Today was the day that I hit my second big city of the trip Wuhan I was fortunate in the fact that an old Australian colleague of mine Adele, her Chinese husband and their 18 month old son Rylan live there. They’d kindly offered to not only put me up but also feed me up. With this in mind I was determined to make it there today.
One of the things I’d been looking forward to about doing this trip was the peace and quiet it would inevitably bring. However I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss some human interaction. I’ve only really been on the road just over two weeks but I’ve yet to meet any other foreigners along the way and as a result all of my conversations have been with Chinese people. Without speaking the language fluently it’s obviously really hard to say anything meaningful and after about 5 or 10 minutes of conversing we’ve usually run out of things to say.
The trip from Qichun to Wuhan saw me cover about 165km. From Qichun to Wuhan is probably about 120 but Wuhan is another of these huge sprawling masses of a city; apparently it is 70km from one side of the city to the other.
I felt good as I left the hotel and entered the early morning traffic and there was also a hint of sunshine in the sky. I was only 100 meters down the road when a police officer on a motorbike pulled up alongside me and for the second time on my trip directed me to follow him to the nearest police station. The first time I was stopped I wasn’t asked for my papers but this officer was a little more officious. I don’t mind being stopped, I know that they are just doing their job but it’s then the ensuing crowd of people who gather around to see the foreigner being questioned by the police that bothers me a little. He took copies of my passport and visa and everything checked out as I was allowed to go along my way. Whereas the first I was stopped I was given a bag of bread this time I was given two cans of Red Bull energy drink and some water. The whole process took about thirty minutes but itn wasn’t really the way I had planned to start the day.
Thankfully I seem to have waved goodbye to the mountains and hills of Fujian and Jiangxi. The nice long flat roads of Hubei opened out in front of me and I was able to make really good time.
I arrived on the outskirts of Wuhan in the early afternoon. I’d had no problems in getting there now I had the issue of dealing with rush hour traffic in Wuhan. I was following the GPS route which obviously calculates the fastest route possible, however it also automatically assumes you are driving a car. This is how I managed to end up on the ring road of the city. It was also partly my fault as I rode along and through the barriers onto the entry of the ring road. The two guys there manning the booths didn’t seem to have a problem with me going on it but the signs signaling no bicycles where obviously telling me no.
Quite often in China road signs can be seen as mere decoration and don’t actually mean anything, they are routinely ignored by cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians. This however did seem to be one of those times when it really did mean no bikes. I was very conscious of the fact that I shouldn’t be on this road but couldn’t for the life of me get off it. I had more visions of once again being pulled over by the police and was already working on my ‘dumb foreigner routine’ to get me out of this tight spot. That said I think I counted two police cars that passed me.
Luckily there was a maintenance point which allowed me to carry my bike over a barrier down a hill and back onto the normal road. My friend had warned me about the awful state of Wuhan roads and within a few minutes I could see that she wasn’t wrong. Huge, deep potholes littered the busy main streets. If that wasn’t enough I had to deal with impatient workers all dying to get home after a long day of work. Rush hour in China means anything goes, right of way goes out of the window, red lights are constantly jumped, people driving the wrong way down the street is commonplace; it’s a real test of ones patience.
Having successfully made my way through the traffic I was able to find my way to my friends apartment and was extremely happy to see them as the greeted my arrival on the side of the street. I was so pleased to see them; I can’t even begin to imagine what it will feel like when I arrive back in England and see friends and family again.