The collected writings of a Renegade Tourist

Category Place description

Wuliaojian trail 7:34 am

I don’t think my photos can accurately show how steep this is. It’s more like rock climbing than hiking. The trail is a jumble of rocks and exposed roots, polished smooth by thousands of hands, thick knotted ropes trailing along the sides for you to hold on to. Climbing is strenuous work: two steps forward, take a deep breath, step over a jutting out boulder, take a deep breath, grab on to some roots and haul yourself up, take a deep breath, a few meters of flat ground then at it again. This is exactly the kind of hiking that … Read the rest

Baishuihu, 11:26 am

tall grass line the road and poke up through the cracks. Low waves, little more than ripples on the pond's surface, lap the edges of the asphalt. The ride is bumpy, every now and then I have to slow down to a crawl to avoid hitting a large pot hole too hard, and the weeds keep rubbing against the sides of the car as I go along. It feels like I'm the first person to drive here for many years. The road is long enough that I can't actually see if it connects to anything at the other end or if it gets swallowed up by the water somewhere up ahead. I really hope that it goes all the way across because it's so narrow it would be really hard to turn around. The thought that I might have to drive the entire distance in reverse flashes through my mind but I brush it off and press on. A sensible person would never go down a road like this, but there's something about the dilapidates state of it, as well as the fact that I can't see where it ends, that imbues the place with a sense of adventure and compels me to steer my car down it, heading towards the unknown.

Sanming Park, 6:55pm.

I try a few times but it seems impossible to take a decent picture and my son, sitting in the carrier on my back, is impatient, I don't have time to fiddle around with the settings. Instead I put down the camera and take a moment to memorize the details. In front of me is a large steel ring, maybe two meters in diameter, suspended in the air between two trees. In the middle of the circle is a trio of LED lights. A series of nozzles all around the ring are spraying a fine mist into the air. As it falls, floating slowly down to the ground, it catches the light from the LEDs, cascades of orange, purple and white that spread out and drift into the darkness. The colorful mists envelop the little grove of trees, creating a fairy-tale-esque atmosphere and you forget for a moment the ring of nozzles and the LEDs.

Touqian River, 4:47 pm.

What's normally a small stream flowing lazily through an otherwise dry river bed has swelled with the rains of the latest typhoon to a wide, swift flowing river. Just a few meters from where I'm standing there's a kind of wier, consisting of a series of large concrete blocks, stretching across the river. Normally you'd be able to get across to the other side by jumping from block to block but today that's not possible. The entire wier has been turned into a waterfall, the concrete blocks engulfed in muddy brown water. Just below it, there's a massive standing wave, the water curling in on itself as it flows across the stones and concrete. A loud booming fills the air of this otherwise peaceful river valley. That even a relatively small typhoon can transform a river this much is a stark reminder of the truly awesome power of nature.

Luoshan Forest Road, 3:46 pm

Despite the name, this isn't actually a road. It's more like a hiking trail that's possible to ride with a motorcycle...Well, barely, the trail is so narrow the plants growing along the sides keep whipping my legs as I go along, and the ground is treacherous with patches of loose gravel interspersed with large rocks. I go bumping and skidding down the trail as it winds its way through the forest, my eyes focused on the ground in front of me, my mind fully concentrated on riding, my muscles almost vibrating as I'm constantly adjusting my course. I would like to go slow but I find it's easier to navigate this terrain if I keep the speed up, so I go fast as I dare, the forest flowing past me within arm's reach; it's simultaneously scary and exhilarating. Right here, right now, this is the feeling of adventure I always long for.

Bar Resurf, 10:22 pm

This place is all atmosphere. It's dark, only a single dim spotlight over each table and a few warm yellow lights behind the bar, nothing more, the tables like islands of light in a sea of darkness. Soft jazz in the background, so low you almost don't notice it but loud enough to fill the silence and bridge the gaps in your conversation. Limited customers, only two people at each table and a few pairs spread evenly along the length of the bar, the gaps between them enveloped in shadow. No beer, no wine, no shots, only cocktails, mixed with precision from quality ingredients, served in stylish glasses, well balanced subtle flavors. Low conversations float through the room, it almost feels rude to laugh or talk too loud, and looking at your phone must be sacrilege. Three bartenders, dressed in black shirts and suspenders, calmly working their craft, serving the drinks in a laid back but friendly manner. This is the coolest bar I've ever been to, it could be some kind of hipster place but it doesn't feel pretentious, the coolness is genuine.

Airport shuttle, 5:03 am

The same road that I've driven every day, passing the same houses, the zebra crossing with the orange light, the pizza place at the corner, the house covered in vines on the way up the hill; all so familiar, like home yet it's not. Every day for two months but now it's the last time. In a few hours I'll be sitting on a plane on my way home and it's unlikely I'll be back. I'm happy to leave, but also sentimental. It's strange, this may just be some insignificant village in the German countryside, a boring little town not worth caring about, but the place has gotten to me somehow, the tiniest part of me will miss it. Goodbye.

Road B327, Germany, 5:12 pm

The fog is so thick, I can barely see the road ahead of me, it's like driving through paint diluted in water. All I can see is the red glow from the tail lights of the car in front and the swirling mists, lit up by my head lights, bright white against inky darkness of the forest. Dry leaves keep falling from the branches above, mixing in with the fog as it flows around the car like smoke in the breeze, sweaping up and over windscreen or creeping along the sides, only just revealing the next few meters of asphalt. I concentrate, focusing on what little I can see of the white lines along the edges and that glow up ahead in order to not go flying off the road. Part of me thinks thi is crazy, wants to slow down, but part of me wants to stick to that other car, let it guide us through this soup like an ever moving beacon. I choose the latter and keep a steady pace, that red glow at a constant distance, but one thought keeps spinning through my mind: this is just ridiculous.

K├Ânigstrasse, Stuttgart, 5:07 pm

I'm on what I believe is the main shopping street in the city, it's wide but free of cars with shops and restaurants all along the sides. Despite being a fairly sizable city, all the shops are closed; the lights are on but the doors are locked and not a soul inside. Out in the street there are a few stragglers but otherwise it's deserted. At this hour, when the light has started to fade but the street lights have yet to turn on, the feeling of emptiness becomes profound, like the entire city is dead. And there, for a few moments, I flash back to the deserted airport with its long corridors and waiting halls nearly devoid of people. In the back of my mind I know that this is normal for Germany, but for a brief moment I can't help but think that this is due to the pandemic.

Country road in Baden-W├╝rettemberg, 7:09 am

It’s cold outside, only a few degrees above feezing. The sun has barely started to rise, giving the sky the merest hint of pre-dawn light, just enough to see the outline of landscape we’re driving through. All around us is a thick grey mist that creeps across the dark fields on the side of the road. We cut through the fog like a knife as we speed down the road, leaving a trail of clear air behind us. Our headlights burrow into the mist, illuminating a few meters of asphalt ahead of us and the odd roadside tree, before the … Read the rest

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