Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Category — China

Day 257 (China): Beijing (Summer Palace, ice and you)

Let me first say a big


After posting my arrival at the Yellow Sea, I have received messages from people far and wide. People I know and people I don’t know. People I was pretty sure followed the trip and people that I had no clue about or was certain they wouldn’t. It has been almost overwhelming and rather emotional to see how many people tagged along.

One reader has put up the virtual finish line with toilet paper, another would have given me a hug at the Yellow Sea, others find it hard to believe that they will no longer receive any messages (yes, all soap operas must come to an end) or pictures (I am working to not let you go cold turkey on that one), one reader has told me that he was inspired to do a bike trip from Gibraltar to St. Petersburg with his best friend in 2010 (sounds like a fantastic undertaking, is there space for one more?), others pinched me (and I still find it hard to believe that I covered the continent), I have been offered Brezels and Nutella when I land, countless have offered congratulations and many have wondered how difficult it will be to settle back into routine life (ouch).

A great deal of you have also wondered how my life will change through this trip. I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. Time will tell I suppose, but a first crack at things may be this question: “Would you do the trip again?” “Oh yeah, any time!”

I did another trip today to the Summer Palace. It sure is a nice place even in winter time. And yes, this is ice:

More good food and securing a bike box for the return trip rounded out the day. And yes, lots of food. The amount of food I am putting in right now is pretty scary if you ask me.

December 5, 2008   No Comments

Day 256 (China): Beijing (big temples, long rides in the subway)

I said something about blue skies yesterday … and with that come cold temperatures. What makes it even worse is the wind that has been going on here. And here I thought I was tough. Two days in Beijijng, a nice comfy place in an apartment and I turn soft.

But then again, it’s never too cold to head out - and given that there is blue sky the pictures might even turn out nice. So, off to the Temple of Heaven here in Beijing to start the sightseeing and tourist portion of the tour. After a long ride in the subway, switching lines a couple of times, I arrived.

It is an amazing place … take a look for yourself. Warning: picture overload.


Here is the temple iself:

But there are small things to discover as well:




And then, you have these gigantic connectors …


And more temples …

And here is me, freezing like crazy. And happy to head for the hot chocolate that was waiting in store somewhere in this gigantic place with people all over the place. The solitude of other places …

Since some of you have wondered about the lack of pictures of myself.

December 4, 2008   2 Comments

Days 254 and 255 (China): daze in and of Beijing

I will fold these two days into one as there wasn’t much going on. I still felt dazed and tried to understand how large this city was and that I was no in Beijing. And the smog that was hanging over the city didn’t help to lift the daze in my head.

I am staying in Matthias’s (K.) room, who is living with another Matthias (B.). Matthias K. is in Japan right now and so has graciously invited me to stay in his place for the time I am here still. This turned out to be great. Instead of sitting in a hotel with its likely sterile surroundings, I am in a comfy place not far from the university both Matthiases attend. Which I visited on my first day and then just lunged around for the next couple of days. And ate good food which is the plan for the next days. Why wait to put some more weight on … the food here is great and lots of different food to be discovered.

Really, the only thing of note was that on day 255 I was sitting in front of the computer and finally wrote up my day of arrival and saw how that smog was literally blown away by a strong Western wind. Blue skies started to emerge and I saw the mountains marking the Western edge of Beijing.

Matthias K. also left a copy of his book for me - and since Christmas time is approaching and some of you might still be looking for a Christmas present, here is a suggestion:


Title: Ganz Woanders: Vier Jahre in Beijing

Co-authors: Matthias Kluckert and Thomas Tang

It’s a book filled with stories of a Chinese and a German student who arrive in Beijing at roughly the same time and describe their last four years in this city through their own eyes. It’s a great read …

December 3, 2008   1 Comment

Day 253 (China): busing to Beijing (no, no, no, no … )

It is time to head home. This will take a while, but Ganyu didn’t seem to hold a lot of promise, so I decided that I would make a beeline for Beijing. Or at least get underway and would see where I would end up at the end of the day.

The hotel staff pointed into two different directions when I asked for the bus stations. Slight contradiction, one was pointing North, the other put the finger to the South. I followed the latter … and was wrong. A few people and about 6km later I was at the bus station and found out that I would have to go to Lianyungang, 50km to the South in order to catch a bus to Beijing. Alright … give me a ticket.

The bike was not welcome. I figured as much given the size of the bus. But I was also determined to get to Lianyungang and put the bike into the hold over the objection of the bus driver. It all went well, but it was the typical “No, the bike can not go in here”. Creating facts seemed to help. Then they tried to charge me double for the bike. When I asked for a receipt, the driver ambled away.

In Lianyungang I was glad that I had not pointed my wheels there the day prior. Funny thing … we circled the city like crazy before pulling into a tiny bus station and needless to say it wasn’t the right one. And needless to say we didn’t stop at the big bus station. Really that logic beats me.

Once at the right bus station, the whole game started over. “No, you can not take the bike into the bus”. “Yes, we can.” A long and arduous discussion started. I left the bike in the luggage department after another “No, you can not leave it here” and “It will cost money to put it into the bus” and the like.

Then, on to the check-in. The bus driver shook his head when he saw the bike and I nodded. He shook his head. I nodded. Then, more and more people came and took a look at the bike. More headshaking and it seemed I was the only one who seemed to think that we would put it into the bus. I thought it may be a small bus, but then the big kahuna of the bus station came around and we lugged the bike to the bus and I started laughing. This thing was gigantic. Easy enough. Took the front wheel off, said that I was from Germany, lots of Kahn, Ballack and so on were shouted and the no’s turned to yes, we can. “You have to pay money” “Can you give me a receipt” …

And then we were on the way. I wasn’t doing well on the trip … my body rebeled over the added driving and I was pretty much in a daze for the entire trip. And my stomach was unhappy again. What started at 1pm ended in Beijing at 2am and I didn’t sleep really ever. And didn’t realize that we were in Beijing. Only after a bit of asking did they tell me that this was Beijing … this small backalley place that I was at. One phone call later we had things figured out and I was on my way to Matthias’ place who was kind enough to guide the cab driver to his place across town. It took about 20 minutes on completely deserted roads.

Funnily enough, the scenery made me melancholic again. It might have had to do with the fact that I knew that things would be OK now. I was on home stretch and cruising along one ringroad after another I had to pinch myself again to understand that I was now in Beijing. Matthias and I packed my stuff into their apartment and I was slumbering off at 4am finally. There wasn’t much in the way of deep thoughts about the trip today. Just dazed like I said. I am sure that will wear off over the next days.

“There are nine million bicycles in Beijing” or so the song goes … well, now there is one more.

Sorry, no pictures today …

December 2, 2008   No Comments

Day 252 (China): km marker 82 on G310 - the Yellow Sea (no idea what to put here)

daily distance: 61km
total distance: 15,404km
riding time: 3-4h, but really: who cares?

The Yellow Sea. And me.

I arrived. At the Yellow Sea. Today. Just under 10 months ago I started pedaling in the Black Forest and have now reached the other end of the Eurasian continent. The idea wasn’t to head to Beijing by bike. I somehow wanted to get to the Yellow Sea. There it was before me now. As I was nearing it, tears started rolling down my cheeks - a whirlwind of memories flashing before my eyes as I drew closer and closer and could start smelling the salty air. And then it lay before me.

The end of a trip in some ways, but not in others. I began with no real vision of what it would be like 10 months ago and had no real idea what things would turn out to be this morning. I just let it happen. And the feelings were overwhelming as I arrived at the coast and plunked myself down to take in what was ahead. What it would feel like. Here is a - rather vain - attempt at describing the mixed bag of emotions, all swirling in my head at the same time:

- joy: I did it!, from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea

- disbelief: did I really do this?, from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea? Pinch me!

-  gratitude: for having made it safely; I know that some of you were worried about me many a day and I am grateful for your concern and glad that I wasn’t hit by a vehicle (despite a good number of close calls), never seriously injured and never really was in personal danger by other people

- early onset of nostalgia: while I’m glad that I did arrive, this also marks the end of an era for me; the free-wheeling days of being almost completely free to do what you like are drawing to a close and they will be missed

- lonesomeness: I was there by myself, no one to meet or greet me; in some sense this was welcome as I could just linger in my own thoughts and strange as it may seem, it was one of the first moments when I did feel alone in the last months

- fatigue: the last weeks have been grueling and have taken a toll on me, both physically and emotionally; as I was sitting there, I could feel how drained I was in every respect

- and an overwhelming and vast emptiness that started to open up … leaving this won’t be easy, but the memories that have literally amassed during this trip will stay with me for a lifetime

Did any of the many sacrifices that were involved in getting here make sense? I don’t know and I don’t want to think about it right now. Let me just say this: my hunch is yes. Over the past few days I have been receiving a good number of emails that have informed me that people enjoy the messages that they are receiving, that they feel that they are part of the journey and that I take them along for the ride. That is the best that I could hope for. For me personally, I got so much out of this experience, I would not want to miss a minute and I hope I could convey as much for the past months.

And I want to thank YOU! Yes, you. Without the feedback that I received through messages, emails, comments and other means I could not have done it. Thank you very, very much.


For those wanting some raw facts:

total distance on the bike: 15,404km

distance in vehicles: about 1,300km

climbing: well over 100km

days on the road: 252

flat tires: 0

helpful people: too many to count

The day started out with me not feeling badly, but not feeling great either. I was there and knew that this would be the end of the biking part of the trip. I took this as a good sign.

And so I rolled along. The km markers didn’t fly by, it was slow going. All the while I knew I would get there. My stomach was still not in great shape, but I motored along. Took a break here:

And then moved on. I had decided to head north and evade a larger city. And then I started to feel the pull of the Yellow Sea. I couldn’t smell the ocean, that would be difficult given the wind conditions. But I knew I was close and so eventually I turned off the main road and just headed east. I had to thread my way a few times, but kept the general direction until I hit a bridge and a good road on a dam running next to a river. I followed and just wanted to arrive. And didn’t want to arrive. But really I did. And then I saw two buildings ahead of me - spaced about a km apart, signaling the river gates and I knew I was there. Past a construction site and then I got the first glimpse of the Yellow Sea. I could smell the salty air of the ocean now. After taking in where I was, I sat down …


I don’t know how long I was sitting there, but turned away eventually and went to the city of Ganyu where the waves of exhaustion were washing over me in a way that I hadn’t experienced them before. I just passed the time hanging around after taking a long, hot shower in my hotel.

There will be a few more postings here in the next few days as I am heading to Beijing and then on to Germany. So do stay tuned.

November 30, 2008   10 Comments