Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pushing the right buttons

I'm trying to get the hang of my new camera. The fact my new camera is quite similar to my old one doesn't seem to be helping much, but a few partially successful photos have appeared:

The view from half way up Tea Mountain on Friday night.

Lina slacklining in the Bamboo Forest today. 

On my way home from the Bamboo Forest (taken by Lina)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Coup of Tea

Today we ran up (and down) the back road to Tea Mountain. Not only does this route have the advantages of pigs, chickens, ducks, and confused locals along the way... but it also avoids the tourist-trap gate and entry fee. Success! Having got our feet muddy on the road, we explored the bamboo a little and found some slackline potential. To my amazement, we also found something that mountain bikers reading this will understand.

We'll be back up to this spot again soon no doubt. Other news to report is that my new street map of China is installed on my GPS, and working unbelievably well. Having overcome this epic technological battle I can turn my attention back to trying to get our strange Chinese internet connection to work with my wireless router. The fun just never starts. Sigh.

More photos of misty bamboo can be witnessed here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Transformers - navigation in disguise

No, I haven't got a special outfit to wear while I read maps... but that's not a bad I idea now I think of it. Maybe some kind of checkered theme would go well with the grid lines? But, I digress. I also haven't written anything about Hainan, and now the iron is cold I probably won't. Luckily Lina wrote something.

One excellent thing we brought with us to China was our GPS. This device proved very useful on our trip down the Yukon River using the tremendous Ibycus Topo maps. I had high hopes of it helping us find our way around China. Navigating here is particularly challenging because we can't read the road signs and new roads spring up at such a rate, bu the time you turn around to go home, there might be a motorway where that country lane used to be. Having some record of where we went seems very wise. However, nothing worth having is ever easy... and GPS mapping of China is certainly a challenge.

The first problem is that GPS maps in China have a well described problem of being "offset" or "transformed" from the point your GPS unit will tell you you are at. Reasons for this seem to be some kind of government bureaucracy which serves the purpose of allowing more money to be extracted from Garmin, Google,  and all the other electronic mapping behemoths that own the pictures of the Earth's surface, the front door of your house, and you walking out of the supermarket with your face blurred out. More adventurous thinkers who write on the internet suggest conspiracy theories, fear of American invasions of China, and protection from intelligent alien parasites as the reason for the GPS offset. I don't know about all that, but I do know that my GPS tells me I am riding my bike in the sea when in fact I am on a road. This can be mildly amusing but makes it impossible to navigate around a town using the GPS. Out in the countryside of Hainan we found we could still get a good idea of where we were, how far to the next town, and that sort of thing, but the GPS screen always showed the offset.

The blue line is our real position, the orange line is where the map tells is the road is. I swear we were riding on the road...

There are various ways that people on the internet have discussed fixing the "offset problem", some more elaborate than others and mostly ineffective on my GPS when I tried them.  Given how much effort it had been for me to get a decent street map of China on there in the first place, I was losing interest in losing more of my life reading about gmapsupp files on GPS enthusiasts internet forums. So I forgot about it for a while.

Unfortunately, I can't forget about unfinished business. More internet digging revealed the mysteriously named Venus Series maps. It seems from the description that someone has taken it upon themselves to re-calibrate the Garmin City Navigator maps to that the offset problem is fixed, or at least greatly reduced. After some fairly extensive internet foraging I managed to download the map and now just have to get it to work on my GPS. I expect this to be no mean feat judging by my previous experiences... but how else could I while away those long winter evenings? To be honest, I could think of many ways... but I will persevere.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Time waits for no-man

I haven't written about our holidays yet, but the relentless pace of life does not pause to wait for me to write about it. This weekend we went on a hurriedly organised trip into Chongqing. The plan was to see some sights that we have failed to see the few times we have passed through town. Despite near (and actual) disasters in the first 12 hours or so of our trip... things worked out well and we got to do a good variety of stuff. Lots of photos can be found here, and a photo-smorgasbord of my favorites is below.

An alternative symbol of yin and yang?

Fish and umbrella.

Yes, really.

The Chongqing museum of flashing lights.

Men at work.

Walking among the Arhats

One disaster worth mentioning was the death of my faithful Cannon G9, which has been abused to the ends of the earth and finally stopped retracting its lens for good. It's been wheezing along and getting stuck for a few months, but this time I completely destroyed it in a last-ditch attempt to get it to work again. I'll see if anyone here will have a go at resurrecting it for me, but I had to concede and buy a new camera on our way out to see Ciqikou old town. China is generally not a good place to buy things that aren't made in China, but luckily Chongqing has a technology market which was a few subway stops before our destination. After some annoying haggling I got the price down by around 45% to about the same I would have paid by walking into Best Buy in Canada. But, at least I have a camera. Unimaginatively I got a Cannon G12. The new apparatus seems to work extremely well in poor light and have a few dinky gadgets (that I don't need), but is otherwise be very similar to my old G9. I did manage to leave the "date stamp" feature on by accident and had to viciously crop my photos from the trip to get rid of it. Who uses that feature anyway? Bah.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Typhoon, cow, pig, chicken, and goose.

I have things to write about it later, but for now... here is a video and some photos of our holiday on Hainan Island.