Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

Early Morning Miaofengshan Road Bike Ride

Freitag, Mai 7th, 2010

Shannon Ricky and I said we meet for an early morning road bike ride all the way up North-West to Miaofeng Mountain. We had a 5:30 am meeting point just at the famous Beijing Hotel. I had luck because I found an electric bike rider that was riding at 30 km/h that I could draft behind all the way to the meeting point. Shortly before our meeting point I noticed a road cyclist standing on the sidewalk. My first thought was “great to see Chinese people in lycra this early on a weekday”. My second thought was “was that maybe Shannon? Maybe he does not know where the Beijing Hotel is”. And then by the time I thought my 3rd thought I was almost at the meeting point. Shannon came after a while and was unhappy that I passed him without stopping to help with his flat tire. Both me and Ricky gave him our pumps. Mine is the kind where you need to turn the inside of the head around if you switch from American to French valves. Well it is probably not the best thing to do early in the morning standing right over a sewage grid. Well the obvious happened, I dropped the pump head and it nicely rolled into the slits and dropped into the sewage water.

Early morning tire pumping

After a long flat ride as a peloton I suddenly hit a rock a got a pinch flat. Now that my pump had no head anymore and Ricky’s wasn’t working Shannon helped me pump up the new inner tube. But with his pump he broke my inner tube valve. So I took off the new now broken tube and patched the original inner tube and put it back. Then it was not far to the foot of the Miaofengshan where we split up so that each of us could try to beat their own best time. I was already feeling quite tired so I only did the 13km uphill ride from the gate to the village.

Miaofeng Mountain Bike Ride

Cycling up Miaofeng Shan North-West of Beijing

Shannon and Richy continued the additional 6 km continuous uphill to the temple at the top. It was quite windy on the mountain and I was happy when they both came back.

Ricky in the Miaofengshan Village

Shannon cycling back to Beijing from Miaofengshan

As we approached Beijing city the traffic started getting worse and worse. And what I find annoying is all the cars parked and driving in the bike lane. Like here, this picture shows a pure bike lane, but it has people parked on the left and right side plus cars riding in the center. Where should the cyclists ride their bike?

Cars parked and driving in the huge bike lane

Or here in this picture the white line on the left divides the car lane from the bike lane. But the cars are all jammed up and standing in the bicycle path. No cyclist can ride through this mess. So it was even worse that after today’s 130km bike ride that Shannon insisted that we try out the route for tonight’s STC ride and we had to squeeze ourselves through the city traffic jams.

Beijing City Traffic illegally in the Bicycle Lanes

Bike Riding in Hangzhou

Samstag, Mai 1st, 2010

May first is a public holiday in China. So all of China is traveling. So usually foreigners avoid this time and do not travel to a touristy place like Hangzhou. We did. And it was so great that we had bikes so that we could actually get around the green city.

Bike Riding in Hangzhou

We went back to the West Lake and had some breakfast there. But even on teh far side it was very busy with many Chinese people.

West Lake and slightly Misty Weather

In many places in Hangzhou the bicycle lanes were very wide and separated from the car lanes.

Wide Bicycle Lanes of Hangzhou

But in some areas, especially close to the lake there were so many tourists that they were even on the bike lane.

Tourists on Bicycle Lane

May Holiday Tourists everywhere in Hangzhou

Hangzhou is famous for its‘ bike rental system. They have the automatic rental stations all over the city. Some were not not used so much today, like this station.

Guy just returned a rental bike

The bicycle renting system is great. You can pick up a bike at one station and then drop it off at a different station. Even young ladies in skirts were renting bikes.

Lady in skirt returning a rental bike

And many rental stations were quite empty which means the bikes were out being rented. It is great to see this system working. Only for us as tourists we could not use this rental system as we could not buy a card. Therefore we had teh bikes of teh guest house and had to return them back to there.

Empty Bike Rental Station in Hangzhou

As we had not planned on coming to Hangzhou we did not plan a sightseeing tour. Instead yesterday when we arrived we bought a Chinese map. In the map some streets were marked as „te se“ which means special. So today our tour was not following a lonely planet route that all foreigners do, but to see what the Chinese think is special. It did remind us that we actually were foreign as some of the streets did not seem special to us. We had lunch in the special food street, but we afterwards agreed that the food in the tiny hole in the wall restaurant yesterday had been more tasty.

The Special Food Street of Hangzhou

To avoid the masses we then decided to cycle to the Eight Diamond Fields in the mountains. It actually was fields with crop.

A Chinese Style Picture

Then we slowly cycled back to our guest house to drop off our bikes. We were amazed about the amount of peopel on the streets around the zoo and our guest house. We had planned to take the bus to teh train station and we already had our first class train ticket back to Shanghai. But we were shocked to see theamount of people all wanting to board the same bus as us. We let the first one go off with Chinese jammed in. We did not yet know that it would take forever for the second bus to come as these were special May 1st busses. But we also checked for taxis and of course there were thousands of other people also desperately looking for empty taxis. So when finally after a long time the next bus came we had to do it teh Chinese way and just ram down the others and push us in. We wer one of the lucky 10 people that could squeeze themselves on this competely overcrowded bus. We were happy of that achievement. But then the issue was the traffic jam. We did not notice how bad all the roads were while cycling past. But the bus was hardly rolling. It took forever to reach the first station which was not far away from the zoo. I had the idea to maybe get off at one of the next stops where there woudl be less people and then try to get a taxi. But that was wishful thinking. After 1.5 hours we had still not reached the second bus stop but we knew already that we had missed our train to Shanghai 🙁 But we did not want to miss our train from Shanghai to Beijing. There was no way that we would get a taxi and it would also just be standing in traffic like the bus. The people crammed on the bus themselves ssaid that it would be best to ride a bike. Even the bus driver agreed that the fastest way to get around Hangzhou is a bicycle. How wonderful! It was great to hear them have thise thoughts. At the second bus stop we got off and started walking. We knew it would be not as far as what we walked on the first day. We actually arrived at the train station much faster then I expected. We first went to the ticket hall to see if we can buy a new ticket. But as it was May 1st it was overfilled with people. It would probably take 2 hours to get to the counter and then there would probably be no more tickets and by thenwe would have missed the train to Beijing. So we decided to go to the waiting hall and see when the next fast train to Shanghai departs. It was very soon. We knew that many people today must have missed their trains, so we just lines up as if we had the correct tickets. But the lady at the ticket check detected that we have teh wrong tickets and said we have to buy new ones. We just stayed right next to her. She continued to chek the tickets while we thought our only chance is for my to look really upset and almost cry and to show her our first class tickets for the Shanghai-Beijing train that we really did not want to miss. In teh end it worked. Probably also because we had the expensive first class tickets for teh Hangzhou-Shanghai. That was a close call.

Back in Shanghai we needed to get all our bike exhibition stuff and the bike out of the storage and then run to the platform. It was again very tight but we actually made it onto the night train back to Beijing.

Hangzhou West Lake by Night

Freitag, April 30th, 2010

As tomorrow is the May first holiday and the beginning of the Shanghai World Expo we were not able to get a train ticket back to Beijing for this evening. So we decided that instead of staying in Shanghai it would be nicer to take a day holiday in Hangzhou. So we took the fast train to Hangzhou and stayed in a nice guest house near the zoo.

We had dinner in a small hole in the wall place with local food. It was really good and of course really cheap. As we knew tomorrow would be endless amounts of tourists we decided to take a long night walk to the famous and beautiful West Lake (Xi Hu).

Hangzhou West Lake by Night

We walked over one of the embankments crossing the lake. The one we took had 6 bridges and was very long. But we had a nice view of the mountains in the West of the lake.

Mountains West of Hangzhou Lake

There was hardly anybody out. It was really peaceful and quiet. This was in the direction of Hangzhou city center.

Hangzhou City View

It was a beautiful night with a full moon. We walked for over 2 hours at fast pace. Back at the hostel we booked 2 bikes for the next day so that we could explore the city.

Full Moon and Reflection on West Lake

TREK Cyclo Cross Bike Race in Beijing

Sonntag, März 28th, 2010

Finally I could join my first cyclo cross race of the 2009/2010 season in Beijing. TREK had already organized 2 cyclo cross races and this one was the last of the series for this winter.

TREK 2009/2010 Beijing 3rd Cyclo Cross Bike Race

Last season I was racing on loaner bikes from TREK. Last summer I bought the TREK entry level cyclo cross bicycle hoping for many races. But today was the first time I raced on it.

My TREK Cyclo Cross Bicycle

The race was organized well. There was an A group, a B group, the women and the children. The A group started first and the B and women started 1 minute afterwards. So we were all racing at the same time which made it more interesting.

Cyclo Cross in Beijing organized by TREK

The course was shorter than last season and there was only a very short part on the road, the rest was on the extremely dry (dry Beijing) and hard fields. Of course there was no mud anywhere. I am not sure it was good to be on a road bike with cyclo cross tires as it was really uneven in most parts of the lap. A suspension fork like on some of the mountain bikes would have helped to absorb the shocks. Actually most of the contestants were riding mountain bikes this year. With the barriers and the jumping on and off the bike you really feel your heart working. Half way through it started getting really tough, I felt my legs get softer and my hands having hard time to keep a firm grip with all the shaking of the bike vibrating over the corn field. It was a big relief to hear the bell for the last lap.

Two Winners of the TREK Cyclo Cross Race

Jenny from Canada was fast and fit as always so she won and finished way ahead of me (2nd place). The Chinese girl that won 3rd place was actually quite fast. But unfortunately I lapped all the other girls – that means there had been more than an entire lap slower. Why are there not more fast Chinese girls participating? For the A riders our French friend Tony came in first place and Piers had a problem with his pedal so he only came in 3rd place.

TREK Cyclo Cross A Ride Winners

The bus on the way home was stuck in massive afternoon traffic jams. I should have just ridden my bike home as that would have been much faster. But I do not know where I could have ridden my bike. In many places the cars (traffic jam) was blocking the bike lane. On the one stretch there were two car lanes in one direction and on each side a bike lane. But all 4 lanes were filled with cars.

Car Driver Driving in Bike Lane Hitting an Electric Bike

One car that was incorrectly driving in the bike lane hit an electric bike. Instead of saying sorry the car driver got out and started hitting the electric bike rider. But he did not foresee that the electric bike rider was more fit (as he does not drive cars) and was soon in the superior position.

Car in Bike Lane in Beijing

I just remembered when I did the test for the Chinese driver’s license in 2005 we first had to listen to a 20 minute video instructing us that any disobedience of the Chinese traffic rules and laws will be followed with punishment. They showed how they have cameras every where in the city tracking drivers that do not follow the rules. I complete forgot about that because living here you experience so many people breaking the traffic law all the time. Maybe it is just too often to actually be tracked. But I really would hope that the cars would stay out of the Beijing bicycle lanes. That would make it less dangerous.

My ankle that I twisted in Taiwan which doing some tricks on somebody’s bike is still not fully healed. But now after the race I might take the tape off.

Taped Ankle

Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour

Sonntag, Januar 17th, 2010

As I love outdoor sports like rock climbing, skiing, mountaineering I was looking forward to the Banff Mountain Film Festival coming to Beijing. A friend rock climber and mountaineer has opened a bar and cafe down the Wudaoying hutong where my bike shop is. It is called the „Together Cafe“. Inside there are many outdoor magazines and pictures from his expeditions to Tibet. The film festival started yesterday and I actually wanted to go but never checked the schedule. When I finally looked yesterday afternoon I was shocked to see that the first movie screening session was already over as it had started at 9am and the second one was already on going. So we could only go today and went for the early starting screening. There were quite some people even though I think there were only 3 foreigners.

Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour Beijing Screening

We saw a movie called „Cliff Note“ (悬崖笔记) about cliff diving in a canyon. Amazing was a movie about free solo rock climbing and then base jumping from the top. Or just base jumping when you fall during the free solo climbing. Also doing slack line balancing between peaks or cliffs without being secured and also just using the base jumping parachute in case you fall.

I enjoyed the movie called „Searching for the coast Wolves“ (寻狼记). It was the very touching story of the former cross country running champion and biologist Gudrun Pflueger from Austria about her research about the coast wolves in Western Canada. She actually had an encounter with the coast wolves that seem not to have any bad experience with human beings in the past centuries and therefore did not see any threat in Gudrun and just played around her.

The Chinese movie maker Ricard was asked to come up and to talk about his outdoor movies. One is called „Dragon Breath“. On the back of the DVD is reads (including the typos) the following: „During the Spring Fesitaval, four Chinese top climbers came to Shuangqiao Gully, located in Mt Siguniang in Sichuan, to challenge the Dragon Breath, the hardest route in the vally. This documentary record their climbing and life in the vally.“ They only screened trailers of 4 of his movies and of course we recognized some of our Chinese outdoor and climbing friends in these movies.

Chinese movie maker Ricard

After that we met our friend Nicolas Favard who is a French jewelry maker. He does very beautiful jewelry and each piece is unique. He designs pieces of art for his customers. If you are in Beijing I recommend you drop by his boutique in Sanlitun in the Nali Patio on the 3rd floor.

Ice Skating on Beijing Lake

Sonntag, Januar 10th, 2010

Finally for the first time this winter we went ice skating. Every year they change the layout on the qianhai lake in the center of teh city. This year there is no free area (like last year) which is a good way to control the number of people on the ice. We decided to buy the 10.-RMb ticket for the big open space even though we saw that this year the designated ice-rink was a little bit bigger than last year. As always there were hardly any people on ice skates. The typical view is like this:

Beijing People Enjoying the Ice

So still the small wooden chairs on the iron frame are the most popular. But this year the price for the ice bicycles increased and we hardly saw any. But a new think is the electric bumper cars.

Beijing Ice Bumper Car

The games near the island on the lake were not so popular, like the basketball or the dart ballon:

Beijing Ice Games

Or also the throw the hoop around random objects game was also not attracting many people today:

Throw the Hoop Game

Next time we go ice skating we will go in the skating rink as the ice was very chopped up in the main area. This year they also made a special section for the ice scating lessons and one section for ice hockey. Very smart idea. I hope it stays cold and dry 🙂

Cold Snowboarding

Sonntag, Dezember 27th, 2009

If you are thinking that we are on a long skiing weekend and staying in a nice hotel or mountain hut then you are wrong. As the ski resort is artificial it is just somewhere.  So the place where were staying was just like a guest house across from factory buildings.

Factory Buildings across from Hotel

Today I decided to wear another layer. But it still felt cold. It was -21 degrees C. And it was slightly moist as it had actually snowed a little tiny bit last night. And the clouds were still hanging around the top peak of the Wanlong skiing resort. So the cold was just freezing any part of the face that was exposed.

Wanlong Ski Resort in Clouds

Today we rented snowboards. Our rock climbing friends were also snowboarding so we did some routes together with them. Sam had to take breaks to teach his daughter how to ski. Actually almost after every second or third slope we had to come inside to warm up.

Santa Sam Ski Teacher

I also met cycling friends that usually ride mountain bikes tha also came here for a Christmas ski weekend. It amazes me again and again how small Beijing is. When the sun came out we saw how beautiful everything looked with the slight snow coating.

Wanlong snowy Landscape

But it was the same icy cold feeling despite the sun. All pictures are in this webalbum. And we were lucky: Today our favorite chair lift broke down and we were not on the lift when that happened. It must have been so freezing for the people stuck on the lift. We only had 2 options for lifts and we could not do our favorite run. But it was still a very nice day.

Wanlong Ski Lift

Skiing in Wanlong

Samstag, Dezember 26th, 2009

Yeah! Skiing! Our bus was the first one to arrive at the Wanlong skiing resort. We rented skiing shoes and Salomon carving skis. And then went up with the first lift. The weather was nice with blue skies – just really icy cold. The Wanlong resort is the biggest and most difficult skiing resort around Beijing. So here you see the Chinese that can ski. The slopes are really nice. But it is artificial snow as the Beijing area is too dry in winter with almost no snow fall. So it looks like this with brown mountains around:

Wanlong Skiing Resort

They had made some artificial muggles (bumps). We tried skiing them but I think they still need to work on them as they were just some spiky piles of hard snow.

Skiing Muggles in Wanlong Resort

As it is very dry and there had been huge wind on the night of December 24th the snow outside of the actual ski slopes was covered with dust, sand and earth. In some cases it gave a dessert or beach like feeling.

Dessert sand on the Beijing ski resort artificial snow

We skied an off-piste route. At the top it was completely icy and then it was just so weird to ski through the brown covered snow.

Off-Piste skiing in Wanlong

It was funny to find a sign in the middle of all the trees indicating that we could continue to ski straight down or go more left. I have never seen such a sign in Europe. And some off-piste routes are many kilometers long and you might actually get lost.

Where to ski in the forest

At the main building of the resort a fat Chinese guy got upset that Julien can ski well. I have never seen a Chinese guy get mad like this because of nothing. It was very surreal but it seems he has a huge inferiority complex. Oh well, next time we better pretend that we cannot ski well. More pictures of today are in this webalbum.

After the full day of being out in the freezing cold air we took a long hot shower to de-frost our fingers and toes. Then there was a huge hotpot dinner together with the Chinese outdoor group.

Christmas Day

Freitag, Dezember 25th, 2009

Actually I wanted to join a fun Christmas bike ride this morning. But due to me eating too much last night I decided it might be better to sleep and digest. Then of course I went to the shop. It was a nice sunny day. In the evening we went on a bus out to the North-West of Beijing to the skiing resort. We went with a Chinese outdoor travel group. It was so cold outside that the humidity of the 60 people on the bus froze on the inside of the bus windows and made very interesting pattens. Some like pearl chains, some like flowers.

Ice on inside of bus window

Pearl chain patterns on bus window

Flower patterns on bus window

The skiing resort is not so far away, but with the strong traffic and a huge traffic jam on the Badaling highway just because of the toll gate it actually took us 5 hours to get there. They showed 2 full movies as well as the Fischer „Holy Carving Bible“ movie filmed in China showing us how to ski. Now we know and should be ready for tomorrow.

Wedding in Tours

Samstag, September 19th, 2009

Friends had their wedding today in the center of Tours in the main Cathedral.

Cathedral of Tours

The wedding couple greeted all the guests standing outside of the cathedral.

The French Wedding Couple

The inside of the cathedral was very nice.

Interior of Cathedral of Tours

Wedding Guests inside the Tours Cathedral

After the wedding ceremony everybody was talking pictures of the family.

Family of Bride and Groom

Family of Bride and Groom

And then all the wedding guests were wishing them well.

Congratulating the Wedding Couple

I was happy to see there are bike lanes in Tours, but they were very narrow. The bike symbol was all crunched together.

Bike Lane Symbol in Tours

After that we moved on to the Chateau de Vaugrignon for an apperitif with Champagne on the terrace of the chateau.

Chateau de Vaugrignon

There we later had a very nice dinner with excellent food and drinks before the place was turned into a dance floor and we partied until sunrise.

Wedding Couple

Dancing like Crazy

Still Wearing Formal Clothes

Dancing around the Wedding Couple