The steady patter of raindrops form into small rivulets and run down the window of our Shanghai apartment. Vacantly staring into the featureless mist and clouds wandering through the skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, my mind drifts to places far away. It’s an excellent moment to reflect on journey’s past. Just a few days on the backside of this year’s winter solstice, our adventures in Hokkaido, Kyoto, and Hong Kong seem so far away. A new year is only a couple of days away while 2017 draws to a close, and what an incredible year it was. Twelve months filled with continual cycling and travel adventures seemed to pass so quickly. Such is the nature of time when you’re having fun. Before we plunge headlong into another year, here are a few images to recount some of our travels and places we experienced during this great year.
Not all adventure need be by bicycle. In want of warmer weather, we kicked off the New Year by hopping a plane south of the equator to Indonesia to warm our bones a bit. On the island province of Bali, we kicked around in the lush, humid jungles and along sandy beaches with indigo waters gently lapping at the shores. Home to civet (cat poo) coffees and I being a connoisseur of the bean naturally had to partake of a cup or two.
Thirty days exploring Japan’s northernmost island was our first big family adventure cycling trip. Working as a team, we cut our teeth covering a modest number of daily miles, camping most of the time, and subsisting mainly out of convinces stores we happened upon along the way, save for a tasty ramen shop or two. In between transiting lush forests and scenic ocean shores, adventure highlights included the flower-carpeted fields of Furano, circumnavigating Rishiki Island, and Hakodate at night. In Sapporo, we frequented their famous ramen alley and the Sapporo Beer Museum. Days spent riding the island’s stunning coast from its most northern point at Cape Soya down to Rumoi in the south will always be remembered.
Catching the last vestiges of autumn color, Annie and I spent a couple of weeks wandering through the myriad of temples and castles in Kyoto and Osaka that existed as faint shadows of a mighty and feudal Japan of old. High school studies kept Mia in Shanghai, so Annie and I were able to go. Lingering in one area, to explore in detail on our bikes, we roamed day and night among the narrow city streets and densely forested surrounding hills in search of a broader, richer experience. Exquisite Japanese cuisine, historic landmarks, and stunning landscapes make Kyoto a destination not to be missed.
Huangshan (Yellow Mountain)
Pedaling through the backcountry of China’s Anhui Province to Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, transported Wei Lei and me into a magical wonderland of quiet villages surrounded by incredible vistas of jagged granite spires piercing think clouds. Small tea plantations carpeted terraced lowlands. Thick stands of bamboo blanketed steep hillsides. Heavy fog clogged valley floors until burned off by the midday sun. Misty panoramic views gave the land an ethereal feel.
Bagging our bikes and hopping a bullet train soon landed me in Fujian Province, where Zhang Wei Lei and I explored small coastal fishing villages and seaweed farms. Being farther south made for warmer climes in late spring. Friendly locals made the traveling interesting. Farmers harvesting seaweed were eager to talk about their crops as few foreigners venture this way.
Jumping a quick two-and-a-half-hour flight from Shanghai will land you in Hong Kong. From there, a short train ride into Kowloon, and then a ferry to Hong Kong Island, followed by a quick hike up to the top of Victoria Peak just before sunset provides one with a sweet view overlooking Victoria Harbor.
Venturing out to Hunan Province placed us in the mystical mountains of Zhangjiajie, a range of complex quartz sandstone landforms and abrupt cloud-misted pillars used in the dramatic scenery of the planet Pandora in the 2009 film Avatar. Hunan is a land of haunting beauty and tranquility.
Experiencing the blooming of the sakura or cherry blossoms in Japan was high on our travel list. Tokyo was an excellent location to participate in the Hanami, or picnicking under the blossoming cherry trees. Traveling to Japan during the blossoming of the cherry trees is a “must do.”
Sanshan Dao (Three Mountain Island)
Picking up from Hokkaido, Mia continued challenging herself with longer distances. She rode a 200-mile two-day loop adventure from Shanghai to nearby Taihu Lake and back. With a little coordination, combining bicycle travel with family outings works excellent. Not only being able to check out the local color while pedaling through local villages and farming communities along the way, but Mia also continued sharpening her navigational skills as well.
When not riding far, the booming metropolis of Shanghai and nearby destinations offer an endless number of day rides to exciting and exotic locations. Getting on our bikes, we pedaled down the street in search of new restaurants or noodle stalls only locals know. Peeling back the layer’s of socioeconomic strata, we prowled the endless maze of local longtangs or neighborhoods.
The Dream is Alive
Happiness in life is about getting out there. It’s about making yourself vulnerable and available to what the world has to offer. 2017 was a remarkable year. 2018 will be rich with opportunities to see new things, make new connections, to meet new people. New Zealand and other destination are already on the horizon. Time waits for no one, and it’s later than you think. If you go, adventure is out there. See you on the road.