
“Whew, I’m tired” We enjoyed the trip with you. Thanks. Aunt Joanna & Uncle Chuck
Proud doesn’t seem adequate enough to cover our .love for you. It has to feel like a big accomplishment as it all sinks in.
I’ve been going to Wuxi for years and finally decided to send over a mt.bike this summer. I see you are an avid mt. biker, can you suggest some trails around the Taihu area?