Archive for the ‘Yunnan’ Category


Shangri-la to Batang Yunnan & Sichuan Day 3

Friday, February 18th, 2011

2011-01-19 100I woke up refreshed, it had been a goods night sleep, I made breakfast and checked the emails for comments on the blog. I was a little disappointed that there were only two comments, one for each way. I pondered what to do for a while, then got on the bike and headed North. My heart was telling me to go that way so it felt right. I had no idea where the road would lead, it looked as if it was a dead end at the end of the valley but I had been looking at the cars coming and going, and logically I was in the right place and the road must go on. I got to the end of the valley and a narrow gap between the two sides allowed the river and a road to slide through. I kept following the road and was blessed with tarmac and generally flat cycling. There was the odd patch where there had been a rock fall and the road was not sealed and covered in rocks but generally it was pretty good. By early afternoon I arrived at a small house that Margo and Ben had mentioned. (they are cycling a few weeks ahead of me)

abbandoned house

They said it was an abandoned house and good for camping in, they had also left me a note in the house. I opened the door and looked all over for the note but could not find it anywhere. I pondered staying the night but decided it was too early in the day so I had some nuts and tea and pushed on. The road continued to be good and I felt like I was making great progress. There were only a few places were I had to look at the map and a new tunnel that was built into the side of the mountain threw me for a bit, until I got near it and I realised that it was not completed yet so that was not my route.

new tunnel china

Just before night fall I passed what I took to be small hotel, I stopped outside and contemplated about staying the night. There was at least another half and hour of cycling to be had. My dilemma was that I had not seen any good camp sites for ages. The cliff on onside with regular rock fall did not seem appealing and it would only get about 2 meters away from the road at best. On the other side of the road it was not much better a sheer drop into water or a tiny ledge a meter or so from the road where if I rolled over in the night I would probably end up doing some sort of night time water expedition instead. I opted for the hotel. It was new and clean, all dorm rooms and a bargain 25 Yen for the night including dinner. It took me a while to work this out and there was much laughter in the kitchen at my bad Chinese. The two young boys of the house looked after me well and helped me with my bags and were very patient with my Chinese. The boys were fascinated with my maps and studied them in great detail while I ate my dinner. I managed to charge the computer and get some writing done and had a good nights sleep.

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Shangri-la to Batang Yunnan & Sichuan Day 2

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

It took ages to pack up and get breakfast down me, I was slowly resigning myself to the fact that it was not possible to go much faster and that, in the cold things just took longer. I followed my last nights tracks out the car park and slowly head up the hill. The road conditions varied to hard packed snow that was the best to cycle on, to water and slush that was the most difficult. As time progressed my confidence increased I started to think that I was actually going to be able to do this. Various cars and trucks passed me, some more surprised than others to see a bike on the road. On some of the small narrow inclines I waited for a good gap between cars until I went up and generally managed to get up all the way. Some of the cars were struggling and others were making it look easy. I grinned to myself as I passed one car that kept going backwards down the hill, the bike was better than the car I thought. Still it would be rude not to help so I parked the bike on the side of the road and offered to push. I wanted to explain that he really needed snow chains, as I was doing this he produced some chains from the back of the car and we all smiled, I got back on the bike confident that they would make it now.

shangri-la ski ressort

My midday the snow was getting less and and shortly after I passed the Shangri-la ski resort that I did not even know existed, the snow was gone. I was a little disappointed but secretly relieved at the same time, I was able to make great progress now. I was rewarded with stunning views, amazing down-hills and soon arrived to a little village. I decided to get some food here, I popped into one of the restaurants and asked if they could do me some fried rice. They said yes but I soon got the feeling I was putting them out and that really they had shut for the afternoon. Still the food was good and I sat by the fire to eat my rice. With a late lunch inside me I set off again, I got some directions at a junction and asked again shortly after to make sure this was the right way and was soon climbing up a hill in warm weather surrounded by forest on either side. © www.bikeabout.co.uk

2011-01-19 095

I reached the top sooner than i thought and had another massive downhill, I meandered around bends and ended up in a deep gorge flying past small Tibetan houses. A huge lorry with PVC windows passed me and I wondered where it was going. Most of the houses had wooden windows here and were beautifully carved and decorated. Over the next few days I paid more attention to the windows on each of the houses I cycled past. It turned out that like England there had been a three phase change, windows started off as sash and wood, then changed to aluminium and the newest of the houses had white PVC widows. I was glad to see that some people were still keeping with tradition though and a some of the new houses had the traditional style wooden windows.

tibetan house

I reached the end of the gorge and arrived at a big bridge. This was the feature that I was looking for on my map. I was due to turn right here, however both my speedo and the road signs were telling a different story. A small truck came over the bridge and we studied the map together. He assured me that this was not the bridge that I was after and that I had to go on a bit further still. I thanked him and he drove off. I lingered for while wondering where this new road led to.

unmakred bridge

My thoughts were disturbed by a couple of tractor cars, as I call them, coming past, these guys were my road trip friends and we had been following each other all day, sometimes I was in front and other times they were. I had shared some of my nuts with them in the morning and we would exchange big grins and waves every time we saw each other. I followed them up onto a bumpy unsealed road and we soon found ourselves at a difficult section of road. Most of the cars were taking a good run up and making it to the top. I waited for a gap and went for it, my feet hit the ground almost straight away, the apple size rocks were just too big and moving under my wheels, I got off and started to push. My tractor friends were coming back down the hill having pushed one of their tractor things up. I tucked in while a few cars passed, then took the gap to carry on. A few moments later another car came up behind me only this time the road was not big enough for the both of us. He had to stop to avoid hitting me and then was stuck, momentum lost. One guy motioned that I should get up the hill quicker and I said that he should have waited for me. He did not understand what I was saying and I carried on heaving the bike up the slope. I got to the top and caught my breath and looked back. I, or should I say, the driver that was stuck had now caused a big traffic jam. I found a spot to leave the bike and went back to help push. By the time I got there they were half way up and I thought that if I got involved I would only make things worse again. The car made it to the top and the waiting cars went buy, I helped push the other tractor cart up the hill and we were all on our way again.

2011-01-19 022

I soon arrived at the bridge, here I had to make a decision, Deqin or North. I sat by the cross roads and pondered what to do. Various people came past and I explained my dilemma to the more curious ones. It started to get dark and I was still no closer to a decision. Eventually I formulated a plan. I would take the north road for just a few kms the road was flat along the river and I could probably find somewhere to camp. I would ask the readers of the blog to decide and sleep on it. I cycled a few kms down the road and entered into Sichuan my second Chinese province. I found a good spot to get the bike and me off the road and out of sight. There was not enough room for the tent so I just put the ground sheet out and unpacked my sleeping mats and bags. The sky was clear and it was a lot warmer than Shangri-la, a perfect night for a bivi.

bivi china yunnan

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Shangri-la to Batang, Yunnan & Sichuan Day 1

Monday, February 14th, 2011

winter shangri-la china

I loaded up the bike and found a spot for the old tyres and the new winter over boots. I went for a chicken pie and a coffee at Carol’s new restaurant and then hauled the bike up the stairs of the hostel to the snowy pavement. I bid farewell to the guys from the hostel, they had been my family for the last few weeks but now it was time to leave. I cycled past my favourite restaurant and said goodbye to the lady that run the place. Then slowly I negotiated the snow and slush covered roads to find the road north. I was still undecided weather to go to Deqin a small town that is the gateway to the Snow Mountain area or to turn of earlier and head north. At this stage I was not even sure how far out of town I was going to make it. The main road was a little easier to negotiate as the cars had melted a lot of the snow and cycling in the tyre tracks made things almost normal. I eventually came across the sign for Deqin, I was to follow this road for at least 80km before having to decide where to turn off. I faced south and took one last look at the town before pushing down on the pedals and cycling north.

china road sign deqin

The first hill was not too bad, the road was sealed but as I progressed it turned to a gravel path and I was learning fast how to handle the bike in slush and snow. I was though, surprised at how well I was doing, I stopped at a junction with no indication of where to go. I cycled up the road in what I though was the right direction and waited to flag down a passing car. It took a while for a car to stop and when it did I found out why, just by stopping the car slide all over the place, still he managed to keep the car under control and he gave me the good news that I was on the right rode. I tried to set off up the hill again but the wheels kept spinning, the road was too wet and there was no way I was going to get anywhere cycling. I pushed the bike for 50m or so until I found a bit of solid ground, after a few attempts I was on my way. Things were going well and the snow soon evened out and there was a wide white road for me to follow.

snow and slush road china yunnan

This was a great improvement to the start of the ride where I had to cycle in the middle of the road to get anywhere, the side of the road was to slippery. The problem I though was that if I fall off in the middle of the road where the cars and trucks are they will not be able to break in time and I will be tasting wet tyres. If I was lucky I would get squashed outright and end up in cyclist heaven very quickly, if I was unlucky I would just get a little squashed and die a slow painful death, waiting for some form of rescue. My other hope was that the truck would do a good job and that I would look like one of those squashed cartoon characters that just go flat after they have been run over then manage to pop back into shape afterwards. Anyway none of this mattered now as the road was wide and I had been pulling over to let the cars past just in case.

cycling winter shangri-la china

I eventually found myself on a beautiful road with white fields, a frozen lake, birds and horses to take pictures of. I passed a sign that said Chinese Exploration Research Society and wonder who would be doing the exploring and who would be doing the research, me or the Chinese. I decided that if this foray in the snow turned bad they would being doing some research to figure out what happened and what to do with me, and if it goes well I would be exploring china.

China exploration and research society sign

The road started to climb again, I had to time my ascent of the hill when I thought that there would be no other vehicles coming down, if there were I would have to move to the side of the road and stop and I was not sure I would be able to cycle off again. Fortunately I timed it right and made it past the narrow bit and up to a look at point with a great car park that looked like it would make a great home for the night.

Frozen landscape china

I admired the view at the look at wondering what it would be like without the snow and then started to put up the tent. The ground it turned out was solid and it took me ages until I got the pegs in and camp set up. I got the stove going and was soon tucking into my rice, vegetable and meat concoction. I had done some research into what kind of preserved meat you can get and brought some at the market. Now I had no real idea if what I got was preserved meat or how long it was going to last but I was pretty sure it would last a week or so. Half way through the meal my stomach started doing summersaults so I decided that maybe the meat was not so good after all. I could not be sure but to be on the safe side decided that tomorrow I would go vege and see if the same results occurred. I made it through the night without needing to make a quick exit of the tent and woke up the next morning to a cold snowy landscape. How far would i get today, was it possible to cycle in these conditions, time would tell.

camping in the snow china yunnan

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Walking the tiger leaping gorge

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

Tiger Leaping GorgeI took the bus back to Lijiang, met up with Kevin and got my money back for the tyres.  It was funny to be back, it was like going home in a sense, as you new the town and some of the people.  I met Hutch again, an American guy who had been living in China for a few years and a cyclist.  We talked a little about my planned route, then i headed back to the guest house to sleep.

The next day i took the bus to Qiao Tou had fried rice in the same restaurant Margo, Ben and I ate a the first time we were here and studied the map of the walking trail.

A girl came over and offered me a lift to the end of the road and the start of the walking trail.  She said she would do it for 30 Yuen and that doing this I would avoid having to pay the 50 Yuen entrance fee.  It sounded good but i knew that due to the road works you did not have to pay to walk the trail, you just had to accept responsibility for yourself.  I told the girl so and she smiled and walked off, another scam busted.

Chris walking Tiger leaping Gorge Trail

I shouldered my pack and set off to find the start of the trail, eventually I found a dirt road that looked like it was the way to the trail and asked a local lady if my assumptions were correct.  She smiled and pointed in the direction i thought it was, so i thanked her and set off at a gentle pace, admiring the view and enjoying the sun.

Rise small guest house sign

I passed the school and soon the road ended and the trail began.  It was a good feeling to be walking again and I had the place to myself, i had started late in the day but decided not to rush and enjoy the walk.  Walking along in my own world, enjoying the peaceful surroundings, I followed the narrow trail.  The route was quite easy and the view of the gorge below made the trip back well worth it.

After an hour or so i stopped for a bite to eat, a couple of local people came by with horses and offered me a ride to the next guest house.  I politely declined their offer, and they carried on back down the trail their horses strolling along behind them.

Horse Tiger Leaping Gorge Trail

The trail climbed a little and i arrived at the Naxi family guest house, i pondered whether to stay here for the night or to push on for 26 bends and the high point of the trail.  I would mean walking the last hour in the dark.  I decided there was no rush and i was in a very relaxed state of mind.  There was a warm welcome at the Naxi family guest house and i was soon sipping tea and chatting with the owners.  I had a lovely hot shower and enjoyed a lovely meal by candle light in the kitchen.  The power was out and the men had gone to go and see what the problem was.  I finished my meal, thanked the ladies of the house and went back to my room. I was the only guest so had the luxury of a dorm room to myself.  I wrote some of my journal and then wrapped the blankets around me and fell into blissful sleep.

Rest stop Tiger Leaping Gorge TrailThe next morning i had some rice for breakfast and set off on my way, the first part of the trail past through a small collection of houses, once on the other side i found myself slowly climbing the bends towards the high point of the trail.  I stopped to admire the view where there was a seat carved into the rock face.  The first walkers i had seen came past me, said hello and carried on, it was a brief interruption into my otherwise solitary walk.  With my tea finished and a couple of handfuls of nuts gone i set off again. I reached the high point of the trail and stopped to take a few pictures.  I was glad it was quiet as the person that had set up shop here would have charged me 8 Yen for the privilege according their sign, for my photos otherwise. I ducked under the wooden barrier and walked down the arête to take my photos.

With the hard work done I started to walk down again and soon found myself at the Tea Horse Guest house.  I popped in to see if i could get some tea and soon had a fresh cup in front of me and watched the kids as they played in the court yard.  I mustered up my best Chinese and asked if this tea was grown here and if i could buy some.  Either my Chinese was not right or there was not tea grown here, either way there was not tea to buy.  I chuckled to myself at the irony, finished the last of my brew and headed on to the half way guest house.  The only reason i was going here was to check out the view from their toilets.  Marketed as the best toilet view in the world, i was keen too sample the delights myself.

Sun deck Half Way guest house

By three o’clock i had arrived, the place was much bigger than the Naxi family guest house and the staff were busy cleaning and preparing food.  I was the first to arrive and wondered what all the activity was about.  A big group of Koreans was due to arrive later and they were busy preparing for their arrival.  I sat in the sun room with a coke and got the laptop out to write some more of the blog. I raised my head occasionally to admire the view and was glad for the shelter as the wind had picked up and started to shake the windows.  I finished my writing and went down to my room to cosy under the blankets and watch a movie.

Just as the movie was ending people started to arrive, I wondered what people thought of my carrying a laptop all the way up here, but kept to myself until the end of the film.  Up until now I had been in my own little world and now there were people all around me and the dorm room full.  I wandered back to the sun lounge.  The wind had gone and everyone was on the deck chatting, i climbed the steps and slowly started to meet new people and swap travelling stories.  A group of us sat together for dinner and then we retired to the dorm for sleep.

The next morning nature was calling so it was time to get down to business.  The views were truly stunning and i enjoyed the privacy of my own cubical, a lot of Chinese toilets are communal with only a waist high wall for privacy.  I took some snaps for the photo album and washed up ready for breakfast.  I had my first baba, a kind of flat bread and a lovely pancake filled with banana, local walnut and honey. Yum Yum.Toilet view Half way guest house

I chatted to one of the guys I had met last night who was going to spend the morning on the sun deck until he decided what to do.  We had an interesting chat about life and travel, that gave me things to think about for the rest of the day.  I bid farewell to my new friend and set off down the track to the road.  I met a Chinese girl on the way down and we walked together, she was heading to Shangri-la so we decided to try and share a lift back to the main road to get the bus north.

We arrived at Tina’s Hostel, where Margo, Ben and I had stopped before, it was the end of my little adventure and time to get back on the bike.  After much waiting we got a mini van to the main road for a good price and then caught the bus back to Lijiang.  We arrived early evening and i could not remember exactly which bus to get back to the hostel, so we walked asking directions every so often.  Eventually we passed the main post office and I was able to remember the way from there.  We went to my favourite little restaurant and i was greeted by smiles from the lady that run the place and Carole who happened to be there too.  I checked back into the Hostel and started to think about cycling again.

I had planned to spend another day getting a few jobs, like my tax return done and then set off.  With jobs done, a day later i was ready to set off.  I woke up to a blanket of snow all around me and pondered what to do.  I got the guys in the hostel to call the bus station to see how the road was.  Closed, and would be for two days a least.  I could still go though? Having never cycling in the snow and the lack of a bus to pick me up if it went wrong, i opted to stay another two days and wait for the weather to improve.  I got some mountain bike tyres for the bike and two days later set off for my first ride in the snow.  Shangri-la had been a lovely home, but it was high time to move on.

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Shangri-la

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Having spent six days experiencing some of the most enjoyable, but hard cycling to date, it was time for some R and R.  I spent my time in Shangri-la at the Barley YHA, a great hostel with friendly staff and a constant stream of travellers.  It was great to meet some young Chinese travellers as well, a lot of whom were interested in my trip and one guy in particular who was keen to try bike travel himself.  I hope you take the first steps, get the bike and set off for the ride of your life.  We found a good local restaurant to eat at run by a lovely lady from the North East of China and I met a girl from Singapore who was opening up a new cafe in town, that was going to be selling real coffee, muffins, pies and waffles.  I sampled all her lovely food and i hope that the cafe is a great success for her.  If you are in Shangri-la go and check it out. TLJ The Long Journey in Shangri-la.  It’s in the old tow,n near the dancing square.  Carole who runs place, speaks fluent English and Chinese, so if you are in a pickle or just want to chat to someone, pop in for a Muffin and a coffee.

sign the long journey cafe

the long journey cafe

Shangri-la in the winter is very cold and the old town is quiet. A lot of the hotels and some of the shops close down in the winter, and a morning walk around the old town was a quiet and relaxing experience.  There are a few temples, a national park and good food to sample in the town.  Generally when we are off the bikes we are either doing a lot of tourist things or just chilling,  People often don’t understand why i am not bothered about seeing all the temples and going to all the tourist sites.  We have found that on the bike your are constantly moving, seeing lots of things, meeting people and your whole life is lived in the open. When you stop, it’s nice not to move too much, relax and enjoy some time to yourself.  So that’s what I did.  I caught up with some of the blog, watched movies and ate nice food.

Songzai Temple Shangrai-la

I did take a trip to the temple in the town though, it has the world’s biggest prayer wheel and gave it a few turns, there were good views from the top and I still can’t work out what is so magical about Tibetan prayer flags.

Tibetan pray flags, Shangari-la

worlds largest pray wheel shangri-laPart of the reason for staying so long in Shangri-la was that Margo and Ben and I were waiting for some post.  I needed a new bank card as mine had expired, and I had also ordered some Neos, winter over boots. Margo and Ben were waiting on new tent poles and sleeping mats.  After a week i was getting a little restless as were Margo and Ben.  With no post in sight i decided that a trip back to the Tiger Leaping Gorge was a good idea.  A lot of the travellers that I met, had said that it was a great walk with stunning views.  Margo and Ben who had limited time on their visa, made some repairs to their current tent poles and decided that they had to get going and would try and redirect their parcels further north.

So after nearly two months of travelling together we were to part company.  It was strange having planned to cycle together all the way to Xining and now our time together was going to end.  Over a short period of time we had become close friends.  Living, cycling and travelling with someone, you soon get to know a lot about them.  I had an amazing time travelling with them and we shall definitely be meeting up when we get back to the UK for drinks, cycling and camping.

At the same time, i was looking forward to some time on my own, Liz and I had travelled together for 15 months and probably only spent a few days a part during that time.  I think it is good to have time to yourself, you get more time reflect on things you have done, and the things you want to do.

chris turining pray wheel shangri-la

I went to the cafe of the Hostel that had closed for the winter, where all my stuff was being sent to, to say that i was away for a few days, so if my post came then hold on to it for me.  To my surprise, everything had arrived.  I left the cafe pondering what to do, carry on riding or go and walk the gorge.  In the end I had to go back to Lijiang to collect some money from a friend who had ordered some tyres for me, but the order was cancelled due to lack of stock, so the decision was made for me.

Margo, Ben and I said our farewells and I took the bus back to Lijiang as they set off North for Sichuan.

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