I’ve seen high wire acts but never quite like this.
We saw a lot of amazing things in China, from obviously awesome places like the Temple of Heaven, Pudong, and the canals of Suzhou to the understated beauty of Hutong backstreets. But the most unexpected sight came when we took an afternoon trip down a small tributary of the storied Yangtze River.
As we rounded a bend, our guide started yelling from the front of the boat and pointing straight up. I craned my neck, followed his gaze, and my jaw went slack. A tightrope stretched from cliff top to cliff top some hundreds of feet in the air. A unicycle stood right smack in the middle of it, fighting crosswinds — one person pedaling and another dangling underneath, draped in color.
What are we seeing? Is riding the tightrope a religious rite? A method of transit from high-ground to high-ground? A stunt for tourists? (Here’s a shot of their launching station.) Nobody seemed to have the answer. A central scene in the Yangtze-filmed Still Life features tightrope walking between buildings as the backdrop. Perhaps it’s a local tradition, then. No matter the reason, it’s a sight I won’t soon forget.