Archive for December, 2010

Finally a blog post!

Monday, December 27th, 2010

If you’ve been following our blog then the last you heard was that we were in Jinghong, Yunnan in southern China! Well we’ve done quite a lot since then, so read on for an update…

In Jinghong, we, and our friends Margo and Ben, stayed with a lovely guy called Ryan and ended up staying for a week after we all got sick with food poisoning. Let’s just say that we all got to know each other rather well after 4 days of vomiting and diarrhea! Poor Chris was hit the hardest and didn’t eat for 3 days (this photo was taken before we were all ill).

Staying at Ryan's place whilst sick

Jinghong is a nice city with a university and palm tree lined roads. I managed to buy a dongle and 6 months of internet access, which a few days earlier had seemed like an impossibility. So that gave us internet access anywhere. Margo and I also bought a pair of long trousers as our journey north meant that the temperature was starting to drop. After months and months of 30 degree heat, this was welcome although a little bit of a shock to the system. Ben did some work on our bikes and managed to find a smaller cog for my bike, which means I’ll be able to grind up those hills in an even lower gear.

We finally left Jinghong on the 22nd Nov, my birthday. The night before we went out to celebrate at the French run Mekong Café, with two French cyclists Sandrine and Damian, Ryan, and Margo and Ben. I had a fantastic evening, with red wine and a surprise birthday cake organized by Sandrine. Margo and Damian poured over maps, whilst Chris and Sandrine chatted away in French with me doing my best to follow the conversation. It was a fantastic and memorable evening.

Upon leaving Jinghong (after a full English breakfast!!) we ended up getting on the highway which wasn’t our intention. The highway itself is ok, it’s nice to cycle on and wasn’t too busy but it has tunnels. Even small cars sounds like jumbo jets as they come up behind you. We were doing ok until we came to a tunnel marked as 2.5km long. We pulled over and put on our reflective jackets, lights, head torches and anything else we could find that would help the traffic see us. The tunnel has a pavement on one side so I decide that I would prefer to cycle on the pavement. The others did too, so we set off. This was fine although dark and occasionally a big hole would open up in the pavement and bit of broken rock and glass would appear. I was relieved to reach the end and we all agreed that we should get off the highway as soon as we could.

We stopped that evening after finding a lovely campsite by a river, with a campfire. Margo and I cooked up sausages over the fire that Ben built, boiled up two pans of potato, which Chris and Margo mashed with expertise of Michelin star chefs, and we also had Heinz baked beans for dinner, what a treat! It was delicious and we all enjoyed it. Chris then brought out more birthday cake and candles, and we sat around the fire so we had a fantastic evening all in all. A lovely birthday with lovely people.

We were aiming now to get to Dali by 3rd Dec, so we had some cycling to do and followed the 213 taking in Puer, Simao, Zhenyuan, Jingdong and Nanjian along the way. The following photos show our encounters and adventures en route…

Beautiful wild camping spots in the mountains. Even though the Chinese cultivate every last square inch of land it was still easy to camp and we found some great spots. One morning we woke up to mist ( or inverted cloud?) below us in the valleys of the mountains. We couldn’t resist a photo.

Ducks being marched along the road, we had to stop to watch, and couldn’t help thinking they seemed like prisoners on some kind of death march.

Groups of kids in villages when we stop for noodle soup at lunch. The children and adults we met in Yunnan were wonderful, so friendly and welcoming, whilst also being surprised and shy. All the kids we said hello or “Ni hao” to would burst with laughter and seemed to find us talking to them or them talking to us, absolutely hilarious!

Tea plantations and impressive terracing. Every inch of space is used here, we’ve seen miles of banana trees, fields of red peppers, bay leaf trees, tea, coffee, they grow so much and the terracing is spectacular and obviously involves a lot of back breaking work.

Dodgy gravely roads. The road we followed runs alongside the imposing new highway being built and as a result this smaller road is also the service road for all the trucks and diggers. With such a lot of heavy traffic the road is in a complete state and for a while we were cycling on gravel, dusty roads, through muddy potholes ad puddles. It was pretty slow going to say the least!

Gorgeous sunsets. In harmony with the morning mist we also got to see the soft sunsets at the end of the day. China may have some problems with pollution, but out here in the countryside the sky is clear and spectacular.

Amazing scenery like the gorge we followed for miles. We were following a river for a long time and in paces the rocks would carve a gorge through the valley creating the most beautiful natural scenery we’ve seen in a while. I’m not sure what we expected China to be like, but we certainly didn’t know it would be so beautiful!

A crazy runway toddler careering down a steep main road. Can’t believe I managed to get a photo of him, but he came out of nowhere, on his own, flying down the hill. Kids here have quite a free rein and health and safety concerns are not the same as the UK!

A poor starving dog. We see a lot of dogs chained up. Often we’re glad as it means they won’t chase us or bite us, however from time to time we see some who look ill, starving and neglected, with no water left for them. We stopped to see this little fella gave him a load of biscuits and then carried on our way. But I now wish we had unchained him and let him go so he could at least fend for himself and find some food.

We stayed in an English school classroom for the night and after dinner with the teachers, we did an impromptu lesson with the children. All quite bizarre after a long, tiring day of cycling up huge hills, but fun at the same time, and the kids were very cool!

We also met Jerry, a great guy who spoke perfect English and made us very welcome in Jingdong. He cycled out of the town with us the next morning before saying goodbye.

The cycling was interesting, fun and I felt my legs getting stronger everyday with all the hills we had to climb, it was never ending! We reach Nanjian on 2nd Dec, about 110km south of Dali and stayed at a hotel for night (after much negotiating and confusion with the receptionist!). The next day we got up early, our plan was to try and reach Dali that night. After yet more noodle soup  we set off and had a flat run for the first 10km. After that we followed another stunning gorge and it was much easier than I had anticipated it was going to be. We met Kathy, a lady from New Zealand cycling around China and stopped to chat with her. I’m interested to meet solo female cyclists as I’ve been working on a women section called Girls on Tour, so hopefully they might agree to be interviewed at some point!

We cycled into Weishan following a flat valley, stopped for another delicious lunch and then continued along the valley floor, with a tail wind for about 25km. After stopping to buy some sugary snacks, we continued knowing that a 17km climb lay ahead of us. We could see the mountains we had to climb and Kathy had told us that once you’re up by the wind turbines then you know it’s the top. We’d been able to see them for the last 20km and they still looked an awful long way away!

The climb began with a well appointed sign, the Chinese are good at letting you know what you are in for! The climb wasn’t too bad to start with, but it went on for a long time and the time ticked away. As we got nearer the top I looked around to admire the scenery and view from up here, and felt incredibily lucky to be able to have such an experience. I knew that I was going back to England in a few days and suddenly it made me appreciate just what an amazing adventure I have had so far and I felt very emotional.  Chris had stopped to wait for me and in the early evening sun he took this photo..

We knew that we would pass the 9000km mark whilst climbing, so near the top as the sun was setting we cycled tother to celebrate this milestone. About 400m short we admired the intense sunset happening all around us…

We hit 9000km and were near the top now after 17kms. It was almost dark and we knew we had a 10km descent to look forward to. Margo and Ben had waited for us at the top, however with the warm sun now gone, it was pretty cold and the way down would be colder. They had put all their clothes on and were preparing to go, we did the same and Chris remarked that we were lit up like Christmas Trees! Off we set. I hate cycling in the dark to be honest and it was pitch black by the time we’d got ourselves sorted, only the car lights provided any illumination. That also has the effect of destroying any night vision that you might otherwise have had. So we set off at a slow pace and tried to stay together. Half way down I had to stop to put on more clothes I was shivering from head to toe! By the time we go to the bottom, warm clothes and all, my teeth were chattering and I was really cold. Not only had we been cycling for 8 hrs, over 100km, we also hadn’t eaten for a while so I was feeling pretty shattered and ready to stop now. Whatever excitement I’d had about hitting 9000km or beautiful scenery, had evaporated and I just wanted to stop, eat and sleep.

We were now in Dali (new town) and need to continue a further 15km north to Dali, the old town, where we had a place to stay. That last few km were fairly straight forward, with lit roads and an easy route, but they passed in a blur. We arrived into Dali old town, happy, relieved and very tired. I would stay here with Chris and the others for a few days before going back to the UK for 2 months. This was my last day of cycling and  the longest day ever for me – 114km!!

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