china, cycling,

Cycling to Covid's Ground Zero

Daddy Oct 01, 2021 · 3-min read
Cycling to Covid's Ground Zero

Bike trip from Nanchang to Wuhan (Covid's ground-zero). My Chinese is good enough that I can now misread things, apparently. The "hard sleeper" ticket I was fortunate to get magically converted into a "hard seater". The train was packed with as many villagers as it could vacate from a city no one calls home; it felt like being in a chicken coop. Come to think of it, there might have actually been chickens. The only option to get any sleep in the 11 hours was to book a table in the dining car and sleep like a Tetris piece on the two seater bench. But soon, I was bouncing a partially disassembled bike down the train's stairs with a flood of people. A journey was about to begin!

Along the way:

Rice harvesting (0:12) - some fields are bright yellow and others prickly with cut stalks. The roads become places to dry the husks before they’re processed.

UNESCO Lushan Mountain (0:31) - the view from the top was ok, and there wasn’t a cozy nature element because they had karaoke on the loud speakers, but the little alpine style town was something I didn’t think China could produce.

My friend’s hometown (0:24) - the road to this little settlement in the mountains was all about going down small roads to even smaller ones. Each stretch would have a place where no one lives, and then a little blip of buildings, and then back to fields. I stopped to ask where the Tan family lived, but in these parts, every family is Tan. They called the police, and my friend had to come rescue me.

Three Gorges Dam (0:58) - When the bus stopped after just 10 minutes, the $6 fee seemed outrageous; even if it were free, the view of the dam wasn’t worth the hour train ride. Then, the bus takes you to the base of the dam, and the Three Gorges Dam lives up to everything you’ve heard about it. It was getting late, and the dam becomes even more surreal when set ablaze in orange light.

Fire God Mountain Hospital (火神山医院) (1:02) - When the outbreak hit Wuhan, a temporary hospital was running in 10 days. I’d edited content about it at Huawei a few times because they helped commission the 5G there. The adjacent gas station has a memorial wall with the timeline of events and a set of stairs to look over the perimeter wall. It only looked out over the generators and the back of one of the units. (A worker at the gas station started yelling at me, which I thought was weird because surely these stairs were just for that. Could I not take pictures? He was actually telling me to move my bike (zixingche) away from the gas tanks because cars (qiche) aren’t allowed there. In Chinese, bicycle and car both use the word che (chuh), and his logic was that any kind of che shouldn’t be there.) The view was ok, but there was one better. There was an abandonded apartment complex across the street from the hospital, and instead of risking it with the guards, I went out the backdoor of a pharmacy exiting to the complex's courtyard. The building nearest to the hospital was unlocked and so was the door to the roof. Not surprising, because people are less worried about liability and more about drying their clothes. The hospital down below was empty, and thankfully so. It looked more like a chicken farm with a curious number of chimneys than a place to get better.

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Technophobe gracing tech companies in the Global 500, Fortune 500, a Kickstarter unicorn, and several little dinky places. Bike touring is my sanity factory.