bird and man, milkshake and blood

Posted on

Google Maps

By loading the map, you agree to Google's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load map

This post is about a 14km walk from Jingxing to Tianchang. I see a lot of polluted water and coal dust. In the end I get a German capri sun.

Back on G307, I saw something unexpected:


Beautiful. No idea what kind of bird this was, but I thought: majestic wings over the gates of hell.

Now why would I think that? Remember I used the phrase “nature bleeding away” yesterday?

Well, I found some of her blood today:

bad water between Jingxing and Tianchang

A deep red rivulet, barely streaming at all… – this could have been a tourist attraction if it had only been natural.

But of course it wasn’t.

And neither was this one:

water like shampoo between Jingxing and Tianchang

It looked like some weird sort of mint-milkshake to me. Or mouthwash. Who knows?

I didn’t try it anyway.

Here’s some more:

next to the road

What can I say? The wall is oozing and sweating death.

This is what I’ve been looking at most of the day:

coal country

But then it occurred to me: this is not entirely a Chinese problem.

I think the industrial revolution is just hungry, that’s what it is. Don’t forget: early nineteenth century England saw something that was probably even more of a ravaging beast than this one.

the BBML

Photographs like this make more sense in that context:

big black misplaced limousine

I call cars like this BBML – big black misplaced limousine. You’ll find them everywhere – once you start looking. They stand around in the dustiest of places. Because that’s where the money for them comes from.

Of course, not everybody can be a boss. Not everyone can own an BBML, and not everyone gets a large share of the pie:

coal work

They’re grinding charcoal there I think.

work on the way from Jingxing to Tianchang

I found these people nice to talk to, even though they wouldn’t talk much. They were just too busy and it was too noisy anyway.

Others just hid in their homes when I walked by:

coal country between Jingxing and Tianchang

I noticed that there seemed to be a certain amount of xenophobia around here. Folks were not unfriendly at all. But virtually every home and every junkyard outside of the villages had one or two mean dogs watching over the place. And we’re talking mean as in malicious, and dogs as in mongrels.

Taking a leak off the road could get quite unpleasant that way.

Well, despite all the destruction I had seen today on my walk from Jingxing to Tianchang, and despite all the ashes and the dust that had colored my hands black, I found a bit of peace eventually:

courtyard in Tianchang

This is unfortunately not my hotel. But it’s someone’s home, and it’s clean and nice and taken care of, with the little Buddha statue watching over it all.

Then it got even better:


Why was it in German? I didn’t know and I didn’t care.

Imagine you were a shopkeeper in a tiny store in a little village on a dusty road in northern China. You have somehow gotten your hands on a bunch of German Capri-Sonne, and I come in the door, your new German friend. You would be looking at something like this:

in a shop


Good luck to the bird.

  • Rubi

    cool, ich bin erster kommentator heute.


  • mattin

    …tööörö…what can i say chris… …marvelous-incredible-stunning-amazing-awesome-lunatic… just as i know/remember you my friend….
    good on ya, safe travel and COLLECT & SHINE…
    i pilgrimage with you…:) *mattin


  • Hailey

    yay for Capri Sun!! Deee-licious.


  • Christoph

    Rubi: Du bist in meinem Support, gesehen?
    mattin: Alter, wir haben uns wiedergefunden, was? Du auch Tschacka!
    Hailey: You got that stuff in the States? Why didn't anybody TELL me??


  • Hailey

    Haha, you didn't know that? I was wondering why you said only your German friends would understand. Yeah we drank it all the time when we were kids. I think you were too fixated on Dr. Pepper to drink anything else anyway.


  • Christoph

    …but did you use to drink it UPSIDE-DOWN too?
    Oh, you shouldn't have mentioned Dr. Pepper… I miss my 36-pack!! ๐Ÿ™


  • Austin

    Thank you for confirming the BBML syndrome. I live in what used to be called the "Xinjiang Ghetto" of Beijing (Weigongcun) in an old apartment building built by the Russians, and in the shady courtyard bellow my entrance is also a Big Black Misplaced Limousine.

    At any rate as a serious walker, photographer, and long term resident of Northern China, you have my hard earned respect for what you're doing. Your journey and your website beautifully shows so many of the details of *real* Chinese life that people outside don't realize or understand.

    Hopefully our paths will cross someday…


  • Christoph

    Austin: Ha, finally someone to really appreciate the BBML thing! Thank you!


  • Abel

    I’d say that bird was a crane. Also, Ive just gotten hooked by your entire blog/journey/experience. Your image will join that part of mind that brings up Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Edmund Hillary and Tin Tin whenever I think of Adventure and the Spirit.



  • Lydia

    Es tut mir so weh um das zu sehen ๐Ÿ™

    Echt jetzt?! Capri Sonne!!!!


  • Joshua

    Dirty sludge

    Great point to compare
    1900 London
    Probs looked much like this with
    Burning rivers and such


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *