Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Rules of the road

December 12th, 2010

Scant regard the norm. Few having any demonstrative grasp of good roadcraft. Even less exhibiting consideration for other road users. Traffic Police a frequent sight. Evidence of enforcement far less so. Except in Nanchang. In the centre, marshals at every junction to ensure cyclists adhere to the tracks running parallel to the main routes.

Laudable enough? If you’re an ambling Chinese rider, without a care in the world. And not a smidgen of spatial awareness. Or a home to go to. Yes. But when you’ve distance to cover. And you ride at a pace that easily keeps up with the traffic. Cars an impediment to your progress. Then no. Definitely not. It’s the old rules, fools and the wise thing.

Being a foreigner – an alien – means I probably get away with more than others. The language barrier not always a bad thing. Then there’s my urban riding style. Bold. Swift. Confident. Road presence. Allowed to ride amongst the electric bikes because they assume my substantial rear wheel hub is a motor. How else could I sustain the pace? After all, no dérailleur gears.

It’s not that I set out to deliberately flout whatever passes for the highway code here. More a case of adhering to local customs. Still stop at traffic lights. Much to the amusement of others. An old London commuting habit I can’t seem to shake off. Or really want to. Never quite understood why people seem genuinely surprised that if you jump lights or undertake lorries or buses, there’s a good chance you’ll get flattened.

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Roads to Nanchang

December 11th, 2010

Travel is glamorous only in retrospect” – Paul Theroux, travel writer

Deceptively straightforward start. Escape from Wuhan. City larger than London. Heading towards the city of Nanchang. Smaller. Couple of million. Next leg of my journey south to Hong Kong for Christmas. Reaching my first stop, Ezhou, with the minimum of fuss.

Beyond Ezhou I’d left the comforting familiarity of the G106 National Road for a lesser Provincial Road. Soon deteriorating into a rough, if wide, track. Enveloped in thick clouds of dust churned up by passing lorries. The occasional strip of tarmac. Evenings spent wringing the caked filth from my clothes.

Faces - web

Nondescript hotel rooms. Forty channels and nothing on. Friendly enough establishments. Smiling faces at reception. Cheaper than a European hostel bed. But I was beginning to tire of it all. Repetitious. Finding myself struggling to place the various stops, even from a few days previously.

Evenings. Familiar pattern. Provisions for the next day. Some from a supermarket. Fruit from street sellers. By now dark. Traffic ebbing away. A few groups of women dancing on the wide pavements. Shades of line dancing but with more expression.

Eventually reaching the city of Jiujiang. Modest by Chinese standards. Bigger than Manchester. Back onto a National Road. Progress once more. Closing in on Nanchang.

[Author’s note: Series of short films of life in a typical provincial town to follow – once I can get them on to my video hosting service – blocked in China!]

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Lost in space

December 10th, 2010

"Confusion now hath made his masterpiece" William Shakespeare, English playwright, been dead a while…

Seems tales of planes, trains and automobiles, first impressions of Hong Kong, and lamenting New Year’s Eve in Sydney may have caused a spot of confusion. A friendly Yorkshireman expressed it more plainly. And with a lot more brevity. Made me smile. But this is a family orientated website so forgive me if I don’t repeat it exactly. Put another way, "Where’s Ken?"

"Expert. Someone who brings confusion to simplicity" Gregory Nunn, some American chap, still breathing

South of the city of Nanchang, roughly six hundred miles north of Hong Kong. On track to reach there in time for Christmas. Planning to celebrate in style with another Yorkshireman. Then off to Australia at the end of the month. Cheap flights irresistible.

"If confusion is the first step to knowledge, I must be a genius" Larry Leissner, another American chap

To be fair, I find China confusing enough at times. Roads that no longer exist, at least in a navigable form. Large provincial towns that appear unexpectedly. Not on the map. Add in a flying visit to Hong Kong a little while ago for a fresh Chinese visa. Picture easily becomes a little murky. Like the Yellow River.

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