I-10: My Hovercraft is Full of Eels - Oh Hai - CycleBlaze

November 28, 2019

I-10: My Hovercraft is Full of Eels

If I had a hovercraft, it would be full of eels. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you need to brush up on your Monty Python. All Monty Python jokes are infinitely quotable (except for the ones that are so absurd as to be funny solely because they make no sense) but, as a language and linguistics person, my hovercraft—if it existed—being full of eels is simply a given.

I've lost count of the number of handy bilingual dictionaries I've encountered over the years where someone has managed to slip that phrase in.

I was under the impression that my trip to Macau from Hong Kong (or maybe it was trip to Zhuhai from Macau) was going to be via hovercraft. There's still a boat to Macau, and it's still run by TurboJet, but not only is it not a hovercraft, I had also intended to take the bridge and, as the crossing from Macau to Zhuhai is overland, taking both the bridge and the ferry is a mutually incompatible situation.

First, I must get to the departure point. Like Muiwo—where I'm staying with a lovely first time warmshowers host—it's on Lantau Island. However, it's on the north side of the island and Muiwo is on the south side. In between, there's a giant mountain with a pass so high and so steep, you find yourself wondering why they ever built roads up it in the first place. Lantau isn't that big of an island after all, and there really isn't any need for cars to be crossing north to south or south to north when there's already ferry service from Muiwo to Central and—before Hong Kong Disney, the metro and a highway bridge came in—there used to be ferry service to Tung Chung.

There is, however, a road. Both a new road that is currently being used (including by double decker buses!) and an old road that is officially gated off and closed to vehicles but which still allows access for hikers and bikers. It starts with signposts warning you about 1/10th grades (because fractions are superior to percentages) before eventually leading to 1/8th and even 1/6th. On the new road. The old road, which may have been steeper or may have just been narrower, didn't have grade warnings in the parts that I was on.

It wasn't merely so steep I walked my bike down. It was so steep I zigzagged my bike back and forth creating tiny switchbacks where none had been before and still found my legs quivering with exhaustion. I would have thought it impossible to drive over in anything but a 4x4, and yet, on my bit of old road, there was a former bus stop. Because not only are buses currently going over this pass, they used to too.

Once I got into Tung Chung, I spent a fruitless hour and then some trying to find the bus to the cross border facility at the bridgehead. I asked all sorts of knowledgeable looking people (ranging from randoms on the street to information desk employees to a local politician with a Thank You For Electing Me table set up outside the bus depot) and mostly got pointed in the same general direction but I never found where people got on the bus I was supposed to try, only where they got off.

And once I'd found where they got off, I was able to get the correct name of the cross border facility, enter that into my GPS, and bike there.

I'm told by my warmshowers that it's a very busy road that's scarily unbikeable. I believe her. I really do. Just not while I was on it.

Tung Chung was a bit hairy (both on the cycleways and on the roads) but once I was on the explicitly signposted No Bicycles road, all the traffic disappeared. I think it was eaten by raccoons or something; giant metaphysical invisible raccoons. Had tumbleweeds come blowing across the empty roads, it wouldn't have seemed out of place.

And then, despite hardly no one passing me while I was biking to the cross border facility, there were all sorts of tour buses and coaches and other vehicles full of disembarking passengers when I came up to the ramp to the entrance.

Mostly I followed signs. Sometimes, I spent a little too long standing and reading (or trying to read) all the signs to make sure I was going the right way and someone Official Looking would come up to me and point me in the right direction. After the unintentional first time this happened, this was such an effective and useful tactic that, I intentionally made a point of slowly and carefully reading all the signs every time I was even the slightest bit confused.

They charged me two fares (one for the person, one for the bike) and then, after telling me to stand and wait while he got some large plastic bags (whose purpose I never quite understood), I followed Some Guy in a Vest as he very quickly walked me to the next bus departing across the bridge. It was dark by now so even though I got a window seat, I didn't get to see very much.

I didn't spend very much time in Macau. Long enough to notice that, just like in Spain, an unusually high percentage of the male police were wearing trousers that had clearly been tailored to show off their nice firm butts. Chinese men (even ones that have a tiny drop of Portuguese blood in their ancestry) are not exactly famous for having the nicest of butts to perv on, so it was particularly noticeable that these ones not only did but had clearly had their trousers tailored to improve the look of the assets.

(I have a friend who owns a high end bespoke suit business. As a result, I've started noticing intentional tailoring.)

On a more serious note, I had intended to spend the night in Macau and to get some touristing in, but the prices of the hotels and food was beyond exorbitant. My lone meal was a sandwich from Subway across the street from the presumably cheap guesthouse where I'd humped my bike almost all the way up to the fourth floor before seeing a "No Vacancies" sign.

I tried two or three other places after that, using the roaming I'd paid for in Shenzhen to call in advance and find out what their prices were, whether or not they had anything, and whether or not they had stairs, and the cheapest I could find was still well over 300y.
So I went to Zhuhai instead.

Super easy crossing back in to China. There must have been thousands of people crossing at the same time as me, but they were all using the lines for locals. The foreigner line only had one other person in it and he didn't actually have a valid visa for China and, after his female companion (wife or girlfriend) got increasingly stroppy in arguing with the officials in mostly Mandarin, they were sent away. 

The official seemed mighty relieved to have someone who not only spoke his language but who also had her papers in order.

Now officially back in China, I had to merge into the neverending flow of people moving down the great wide hallway to the plaza outside. It was like the crowds leaving a stadium at the end of a huge concert or sporting event only many of them with luggage. Pause for just a second and someone would bump into you and the unusually large empty space around me (from my bike) seemed to confuse the jostling masses as they'd dart into the gap only to find no gap.

After taking ten minutes or so to quickcharge my phone in a corner just past the table where people were randomly being grabbed from the crowd for Customs inspections, I set my destination as a cluster of cheap hotels about a kilometer in from the border only to find that it was a large apartment block with GIANT signs all over the entrance about ILLEGAL HOMESTAYS and the necessary laws on registering to become a hotel. Glad that I hadn't booked in advance online and therefore didn't need to go through the refund process, I went another kilometer in and started looking again.

Can't say exactly why I picked the place I picked over the one I'd seen first but just like certain restaurants "feel right" from the outside, this one felt like it would be good and that one didn't. Only 25 or 30 meters apart, there shouldn't have been much of a difference between the two and, even if you forced me, I wouldn't have been able to tell you what the difference was. But it was.

Carried my bike and luggage upstairs so as not to crowd their super small lobby and basically collapsed on the bed.

Today's ride: 48 km (30 miles)
Total: 2,897 km (1,799 miles)

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