Although we have been planning this trip for three months, it finally hit us that we were going to leave when we threw a party at Café Sambal in Shanghai on Friday night. We were lucky enough to
have friends, family, co-workers, college classmates and sponsors come from all over —from Beijing to Yongkang— to send us off. It was the first time that we were actually able to realize
how much support we had from people all over and from different walks of life and left us feeling both excited and blessed
After waking up with a lot still to pack and goodbyes still to be said, we settled on driving 200km to Hangzhou so that we could leave later on Saturday. Although everything was organized (a gear list will be uploaded to this site for those interested), configuring and recording where things were in and on our bikes — in a total of 4x41L panniers, a tank bag, and a hiking backpack— was a full day process. To cut down on weight and we cut down on gear and mailed all excess back home. Unfortunately not even our hair could come with us.
The Hangzhou drive was one we’d done before the previous week in reverse direction but this time was highlighted by what seems to be an entire town devoted to making and selling leathers and furs and an extremely well executed knock off (Family Mart is a Japanese convenience store) which was unnoticeably fake until we were literally at its doorstep trying to get something to eat.
We arrived late in Hangzhou and stayed with Jie’s aunt, uncle, and two cousins who were gracious enough to leave a key out as we
snuck in and onto the couch. Hangzhou itself is beautiful, probably China’s prettiest big city, and luckily we’d had a couple days the previous week to take a couple test rides into the
surrounding tea fields and have some slow lunches to gather our thoughts.
On the 7th we took off for Anhui with sights set on Bishan a village in Anhui that’s recently become home to an artist commune, including a guesthouse in a renovated pig sty and a China-renowned bookstore. Unfortunately, weather wasn’t on our side. We set off into pouring rain, which didn’t let up until late in the afternoon. Having good gear paid off though, and despite everything around us being soaked, we ended up as dry as we started.
This drive was one that Nate had always wanted to do ever since he first took the bus from Jingdezhen to Hangzhou in 2012. It cuts through the Anhui and Zhejiang mountains, passing right by Yellow Mountain. We got off the main road onto the S209 around Yuqian and were treated to some of the best mountain landscapes we’ve seen in Eastern China: large, deep gorges, speckled with mountainside houses that seem to dangle impossibly from bamboo forests. We didn’t make it to Bishan, but settled comfortably in a small village where local residents were extremely excited by meeting an American for the first time and were entertained at how spicy we thought the food was.