My way home
Part I: From Taiwan to Xi’an (0-385 km)
Part I: From Taiwan to Xi'an (via Pingtan, Fuzhou, Nanping)
Having applied for Chinese visa several times before, I knew that I wouldn’t get more than 2×30 days in China, which is not enough (for me) to cycle the whole way from the East Coast to the Western border to Central Asia. Therefore, I decided to start the cycling part of the tour in Xi’an, a city that is known for it’s Qin dynasty’s terracotta army close-by. Getting from Taiwan to China required taking a boat first. This time, I chose a fast boat (about 5 hours) from Tamsui 淡水 to Pingtan 平潭, an island connected to the Chinese mainland by a bridge. Pingtan welcomed me with a number of large-scale construction projects in an originally very rural surrounding. I also learned that a 88,5 km long massive railway expressway to Fuzhou featuring several, much longer bridges, was just under construction, something I found completely absurd looking at the small population to be seen on the island. Apart from this, Pingtan possesses some nice beaches and quiet villages that were lovely to see.
The first cycling day from the island to the mainland was so tiring and slow, that in late afternoon and after some 90 km I decided to take a bus for the last 55 km to Fuzhou. From Fuzhou, I wanted to cycle into the inland of Fujian province where I was hoping to hitch a ride on a truck or bigger car from a highway entrance ramp to Northern China (the highways along the coastline did not seem to lead this way). I cycled about 180 km up Min River 闽江, the biggest river in Fujian, to a small city called Nanping. The landscape in Fujian reminded me very much of what I was used to from Taiwan. In Nanping, I reached one of the highway ramps in the night. I found an amazing family living next to it, four generations in one house. They let me put my tent in their carport, use their shower and even offered me a free breakfast the next morning. The next day, all my hopes to find a car or truck to hitchhike to the North were deceived. Nobody stopped. I had to give up eventually and look for a train to Xi’an. I found one and booked it at the ticket office at the train station. I learned that, in modern China, bicycles can not be taken on trains anymore, but have to be sent with the Chinese railway system from special train stations and arrive much later than the passenger. The administration at the spot was so extremely messy, that I got more and more afraid of the idea that I had to consign my bicycle to their care. But I had no other choice and hence bought one ticket for me and one for the bike on the next day. The process of passing over the bike was everything but easy and these guys seemed as if they were doing it for the very first time. I was so scared I would never see my bike again. In the end, somehow everything went smoothly and four days later, when I had already made friends in Xi’an, climbed Huashan and visited the Terracotta army, the bike finally made it as well. After all, I could start the real cycling part.