Why Is The Sky Blue?

By Jane Mountain | November 15, 2013

7,861 km so far.

One of the hardest things to combat on any cycling tour is the monotony. Days repeat themselves in an endless loop of get up, breakfast, load the bikes, pedal pedal pedal, find a hotel, unload the bikes, dinner, bed. In Europe, every few weeks we’d enter a new country, which would refresh our senses and bring new surprises our way.

Nothing But Blue Skies

In China, we’d thought that moving through various provinces, past places where different ethnic groups live, would create the same effect. Sadly, we’ve found that China is surprisingly uniform. In a land where there are hundreds of distinct ethnic groups, the distinctions are pretty hard to spot.

Aside from the mountainous farmland, the same houses, trucks, and people seem to be repeating themselves over and over again. Villages, all constructed in recent decades, are indistinguishable (to an outsider at least) and after a while, because we are getting up close to all of them, this sameness, of drab, grey, utilitarian-ness, can get pretty dull.

A garbage fire was one of the more exciting things we saw today.

A garbage fire was one of the more exciting things we saw today.

The types of food vary a bit as we move through the country. Most noticeably, the type of chillis used to spice up the food changes from province to province.

Lunch break at a street stall. We like these ones because we can point at the food we want.

Lunch break at a street stall. We like these ones because we can point at the food we want.

To keep our minds occupied, we listen to music and podcasts, especially on long days like today.

Sky Blue Sky

Today, I listened to a fascinating Radiolab podcast called Colors. Among other things, I discovered that there is some question as to whether the sky is really blue, or if we just perceive it that way because we’re told that’s what colour it is. The question all has to do with Homer, and other ancient writers, who, in all their writings, used other colour words frequently, but never once mentioned the colour blue.

Since we had 125 km to ride today, I spent a lot of time contemplating the colour of the sky. It looked to me to be a pale whitish blue, which makes an amazingly refreshing change from grey.

I like to think this kid is contemplating the wonders of the universe.

I like to think this kid is contemplating the wonders of the universe.

A sun in the blue sky, even a hazy blue sky, creates all the visual effects that light can bring. Bright colours, dappled shadows, definition in the scenery. It was marvellous just to look around and see things as 3-dimensional objects, rather than the flat grey we’ve been growing used to.

The Sky Is Too High

Today was one of the better rides we’ve had in China.

This is a more affluent area than some that we encountered up north. The houses are a little nicer, a little bigger, and are often duplexes rather than row housing. Instead of roll-down metal garage doors, the downstairs floors often have large wooden doors with Chinese carving.

We passed hundreds of these signs tacked up along the street.

We passed hundreds of these signs tacked up along the street.

There also seems to be significantly less traffic and less honking.

Riding the G318, a pretty country road despite its "national" designation.

Riding the G318, a pretty country road despite its “national” designation.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t poverty. We are in cotton country, and vehicles have been passing us by, loaded with little white balls of fluff. Occasionally, they drop or spill a few.

We saw lots of women today combing the sides of the roads for any cotton fluff, tangled up in trees, or flattened down into the dirt. They would stoop, pick a piece up, pull out any twigs or leaves, brush off the dust, and stow it in the burlap sack they carried. Seeing this “waste not want not” attitude in action will sure make me think twice next time I discard an old $10 t-shirt, or buy something with the intention of wearing it once.

The street where we had lunch, in Qianjiang.

The street where we had lunch, in Qianjiang.

By the end of today’s ride, we were both completely wiped out, with our knees and hands aching. Even though we’d love to make it to the FineYoga retreat centre by tomorrow, we’ve agreed to try and find a hotel about half way, to save our old bodies from too much more damage.

Soundtrack: Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions | The Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour | The New Pornographers, Mass Romantic | Wilco, Sky Blue Sky | Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight. The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You | Arcade Fire, Reflektor | M.I.A., Matangi | Chris T-T and The Hoodrats, The Bear | Efterklang, Magic Chairs | Radiolab podcast | The Tragically Hip, Fully Completely  

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Hi, I’m Jane, founder and chief blogger on My Five Acres. I’ve lived in six countries and have camped, biked, trekked, kayaked, and explored in 50! At My Five Acres, our mission is to inspire you to live your most adventurous life and help you to travel more and more mindfully.

2 comments

  1. Pingback: A Day On My Own | My Five Acres

  2. Comment by Arthur C

    Arthur C Reply November 18, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Yes, the Han population takes up the majority of the population, if you are looking for a bit more variety, I’d suggest you to head SW, where a large number of little ethnic groups resides in isolation from modern China who’d dress and live different from village to village and different from the rest of China.

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