If you are on the 2wheels updates mailing list, you will have received this yesterday. If you're not on it, you can join here.
Yesterday I dipped a finger into the muddy waters of the Pacific Ocean (muddied by the silt that pours out of the mouth of the Yangtze River), and so officially began my bicycle ride back home, from Pacific to Atlantic, China to England, Shanghai to Exeter (I might have to carry on to Land's End to make sure I really do reach the Atlantic...).
To old-timers on this mailing list: hallo again, apologies for the deafening silence that has been pouring out of the 2wheels updates machine for the past half a year or so, and welcome back.
To newcomers to the 2wheels list, thanks for signing up.
Last year, 2004, I rode a bicycle (well, two bicycles actually, after the first one was stolen by a Mongolian horseman near Ulan Bator) from England to Hong Kong.
This year I am going to try to ride back again, via a different route that you can map-gaze on www.2wheels.org.uk/return/routemap.asp.
The general plan is to head south and west across China down to Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, and then, at the turn of the year, head north again back into China, across the Tibetan Plateau and the Taklamakan Desert into Central Asia.
First up in the 'Stan department will be Kyrgyzstan, followed by Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Cognoscenti of the former Soviet republics will notice that Kazakhstan is not on the list – but then neither is Filthistan, Ghastlistan, nor for that matter the far-flung Utterlighastlistan.
If the good people in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Islamic Republic of Iran are kind enough to issue me a visa, then Iranwards I shall go, before pedalling west along the Anatolian coast of the Black Sea, across the Bosporus into Istanbul, up the Balkans, over the Alps, down the Rhine, across the Channel and so on to an as-yet undisclosed location in the south-west of England.
Since this journey started at the Pacific, it seems that the only decent thing would be to end it at the Atlantic – but I would like to consult more widely (this means you) as to which (if any) parts of
England can be said to have an Atlantic coastline. Does Land's End count? Or do I have to keep going to the Isles of Scilly?
But that is 25,000 km and a year or so's ride away.
Today, I am cycling through Shanghai for the last time.
Will I miss it? Well, yes and no.
I won't miss the automobilist madness of the no-bike road system that blanks out most of the town centre to two-wheelers.
I won't miss the small nation of petty-minded, brown-trousered, life-diminishing whistlocrats who patrol Shanghai intersections with their shades, white gloves and delight in taking control of the
minutiae of other people's lives. The other day one of these proto-fascists ran across the road, whistling, waving and hollering, to move my big toe two and a half inches kerbwards.
I won't miss the incessant noise of Shanghai's latest urban design fad: jackhammering half-decent pavements into rubble and replacing them with something slipperier.
I won't miss having a few pieces of food with my oil at every meal. Or perhaps I will – it could be that it's an acquired taste, and I've acquired it.
I won't miss the silent but deadly electric bikes, which cruise the pavements at twice the speed of regular pushies, but with half the stopping power. You don't hear them coming until they've smashed your hip through your armpit, and should be banned immediately, or retro-fitted with noise enhancers. Perhaps that way they could drown out the pavement jackhammers.
I won't miss the drivers of sleek black tinted-windowed poncemobiles who know that might is right and that a right turn on red is just fine fine fine, especially if it means mowing down a column of bike-laning bicyclists on the inside track.
I won't miss dying of asphyxia, lung cancer and an overwhelming sense of malaise every time I sit in a wangba [internet cafe] to send an email. It can be hard to see the screen through the fug of cigarette smoke. No, I won't miss that, and I won't have to, because it's the same in every wangba in China. Anyone know any smoke-free wangba chains, please let me know.
I won't miss having to lie to everyone and telling them that I'm a student at Fudan University, just because that's what foreigners living in my part of town are supposed to be, and my Chinese isn't
good enough to convince people that in fact I'm just a lazy, good-for-nothing cyclist on a break from cycling.
But everything else, give or take, I'll miss. Shanghai can be fun, especially on days with no Ys in their name. Other days can be OK too; after all, at least you can breathe the air – so long as, to borrow the fine words of Tom Lehrer, you don't inhale.
Some words of thanks to a pair of very fine Shanghai institutions:
Decathlon China, and their bike team headed by Michael Zhao, have done a great job in kitting me out with a new bicycle, sleeping bag, socks, bells, whistles, etc. Thank you, Decathlon, Michael, Haro, Cyril, and the rest of the team. Anyone passing through Shanghai in need of bicycling or outdoor gear could do worse than to check out http://www.decathlon.com.cn/.
Roger Owens at Drennan Co., Ltd, has saved my emotional bacon by fixing it for me to have my old Mark I bicycle, as stolen in the Great Mongolian Bike Robbery, and subsequently, against every expectation, found by the Ulan Bator Police Department, shipped back to the UK, after the Chinese post office declined to do so on the grounds that it didn't fit in the right sort of box. We went through a lot together, that bike and I; I'm glad we'll be able to spend some more time together when I get back to England. Anyone passing through Shanghai in need of engineering equipment or components could do worse than to check out http://www.drennanco.com/.
I must stop there. Some of you have jobs to do.
Next stop: Jingdezhen in China's Jiangxi province. I'll write more from there. In the meantime, have a peek at www.2wheels.org.uk. If you haven't been there recently, you'll find a lot of new stuff, including 600+ photos from the UK-China ride last year at www.2wheels.org.uk/photos, and a new blog section at www.2wheels.org.uk/blog.
Thanks for reading. If you know anyone else who might like to join the list, please point them in the direction of www.2wheels.org.uk/updates.
www.2wheels.org.uk: bicycling from England to China and back again
FORCE Cancer Care in Exeter
Please donate if you can – see
SUSTRANS – practical projects for sustainable and enjoyable transport
Please donate if you can – see http://www.2wheels.org.uk/return/sustrans.asp
Or donate directly at http://www.justgiving.com/wheels2
* Decathlon China
* Drennan Co., Ltd., Shanghai
* Eclipse Internet
* P&O Ferries
Join the updates list here
or comment on this message by using the comment link below.