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The street before the rains
My day off in Macau was, quite literally, a washout. Waking to the sound of an argument in the room next to mine, I headed outside in search of a hot morning beverage. Within seconds I was in retreat, the heavens well and truly opening directly over the Rua de Felicidades (Street of Happiness.) No matter, there was a relatively comfortable bed back inside that I’d just vacated, and if I was quick it would still be warm. So I got back under the covers and went to sleep. There's no rules against going soft once in a while...
The rest of the day was conducted with similar lethargy. I’d hoped to tour around on my bike checking out the remains of the Portuguese history in the city, but with the weather it wasn’t to be. So I satisfied myself with hopping between coffee shops, bakeries and the occasional restaurant for something more substantial and rice-based. I caught up on my journal, my sleep and most importantly my own thoughts. It’s been very hard to pin down quite how I’m feeling about finishing. There is definitely ambivalence – on one hand, my body and mind are in desperate need of a rest. But a return to ‘normality’? Surely not. For hours I brooded in a Macau café, mulling over ways that I could try and postpone the inevitable. Slowly however, a sense of calm descended with the rainfall, and I think I experienced a moment of clarity.
I’ve been lucky beyond words to have been on this journey at all. Having a loving family, an ever-supportive girlfriend and numerous other people (friends, I think they're called!) all waiting eagerly for me to return, actively wanting to see me again, well, that’s pretty special. And I’m more than a little excited to see them all as well. I feel this journey has taught me a lot of things, even if at this moment I can’t quite access what they might be. There is one thing that has sunk in already though, and that’s an appreciation of what I left behind when I set out on my bike all those months ago. It’s a cliché that we always take what we have for granted, and an extended break from those people and possessions really brings that to the fore. I feel very, very grateful for all that I have waiting for me back 'home,' and suddenly it doesn’t seem so tough at all to be finishing!
The soggy square
There’s also the excitement of what lies ahead in the follow up to this journey. Fist and foremost there is the film footage to tackle, and who knows what else in the longer term. I'm already scheming. But I’m skipping to far ahead. Suffice to say, while the rain soaked streets of Macau kept gamblers confined to their swanky casinos and travelers trapped in their hotel rooms, I was all alone having an epiphany at the corner table of a second floor café overlooking the Largo de Senada. And it was great.
Lola hanging out in a mall
Feeling much more enthused about what was to come, I was greeted the following morning by dry, if grey, skies all around. Cycling in Macau is rather akin to stepping inside a tumble dryer – all of a sudden you are picked up in a noisy, whirling commotion, and there is no option but to commit yourself to whatever direction it may want to send you in. Eventually, just as it seems you can stand no more, it spits you out on the pavement and the rumpus continues on it’s merry way. On Monday morning I was delivered in this manner to the ferry terminal, and, feeling rather glad to have survived one of the trickiest 3 mile rides of my life, I began the ordeals of getting on and off a boat, through customs and at various points up and down escalators and elevators. Lola seemed to have fun though, and soon we were aboard the TurboJet ferry headed for Hong Kong Island.
The HK skyline
Initially there was no time to stop and contemplate my arrival – I was shepherded through immigration and it wasn’t until I’d found my way out onto the street (via a 6 story shopping mall connected to the ferry terminal) that I felt it. Hong Kong. How many times had I looked at these words, written them down, pointed at them on a map. Until now they has just been that, a casual turn of phrase thrown into a conversation about my cycling trip. But now, standing on solid ground, it appeared that Hong Kong does actually exist, and more than that, so do I – in fact, we’re both currently existing in the same space at the same time. It’s not that I didn’t think I’d make it, more than I never considered what would happen when I did. Well, this is it.
Not so dissimilar from the bike bath in Manhattan, on Day 1
It was, mostly, underwhelming. I stood by the water for an hour or two watching the ferries come and go. I rode up and down the street to give the reality of the whole situation another thorough test. Apparently, I had just ridden a bicycle from New York to Hong Kong, and now I’d have to deal with the consequences.
Luckily, I’d begun that process in Macau and was, despite the anticlimactic nature of the actual arrive on the island, excited about the prospect of spending a week at my ‘destination.’ The finish line, I suppose. I caught the afternoon ferry out to Lantau Island where I’m going to stay for a few days and catch up on rest and relaxation. At this point in time I’m feeling more and more comfortable with the notion of returning home.
All good things must come to an end, and what better way than with a week in one of the most exciting cities in the world?!
And to finish this post, a nice 'before' and 'after' picture show. The first was taken the night before I left New York City- spot the fear in my eyes. The second is immediately post-arrival in Hong Kong. If needed, you may use these pictures as cautionary visual devices to those wishing to disappear off somewhere on a bike.