Sitting on dirt in the middle of a construction site, dust swirling around me from cars driving by, sweat soaking my shirt, my throat parched, my quads cramping from dehydration and exhaustion, I wondered if I would make it back to my hostel.
I read that cycling or riding a scooter around Yangshuo were great ways to see the Karst mountains. I decided to rent a basic bicycle (no Hello Kitty versions were found this time) from the shop next to my hostel, and after chatting with the front desk, was suggested two routes. Each option was supposed to take about two hours in total and sounded relatively easy and relaxing. But since I had the bike for an entire day, I figured, why would I only do a bike ride for two hours? I decided to combine both routes into a single ride, creating a giant loop. In total, it would take about four hours not counting any stops. Off I went.
I stopped by to check out iconic Moon Hill, named so because it looks like there is a moon in a hill. Hiking to the base of the “moon” and coming upon a dead end of sorts, I was told by an old lady selling bottled water that there was a secret path that one can take to go to the top of the hill itself. There was a sign warning people not to take the path due to a chance of getting lost since there were no clearly marked trails. However, the old lady assured me it wasn’t as bad as it sounded and that she had gone up to the top and come back many times. I also had the company of two Chinese tourists who wanted to venture up as well.
It really wasn’t that bad. Sure, the path wasn’t clear but there was a trace of a route that had been worn by the footsteps of other people. We climbed uphill through, at times, dense vegetation. In the end, we made it to the top. After chatting with the Chinese tourists and taking photos for each other, I said goodbye and left them up there, trusting that they’d get back down safely by themselves. I got back down to entrance of the secret path, bought a bottle of water from and thanked the old lady, and went back down the rest of the way to get back on my bicycle.
As my ride took me into the countryside, the cycling and climbing I did beforehand was beginning to make my quads cramp. This was possibly due to my lack of “cycling fitness”, a bicycle that had one gear only which brought challenges when cycling on inclines, and dehydration from not taking in enough electrolyte-filled fluids. (Later during my ride, I did happen upon a store or two that sold Gatorade-like drinks so I chugged a few.) I was not willing to turn around and thus, had little choice other than to grind out the miles. Every time my quads would cramp up, I would get off my bike and sit on side of the road to stretch them out. I got a couple of stares from people. At one point, I even sat down on the ground in a dusty construction site. It was definitely an awkward scene.
Not having a GPS, I wondered if I was even close to getting back to the city. I had to trust that I properly identified the appropriate landmarks on my map and was following the right roads home. In the end, I did make it back. I didn’t even cramp up the last few miles. *phew!*
For more pictures of China, click here.