Our final ride in China

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by The Motorcycle Thing, Jun 14, 2013.

  1. The Motorcycle Thing

    The Motorcycle Thing TMT

    Apr 14, 2013

    Now that I have unburdened myself from the demands of the rat race, I can look back on my final weeks in China with a wistful smile and a healthy pinch of nostalgia. After selling my motorbike and entering the world of the humble pavement tramp, the weather did the cruellest thing, and began to improve. Every morning I would be riding my bicycle to work, taunted silently by clear blue skies, which beckoned me into the mountains beyond the city. I could only ignore their advances for so long, and so when I thought all hope of a final ride in China was lost, a friend offered me the use of his motorbike for one last hurrah. I was ecstatic, and petitioned my partner-in-catastrophe Phoebe, to accompany me post-haste on a long and windy mountain ride.


    Setting off on the borrowed Honda CB400, we negotiated our way beyond the city limits, quite a challenge with the sheer number of erratically manned vehicles along the capitals main arteries. Our first stop was to be the Great Wall of China, to take a final look at one of the most impressive man-made structures on earth. The sky was cloudless and the progress swift. As we reached greener surroundings, it was pleasant to remind ourselves of the beauty present just a stones throw from the concrete Beijing metropolis.


    We parked up at Mutianyu, a reconstructed part of the wall that has maintained a sense of time long since passed. Once we had disappointed the hawkers at the start of the climb by refusing their wares, we swept majestically up to the stonework clinging to the mountains by way of cable car. The wall wrapped itself with snakelike cunning over the peaks and into the distance, an unbroken line into the horizon. It was sobering to think of the many lives that had been poured into what we were now admiring. Walking between the watchtowers was tiring enough, and we rewarded ourselves with a picnic, gazing contentedly out of a watchtower window.


    Back on the bike, there was more riding to be done. The mountains outside Beijing provide some of the most exhilarating biking in the world, with miles of carpet-like tarmac winding through remote villages and ways of life unchanged by the progress of time. We pointed the bike in no particular direction, and enjoyed the spoils of the scenery on offer. We rode on the shoulder of rivers as they carved their way through canyons, before shifting down the gears and climbing steeply through the hairpin turns to admire the sun-soaked mountains in the distance. We were unable to stop for long though, the oppressive heat, and my desire to conquer more distant parts of the Great Wall, pushing us one. Coming down the other side of the pass, we coasted carefree and swung in and out of the corners smiling. This was a well-chosen day off work.


    Soon the further reaches of the broken down wall at Jiankou were all that remained before us. They would be of little protection against an attacking enemy force these days. The stone and mortar tumbled down over the hill, and at any moment it seemed the watchtower would come crashing down. Bereft of its earlier might, the wall seemed to stand a little sorry before us, and I preferred to imagine it towering up above me in more glorious times.


    With the weight of the afternoon pressing against us, it was time for home. As the shadows danced around the mountains in the falling rays of sunlight, I enjoyed every twist of the wrist and kick of acceleration beneath me. After two years in our volatile relationship, I knew this was to be my own special farewell to Beijing, and I wanted to savour every moment.