Leaving China behind

It’s been too long since my last update. I should have more to say about winter but I can’t seem to make it sound right.

Riding through snow in mountains of Gansu province as part of winter bicycle tour of China.

Winter roads in China

All I saw were frozen rocks and wind and snow and ice. I never knew where I’d sleep or find my next meal. For two months it was the same, and in that time I had only three conversations.

I struggled every day, with myself as much as the miles. Neither make much sense right now.

There is reason in self-denial. I see none in deprivation. One gives me strength, the other made me an animal. I’m not as proud as I thought, not nearly as kind or tolerant. I’m tough and stubborn and this time I think I went too far.

It wasn’t worth it because I can’t let it go.

Warm welcome from Yunnan villagers as seen on bicycle tour of China.

Big smiles in Yunnan province

Southern China is a different world entirely, all lush mountains and sunny skies.

I’ve seen things I could never imagine: hundreds of paper lanterns floating into the night on Chinese New Year, pandas snacking lazily on bamboo, a sitting Buddha, carved from the side of a red-rock cliff.

The welcome here has been with open arms. Villagers invite me into their homes, to their tables. I sit with them as dozens of tiny faces press against the window, jostling for a better look at the laowei.

It all deserves a tone I can’t give it right now. I see it, but all I think is Xinjiang.

I guess I still need more distance between me and the cold. Today I leave for Vietnam, and I think that will help.

It’s time to start a new chapter.


13 responses to “Leaving China behind

  1. Good to hear from you again. Your drive to pedal through the snow for 2 months is something I could never imagine.

    Hopefully you thaw out in Vietnam, and find some time to tell us about South China.

  2. Glad to finally hear from you Mike. Take care of yourself. Looking forward to your posts.

  3. Great to see you back on here, I’d love to hear more about China if you’re into telling it. I’m looking forward to the new posts. As SGI puts it; Take care out there! 🙂

  4. It was nice to meet you at the Hump in Kunming.

    We will follow you on the blog

    take care

  5. Glad you are ok, been following you since you were on the other side(s?) of the universe – Whitehorse.
    Amazing what one learns about one’s self on this kind of a trip, isn’t it! Safe travels.

    • Thanks Doug. It’s amazing indeed, though in China I think I was enduring more than learning. Maybe that was the problem. But now it’s warmer and happier days – I’m on the Vietnam/Laos border, excited for the ride south . . .

      All the best to you!

  6. Been following your blog since the U of R had an article about you on its website. It has been a long winter but each mile down the road will take you physically and mentally further away! Enjoy southeast Asia; it is beautiful!

  7. I can’t even imagine how you are feeling right now going through a winter like you did but I want to encourage you to keep on going. Your journey will make you strong and a changed man. Enjoy Southeast Asia. I hear it’s beautiful. I will continue to follow your blog and pray for you when I can.

  8. Hey Mike!

    Winter is so hard on the mind! I agree. We have had our first couple of days under the snow and we are exhausted. It’s beautiful but it’s so much work and the reward sometimes so uncertain. It makes for good stories though 🙂 After reading your blog I understand many more things about ya.

    I hope you have a great time in Vietnam 🙂 Mountains may be cold but the coast… Summer is coming your way, the hard way! Take care!

    Alicia and Alvaro

  9. Hey Pappa Smurf
    Hope you’ve found your way into the warmth of SE Asia safely and that all is working out in Nam. It was great to spend time getting to know you at the hump among all the other facets of this part of your adventure.All the best for the mountains of Sappa and your entry into Laos.
    Safe Journey

    • Perfect, I was hoping you’d send me a note. I can’t get a message out via Facebook and I didn’t have your e-mail, so I wasn’t sure what to do.

      I made the ride from Kunming to Hekou in just over four days, which was great considering the state of some of the roads. Crossing the border was a snap – two stamps and a wave. The whole thing took about five minutes. It seems to be pretty indicitive of Vietnam. Folks here are laid back, very kind and prone to flashing smiles that make my day. I love it.

      I’ve spent five days in Sapa. It’s a neat place, lots of nooks and crannies to explore, but tomorrow it’s time to move on. I’m getting antsy about Laos, I want to go go go.

      All the best to you, my friend. I’ll keep you posted, you do the same.


  10. Hi Mike. Good to meet up and chat on the road up to Tran Tom pass from Sapa last Tue 5th April. We were the well-pampered Brits on the CTC tour of N Vietnam. I bet you were pleased with the fine weather over the other side of the pass. We are back in Hanoi havin a coffee before flying back to Uk. All the best and hope you don’t need to use the anti-dog stick too often. Rob. CTC tour

    • Rob, very nice to meet you and your crew. Thanks for the company on the way up the pass – it’s a rare treat for me!

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