“Hold on a sec!” I called out for what felt like the 24th time. “I, uh … I wanna take a picture real quick.”
“Oh, yea! Me too!” he said, and in an instant we were both off our bikes. Fumbling around with our phones, we both knew the truth:
We weren’t taking any photos there.
Just like we hadn’t really needed a drink four minutes before that, and hadn’t needed to fix our bags five minutes before that.
It was the bikes, folks.
Those damned bikes.
Never had I come across such a sadistic inanimate object. Sure, my experience with bikes in China had been less than stellar. My first mount in Beijing led to immediate hospitalization with a gashed knee. My bike was then promptly stolen. As was my second.
Since then, though, things had slowly been looking up. Manfriend was coaching me through things – we would rent bikes and cycle around Beijing whenever I felt brave enough. In Xi’an, I really got the hang of things as we rode around the city’s ancient walls. By Cambodia, I was cruising like a champ.
(In fact, on that ride, it was Manfriend who had the bike mishap, but that’s a story for another day.)
So in Yangshuo, a smaller town in the Guangxi region of China, I was fairly confident I could tackle what was advertised as a lovely bicycle ride along the Yulong River. Our hostel had great mountain bike rental rates. We were off.
Literally. A minute into the ride, I hopped off. “This fricken hurts,” I thought to myself. “What the hell is going on?” Things looked in order, though, so I adjusted the height a bit and hopped back on.
Oh, the agony.
With each push on the pedal, I winced. My ass was clearly not mountain-bike compatible. Where were those wide cruiser bike seats I had grown accustomed to?
By the time we reached the river, my ass was near mutiny. Luckily, the views were so stunning I let myself forget about the discomfort.
We had timed things perfectly, stopping for many a photo opp as the sun set behind the karsts. The river was glittering, and colors radiated out from each flower and tree leaf with gusto. We were sweaty, exhausted, and utterly thrilled.
Surely this experience was worth it.
… Until the cycle back.
I was quite sure this device would somehow become lodged so far up my bum I’d need to purchase extra seats on our next train ride. Just me and my newly inserted mountain bike, (painfully) together forever.
A very long hour later, I returned the bike with a grimace. They could keep their torturous “bike.” I’d keep the brilliant memories from the riverside.
… And a bruised bum that didn’t forgive me for days.
Note: In an effort to change the conversation around China a bit, I thought a trip down memory lane was just the ticket. Memories like these are what China is for me. It’s a country with a lot to offer.
Follow Alexandra’s adventures overseas: coloradodaily.com/columnist. Stalk her: wildeyedandwandering.com.