Waah Waaaaaaaaaaah!!!!! The truck comes roaring up from behind, honking its horn as I begin my climb up the Pazhou Bridge over the Pearl River. My left hand is gripping my handlebars, while my sweaty right hand tries to hold my slippery camera without shaking it too much. With quick glances, I look at the screen for a second and try to frame a good picture. Then I look down at the road to make sure my wheel isn’t straying into the convoy of trucks on my left or into the tall concrete Jersey block on my right. I’m also scouting for chunks of brick, glass and scrap metal as I rev up my cadence so I don’t get dropped by my two strong riding mates, Brendan and Nelson, visiting from Portland. My heart is pounding. I’m holding my breath so I don’t inhale too much truck exhaust. Lastly, I’m thinking how crazy I am. Is getting a decent photo of the climb over the Pazhou Bridge really worth risking my life? Well, yes it is.
Crossing the Pazhou Bridge was always my favorite part of the weekday rides I used to do with a small group of neighbors when I arrived in Guangzhou three years ago. I always got my butt kicked in the sprints, but I could usually redeem myself when climbing the bridge. Our ride was on a 30-kilometer out-and-back route, and we would hit the bridge at the midpoint. Three years ago, I don’t remember the traffic being that bad. We rode at dawn so there weren’t many vehicles. But now, there seems to be a constant convoy of trucks during all hours of the day. I’m guessing many of the early morning drivers have been behind the wheel all night, fighting sleep or jacked up on who knows what.
The trucks hog the roads, giving cyclists a lane that’s barely half a meter wide. The road is usually bumpy, covered in blobs of concrete that were dripped from mixer trucks and allowed to harden before they were cleaned away. The northbound part of the bridge usually has migrant workers on bikes salmoning, or riding against traffic, and they’ll stick close to the shoulder and force you to swerve into traffic to avoid them.
Once on a group ride, I launched a blistering Marco Pantani-like attack at the base of the bridge and opened up a big gap. But in the middle of the bridge, a truck had spilled a bunch of gravel, and I had to slow down as I struggled to stay upright while riding through the patch of rocks. The group caught me, so I had to throw in another Pantani attack near the top. Luckily, I still had the legs to do it. It’s still one of my fondest cycling memories.
The southbound lane often has people trying to push or pedal heavily loaded three-wheel bike carts up the bridge. One morning I passed an elderly woman trying to get her shipment of vegetables over the bridge. As I rode by, she said to me in Cantonese, “Can you help me please?” Now that’s a bad way to start your day! Using a Chinese dialect to ask a geeky foreigner in Lycra for help!
The morning I shot these photos, we encountered the guy below with the load of oranges. My riding mates were lucky to zip around him just before a huge container truck caught up to us. I was busy shooting photos and got stranded behind the orange cart just as the container truck pulled up beside it, merged slightly into the lane on his left and just stopped! Traffic on the bridge was blocked for a half minute, and I had to unclip and wait in a cloud of black exhaust for traffic to flow again. Another Pazhou memory.
wafflesandsteel | Filed under: Favorite climbs, Guangzhou cycling, Pazhou Bridge | 3 Comments »