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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
see more photos here