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Cherishing the Christmas Chaos

Bits and stories about World Bike for Breath. A Bulletin for sponsors. Volume 1, December 29, 2003
Paula Eber
December 29, 2003

Dear friends and sponsors:
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Hong Kong. We must admit that our Christmas here was much more festive than Thanksgiving. Hong Kongians love Christmas with fake Santas and plastic Christmas trees in all the store windows. We even bought a gold tinsel tree for our hotel room! However Santa was restricted to a severe weight limit in gifts this year: nothing heavier than 2 ounces (unless it could be eaten) nor larger than a wallet. But we were all so thrilled that he had a tree to leave the presents under that we didn't mind.

Hong Kong has been a delight in other ways too. After four solid months of communicating with hands and feet while praying that the squiggles on the signs actually mean "north" or "hotel" or "ferry" we can actually read the road signs and menus and--joy of joys--find people who can speak English! Most amazing of all, instead of staring into bowls of brown wobbling things and worrying whether our meal is still alive, we can find foods we recognize--of course, still outnumbered by the hundreds of strange Chinese herbal medicine stores selling bird's nests and restaurants specializing in shark fin soup.

Anyway here's where we've been since Beijing:

  • After visiting the famed Emperor's Forbidden City (featured in the movie Mulan) and beautiful gardens of the Summer Palace in Beijing we pedaled north to the Great Wall in a serious snowstorm. Climbing up the mountain pass was a challenge but seeing the wall covered in snow was an unforgettable experience.
  • We then headed south to the ancient Emperors' Ming Tombs and then west to the airport to our first airplane flight since crossing the Atlantic from the U.S. to Greece
  • We flew to Osaka on Honshu Island in Japan and took a quick trip to the ancient temple filled city of Kyoto. Next we biked south through never ending city over a moderate mountain pass to Wakayama.
  • Taking a ferry to Tokushima on Shikoku island we followed the famed Buddhist pilgrim's path from temple to temple, waving to the white clad pilgrims with their walking staffs. After an unforgettably beautiful mistaken detour into the mountains and up to 3000 foot high Shosanji temple (a heck of a place to get lost!!) we dropped back to the nonstop northern urban valley.
  • Pedaled west to Iyoshima on the Japan Sea and then over another mountain pass to the ancient wooden Samuri castle of Matsyama
  • where we caught an overnight ferry to the island of Kyushu
  • After three more days of cycling through neverending urban traffic we decided to catch a cargo boat from Fukoka to the island of Okinawa
  • Arriving on Thanksgiving we spent our holiday swimming in the China Sea and eating chopped steak (in other words fancy hamburger) for dinner. Visited the ancient Ryuku kingdom castle, biked north briefly along the coast, and then caught a boat to Taiwan
  • After two of the most miserable days I have ever spent throwing up on a storm tossed ship we arrived in Kaohshing, in southern Taiwan
  • We cycled south through banana and coconut groves to the southernmost beach town of Kenting
  • Next we climbed over the southern end of the mountain range that traverses the entire island and headed north for three weeks into nonstop headwinds. We spent a night in 50 mile an hour windstorm so vicious that despite loading the tents with 30 pound rocks they blew flat onto our sleeping bags all night and we ended up with permanently bent poles. We give kudos to REI's tents whose excellent fabric and seams survived a truly unbelievable beating
  • Cycling north through Taitung we managed to be eating in a little roadside retaurant when a 6.6 level eathquake hit--the epicenter only 2 kilometers away. Fortunately unlike the earthquake which hit Iran 2 weeks later (also a 6.6), although there was immense damage, the area was predominantly rural and few people were hurt. We had two solid days of very strong aftershocks, however, which made all of us very jumpy
  • We continued north through Amei aboriginal villages (these people-- with a culture similar to Polynesia-- lived in Taiwan for thousands of years before the Chinese settled there)
  • passing through Hualin, we pedaled along one of the most spectacular cycling routes in the world: semi-tropical palm tree mountains dropping precipitously into the ocean
  • Finally we cycled north to Keelung, around the northern coast and west to Chiang Kai Shek airport
  • and the rest is history. After seven months and 19 countries we have made it through Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Asia to Hong Kong

World Bike for Breath
P.O. Box 11581
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
(206) 855-2907
www.bikeforbreath.org
e-mail: bikeforbreath@hotmail.com

Updated: February 18, 2004

Thanks to our sponsors!

Our Mission: World Bike for Breath is a nonprofit corporation raising AWARENESS and MONEY for asthma.

©2004 World Bike for Breath, 12106 Heron St, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 Tel. 206.842.6706 Email BikeForBreath@hotmail.com