China on two wheels and through a lens. Part One.

Hello my name is Nathan, I’m 27 years old, born and raised in and around Brighton, South England! I’m a general bike lover and have a history of around ten years riding both BMX and Mountain bike. In July 2012 after completing The Trans-Mongolian railway I was inspired to move to China to teach English. After travelling for a couple of months throughout the vastness that is China I decided to settle in a city called Nanning in Guangxi Province which is located in Southern region, bordering Vietnam.

 

The city was vibrant, the food was eye-opening and my job was great! My new life was fantastic and I haven’t really looked back since but there was one underlying problem, other than my motorbike there was a serious lack of two-wheeled activity. To solve this problem I asked my friend James who was at the time working for BrightonBMXco to pack up my BMX and pass it on to my parents who would kindly send it out to me! For the best part of a year I would routinely go out to the local spot in Nanning and ride with the locals on the very basic ramps which they had set up themselves but to be honest I never felt truly satisfied. As time passed my BMX started to form a layer of dust but that yearning for two-wheeled activity was still present. I spent a long a time trying to put my finger on what it was that I truly missed and why riding BMX in China just wasn’t cutting it.

 

In the UK I spent many winter days digging trails in a spot about 20km from my house. Riding out there in the rain with a grave digger spade gaffa taped to the top tube of my road bike and 4 sausages in my back pack, I was happy. Being alone in the woods, having a fire and digging until you can’t close your hands for blisters was what I really missed and I came to realise that this side of BMX actually meant a lot more to me than the “trick chasing” or “progression” that you naturally seem to strive for.
The next thing was to ask myself why I enjoyed the woods so much?
Freedom, exploration, knowledge of an area, camping and having a place to escape to were words that came to mind immediately.

 

Riding BMX in China as a foreigner definitely wasn’t giving me freedom, in actual fact it was causing me a lot of attention which really put me off riding a BMX at all. If I’m riding I want to put my headphones in and escape in my own thoughts and not be asked a million questions which was what seemed to be happening here. Maybe it sounds unsociable or selfish but really I began to realise that riding bikes for me needs to have this sense of freedom or escape otherwise it just doesn’t appeal to me.

 

As a result I decided to buy a road bike, panniers and some basic camping equipment. I set off on a short two week tour around Guangxi province and I immediately realised that bicycle touring really was the perfect balance. Riding, camping, travelling, learning, exploration, knowledge of an area and hundreds of photo opportunities all wrapped up into four bags that strap to the side of your bike. Since completing that tour my mind was made up, save money, quit your job and explore China.

 

The first leg. Nanning, Guangxi to Shenzhen, Guangdong.
Nanning, Bingyang and Guigang, Guangxi.
Leaving Nanning on the 1st of October I started my journey heading North East to the city of Guigang to meet an old friend for dinner at her parents house. The morning after arriving in Guigang I received numerous “Weather alerts” on my phone warning me of Typhoon Mujigae, I decided to stay put for a few days as the whole of Guangxi Province was expecting to be hit hard. Thanks to Sylvia and her family for such fantastic hospitality throughout these days off!

Leaving Nanning, Guangxi. 01.10.15 Binyang, Guangxi. Binyang, Guangxi.   9 In and around Guigang, Guangxi.
7 6 5 10 11
In and around Guigang, Guangxi.Dinner at Sylvia's!

 

 

Guigang to Guiping, Guangxi Province.
Back on the road after three days of good food!
Typhoon Mujigae caused a lot of damage throughout Guangxi Province, more than 130,000 people had to be evactuated and it was estimated to have destroyed more than 80,000 homes. Sitting that one out in my hotel was definitely a good decision.

The typhoon has passed! Guigang in the early morning. Trees down on the roadside. Guiping, Guangxi. Flooding. Dinner with this dude. Roadside campsite.

 

 

Guiping to Wuzhou.
From Guiping I will follow The Xi river for around 800km, before arriving in Wuzhou I will cross my first Provincial border from Guangxi into Guangdong Province.

Guiping to Wuzhou. Guiping to Wuzhou. Guiping to Wuzhou. The Xi River.  The Xi River, Guangdong. A long day in the saddle.

 

 

Wuzhou to Xinxing, Guangdong.

A road side soldier. A road side soldier. Road side lunch break. Taking candy from a stranger. Taking candy from a stranger.

 

 

Xinxing to Kaiping, Guangdong.

7am Roads. Breakfast stop.  Kaiping Diaolou, Guangdong. Kaiping Diaolou, Guangdong. Kaiping Diaolou, Guangdong. Kaiping, Guangdong.

Kaiping is an area of South East China that has a very interesting history, still to this day it has more than 1,800 diao lou scattered throughout the region. Diao lou are fortified watch towers which were built through the area from the early Qing Dynasty. The watchtowers served both as housing and protection against forays by bandits.This area of China has traditionally been a region of major emigration abroad, as a result several of the watchtowers incorporate architectural features from the West.

 

Kaiping to Zhuhai to Shenzhen, Guangdong.
A long ride and pretty boring ride to be honest. Guangdong Province is a lot more urbanised than Guangxi, due to this it has become increasingly harder to find a suitable camping spot. I searched for a cheap hotel and rode an extra 25km to save 3 quid, sadly when I got to the destination the hotel didn’t exist!
Bamboo forest roads. A lizard at lunchtime. Xiangzhou, Guangdong. Ferry from Zhuhai to Shenzhen. Shenzhen, Guangdong. Shenzhen, Guangdong.

 

 

Shenzhen, Guangdong. Birthday celebrations and meeting LKLM.
Thanks a lot to LKLM and Emily for my birthday celebrations! Being on the road this year I really expected to be alone for my birthday but thanks to the good friends I have around me I had a really nice day!
Luohu, Shenzhen, Guangdong. 19.10.2015. 27th Birthday! LKLM 开朗。 Birthday dinner! LKLM's Free Cyclist Dorm.Nanning to Shenzhen.

 

 

First leg completed.
Thank you if you have made it this far, apologies for this first post being a bit wordy but I felt I needed to give myself an introduction to OTB! From here I plan to stay with LKLM for a week or so as they have planned some riding/camping trips around Guangdong province. After my time at LKLM I plan to ride through Hunan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai and Xinjiang province over the next 9 months. Please stay posted as this really is just a teaser for what is to come! If you have any requests on products used, roads chosen or what food I have been eating please feel free to leave me a comment! I will be posting on OTB about once a month due to the lack of WiFi connection. If you are interested in less words and more photos please find me on Instagram @selftravelvehicle
http://www.facebook.com/selftravelvehicle

Thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way so far, and thanks again to OTB for hosting this!

Speak soon, keep spinning,

Nathan.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “China on two wheels and through a lens. Part One.

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