My China

My China

I didn’t know much about China before I left. The China I had heard about before my trip wasn’t always a good one. I’d heard from a few that it was an interesting place yes, but I’d also heard endless stories about scams, eye-watering pollution, hot crowded cities, unfriendly people, stomach cramping food, human rights abuses… the list goes on.

That certainly wasn’t the China I experienced.

My China was one where middle aged women danced in the streets at dusk.



Where I was given endless cups of tea,


And where I went 24 hours without being allowed to pay for one meal.


My China was one where the cities were crowded, yes,

xian crowded

But outside of the city, there was plenty of space to go around.



I never want to see ‘dan chow fan’ (egg fried rice), the only meal I could order without any difficulty, again in my life. But otherwise, my China was one where the food was as diverse as it was delicious,

orange cake

sticky rice


Although considerable effort went into avoiding certain things,

Like too much of this,


Or intestines,






And, my own, um, creations.

gross creation


My China was one where not a day went by without at least one thumbs up as I went by, and more often than not, numerous “Go Go!”


My China was one where I met lots of cyclists,

biker on road

with cyclists1

All Chinese and every single one either heading to or returning from Lhasa.

with cyclists2


My China was polluted in parts, yes,


But most of what I saw,

Thanks, I suppose, to the almost daily rain I experienced,


Was green,

Long building



With the occasional treat of a beautiful blue sky.

blue sky


My China is one where I often sat down for a rest and some morning tea, looking out at views like this,

castle houses

stalls on road


Just sitting and thinking.

tents and reflection

epic view 1

rafiki and view


My China was one where motorcyclists wore balaclavas,


Women wore traditional dress,

tradl clothes

And I wore everything I owned.

wrapped up


My China was one where I visited countless bike shops,

bike shop

Where both Rafiki and I were, at every single one, welcomed warmly.

bike shop guy


My China was one where the roads were often atrocious, but never boring.

One where roads were full of obstacles,

road block


Some more visible,

cows on road

Than others…

cows in tunnel


My China was one where there were gates for tools,


One where prayer notes were thrown from windows.

flags on road


My China was one where, despite the sneaky police tactics,

police car

The overtaking on blind corners was cringe-worthy,


And there were a few accidents to be seen,


But overall, I felt far safer than in cyclist-hating Auckland.


My China was one where I got insanely itchy itchy bites, calloused hands and ridiculous tan lines.

Tyre 1


My China was one with hills so brutal,

gps climbing

That many a cyclist cheated,


But one with wonderful characters to be met over ever hill,

sewing lady

hotel staff

Around each corner,

Tibetan woman

And every bend of the road.

Group of guys



My China was one with horses,

staring horses





Massive yaks,

yak big

And fluffy little yaklets,



My China was one where I was welcomed into homes,

2 outside house

One where I stayed in some beautiful places.

bright room

But mostly in places with ‘o’clock’ rooms,

under door

Not so clean windows,


And places where I learned not to look under the furniture.



My China was one of parades,




Prayer wheels,

prayer wheeleeeee

And monks.



My China was one where I learned what switchbacks were,



And over

And over again.



My China was one where I stopped often for yak yoghurt,

yog stop

To be eaten with honey bought a cheerful woman in a roadside yurt.



My China was one where the roadside was lined with prayer flags,

flags on road2



Sheep shearing,


Brick making,

brick place

And yaks, oh wonderful yaks.

yaks and reflection


My China was where my bike breaking resulted in being adopted by a Tibetan family in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Tibetan whanau

 car window

My China was one where even my attempted rebellion, when I tried to sneak onto an expressway, resulted in a wonderful meeting,


As well as being allowed on to the most beautiful road. Cheers to that!



My China was one where I climbed mountains by bike,


And on foot.



My China was one where monks checked out the view along the way,

monk in car

But, given the scenery, who could blame them?



My China was often exasperating,

One which occasionally reduced me to tears,

And sometimes drove me crazy.

out of control


But mostly my China was fascinating,

Full of incredible people and wonderful experiences.


My China, I have to say, was awesome.



    Thanks Val! :) - posted on December 6, 2014


    Hey Rachel...just love your China! Clever, funny, whimsical....great little read and loved the pics. Val - posted on December 4, 2014


    Thanks Simone - great to hear you enjoyed it. I would love to go to Tibet - it's definitely on my plan for the near future! Happy cycling and keep in touch if you head to Mongolia and Xinjiang - I'd love to follow your adventures! :) - posted on September 23, 2014

    Simone Gendron

    Hello Rachel, and thank you for this wonderful tribute to China! I have been to both China and Tibet several times, and cannot wait to go back. For me it is a magical place, and the warmth of the people..amazing. ps.. found out about your blog on the WOW website. I've just done small bike trips, but my dream for years has been to bike thru Mongolia and Xinjiang Prov.... one day, it will come! Enjoy the rest of your journey, and thanks for sharing! - posted on September 18, 2014


    Hi Rachel, that's a great post. All the best. I'm enjoying following your travels, and I'm stealing location ideas for my own travel. - posted on July 16, 2014

    Wendy Hopkinson

    Amazing Rachel - thank you for sharing with us !!!! - posted on July 15, 2014

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