Thursday, April 4, 2013

Trapped among whores and casinos

 I had never ever been interested in going to Macau but this time there was, at least apparently, no other choice. Back in 2007 I had experienced the nightmare that it is to arrive in Hong Kong with a bicycle and I wasn't willing to repeat that, let alone now there being two of us. The only reason why we had to go through Macau was because that's the place where the cheapest flights for the Philippines take off from, they are indeed really cheap. That, coupled with the fastest issuing of the Philippine visa at the cheapest price in the region and the fact that, opposite to Hong Kong, you are actually allowed to cycle in Macau, it made the place hard to resist. What I didn't know at the time of arranging the flight is that we would fall into a trap and as the saying (in Spanish) goes, the cheapest ends up being the most expensive in the end.

It took us 12 exhausting hours to complete the 135km that separate Guangzhou广州and the city of Zhuhai珠海sitting across the border from Macau. The road was pretty much a continuation of what I had been experiencing the days before arriving to Guangzhou广州, an endless continuum of factories and evil traffic. Many of those images that can be seen in some investigative reports in the west about the poor working conditions going on in china can be seen live here, right from the road. Or what it is actually more terrifying, one can only see a small bit of it and that very small bit is already terrifying itself. Factories filled with lines and lines of workers probably sitting all day there working double or triple shifts, their housing sitting either right above or right next to the factory. It is only left to imagination what living like this must be like, in this industrial megacenter of the planet. The lives of the very people that work anywhere from 8 to 18hs a day to make real those objects that not only the very few in the world will be able to consume but also those super cheap mass market products that find their place somewhere across the globe. It is a saddening experience and it brings me down to see the degree of inequality that the Gods of the economy of our days promote and strive so so so hard to defend.

From relief to boredom

I won't deny the fact that despite its great beauty, I felt relief when leaving Guizhou贵州. Afterall, it had been a very demanding physical beginning and that's the very reason why the body suffered more than usual and found difficulty in situations that had they happened at any other more advanced stage of a long trip would probably be a lot less strenuous. The province that followed, Guangxi, brought the relief that I had been yearning for during those last days of infinite climbs. However, those easier, flatter and more trafficked roads wouldn't take long to bring boredom.
Right after going into the new province the change happened almost immediately. There were no more climbs. I was now heading south-east following the very same winding green rivers that I had met days ago with the exception that now, the road was almost always flat. I kept riding through a continuum of Miao苗族and Dong 侗族villages, but unlike Guizhou 贵州, here these were found along the shores of the rivers instead of being scattered around intricate canyons of dramatically steep terraced mountains. In every village I could see men crossing villagers in rafts made of bamboo, the very same bamboo rafts being used from centuries ago. In between so much sophistication and development it is wonderful to see these traditional means of transportation still surviving.

 As soon as the roads became easier I was able to start compesating for the distances that I hadn't been able to cycle during the previous 12 days. Now everything was easy and days went by faster and faster. I went from an average of 75km a day to more than 120km in less time and at a fraction of the tiredness by the end of the day. And the best of all was that the knee pain had now completely gone away. One of the greatest things about cycling in this northern part of the province was to cycle accross the citric plantations, where for 40km everything around me was mandarin and orange plantations. There were sellers in improvised stalls sitting by the road every few dozen meters, they sold them at a ridiculously cheap price. It was harvest time and the fruits were incredibly sweet and juicy. There are very few things as pleasant as hydrating with juicy fruits. One day I almost exclusively hydrated myself eating mandarins, 3kg and oranges, 1kg. Fantastic!