We take a step out of Chengdu airport and it’s hot. ‘Could be too hot’ remarks Charlie Middleton, raring to go after his summer bulk. After a good night’s sleep to get over the jet lag, our first rowing session in China began in the warm morning drizzle of Xinjin (a satellite city roughly 50km outside of Chengdu). The general consensus was that ‘it wasn’t actually that bad’ and ‘maybe we should try and do quite well’.
After returning to the hotel to carb load on the possibly mistranslated ‘refreshing fungus’ and ‘breakfast bowel’ it was decided that our first Chinese cultural experience was needed. So we were taken to a shopping mall! Later we were driven to a nearby temple which was rather more spiritually enlightening and also happened to make for some good photos.
Racing began the next day. It was over 800m with 2 heats of 4 and a heat of 3 with the quickest time being crowned winner. In our heat we found ourselves with the University of Otago, New Zealand and the University of Pavia, Italy. Although the whole trip was impeccably organised by our wonderful Chinese hosts, it has to be said the racing was rather chaotic. No stake boats on a river with a strong stream made it difficult to get ready and we had a slow start. Once we hit our rhythm we were making gainz on Otago, although Pavia had stretched out to a small bit of clear water. Despite our best efforts we lost to Otago by a seat although we were sure we’d done a decent time in comparison to the other heats. After having our heads bashed in by some Chinese pop music played at excessive volumes, the results came out. 5th place – not bad and only a couple of seconds behind strong crews from University of Amsterdam (Nereus), Shanghai University and the two crews in our race. We also finished ahead of the Russians who later asserted their physical dominance over us by battering 7-man Josh Kent whilst playing basketball.
We resolved to try and win that evening’s party instead which involved a performance from each team. Naturally we decided to do a dry-land synchronised swimming performance to an ABBA song, wonderfully choreographed by the very sassy Josh Kent. No one had a go-pro so instead Paddy Sullivan strapped an iPhone to his head. The video is available on request.
The next two days were spent being top class tourists including dragon boating in mixed teams with the other universities and a visit to see some cute Pandas in Chengdu.
The next stop on the trip was the brilliant city of Wuhan. Upon arriving on the hotel and checking out its setting between a theme park and a water park everyone was practically squealing with excitement. With two days involving no rowing in Wuhan we set about seeing the sights and what the nightlife had to offer. Neale Marlow, 6th year Medical student, UCL said these two days especially were the highlight of his trip. There was a scenic walk round the stunning East Lake around which Wuhan in situated, trip to the water park and we also enjoyed The Han Show, a brilliant show involving acrobatics, dancing and a back-flipping jet ski, which was for many one of the highlights of the trip. Tom Portsmouth had the opportunity to spend a day schmoozing with a Chinese family and anyone who is a regular reader of the daily Wuhan newspaper should lookout for the coverage.
At this point it should be noted George Hopkins was absent after he left his passport on the plane (what a mug) and had to travel across China to the embassy to get a new one #GetGeorgeHome.
The racing in Wuhan was also over 800m although this time set on the lake with a fair start. We came 3rd in our heat once again behind Pavia of Italy, although St Peterburg State University of Russia who had gained speed since Xinjin nipped both of us by a gnat’s cock. Unfortunately this meant we did not progress to the final, which was eventually won by the locals of Wuhan University.
We would like to offer our most sincere thank-yous to our tour guides Rice Nick, Frank, Tina and Philip and all the Chinese officials who made the trip possible.