Posts Tagged ‘hotel’

The Silk road or the Cotton road?

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Leaving Urumqi together we joined a big highway out of town, having been in Mongolia only a couple of weeks earlier where you see one car an hour, suddenly being on a 3 lane highway was quite an adrenalin rush to say the least. However the benefit of the highway is the hard shoulder which is a lane in itself, and the fact that it is a good, smooth, fast road. We whizzed along and managed to do 45km in a couple of hours or so. Unfortunately when i have longer periods of not cycling (a week or more) and sitting, my leg muscles seem to contract or tighten, and the first day back on the road usually means that my knees hurt after 30km. We know this happens and try to allow for it, but it is frustrating and having to stop when the rest of you is ready to carry on can be annoying! However continuing is painful and can also mean that they still hurt the next day. So we stopped, pulled off the highway and into some bushes to find a place to camp. Hidden amongst the trees was a small concrete building, empty apart from a pipe with a big hole going into the ground. The ground outside was lumpy and not flat enough for camping so we decided to camp inside the little building.

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Looks a bit grim, but with the tent up, it was perfect and we had a good nights sleep.

roadosignThe next day we continued for a while until we saw signs saying no bikes and we pulled off onto a side road that ran parallel. This was very quiet and we had the road to ourselves, which meant we could talk and cycle side by side.

This road is actually the old Silk Road, which has seen traders coming and going across Asia for centuries. Even now the road was full of produce, with people drying corn or spices and chillies along the road ready to sell.  We wove our way in and out of the lanes of food.

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We cycled into one town to have lunch and found a nice little restaurant run by a Kazakh or Uyghur family. The father spoke Chinese but couldn’t read it. We carry a little piece of paper with all the food we like written in Chinese, so we can ask them what they have by pointing. he called his daughter over and she was able to read it and tell him what we wanted. We love having rice at lunch as it fills us up and gives us lots of energy, so we always ask for this  – “yo, mae yo meefan?” which literally means “have, not have rice?”. They said yes so we drank tea while we waited. A plate of hot fried meat and onion arrived, which was delicious. But no rice. Eventually the girl called me into the kitchen and pointed to the fresh hand made noodles that her mother was making and asked if we would have these. They didn’t have rice after all but the noodles were delicious!

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We continued on after taking some photos with the family and headed to the next town Shihezi. Along the way we started to see lots of small tractors with a big trailer full of white stuff that looked like balls of cotton wool….

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There were hundreds of them and by the roadside were balls of white fluff everywhere, in 100 metres alone there were probably enough balls of cotton to keep me going for a lifetime!. We played a game of overtaking them, and then they would catch us up and overtake us. The drivers were all very friendly and intrigued by us on our bicycles.

As we reached Shihezi everything felt more industrial, dusty and dirty. We thought  we might stop in Shihezi and find a hotel, but we couldn’t see much. Then finally we found a place. It was a good price (60 yuan) and we wheeled the bikes in, unloaded and went to register. In China hotels have to be registered to take foreigners and many hotels are not allowed. I showed the lady our passport and said “Yinggor’, which means ‘English’.as well as handing her the money for one night. She made a phone call and then handed me back the passports and money, shaking her head. We couldn’t stay. This has happened before and it isn’t their fault, but i do find it frustrating that they don’t tell us before we unload the bikes and bring them inside, surely they can see we are foreign travellers!

However they were very nice and helped us find another place to stay. Another woman borrowed a bicycle, hopped on and led us 4km across town to the hotel that would accept us. It was very kind of her and she stayed to help us see the room and negotiate a price. Chinese hotels have a price board, but you never pay that price. That said, it was a very expensive business hotel, and they wanted 180 yuan a night. It was Chris’s 30th birthday the next day so we decided to stay and managed to get them down to 140 which is about 14 pounds, for a very nice room. Having cycled through the town we found that it was really nice, away from the highway.

The next morning I covered some little cakes in chocolate ( by melting some little chocolates that we had) and added birthday candles which we have been carrying for 2 years for our birthdays! When Chris got out of the shower he had mini birthday cakes and fresh coffee waiting for him, to celebrate his 30th birthday!

Feeling slightly old and with that beard he was certainly looking older (just needs the pipe and slippers now!) Chris decided that we should have the day off and relax.

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However we did need to cycle a long way still to get to the border before the 28th, so we left that day after and rejoined the highway following the G312 /G30, with a longer day in mind.

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The purple line is the Kazakh /Chinese border, 650km from Urumqi. We had 500km to go…and it was already the 23rd… We cycled with rows of trees lining the road, with the occasional blast of colour.

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As the landscape became more barren and empty, it felt as if we were cycling through no mans land, with the exception of power stations and people gathering cotton or chillies. As we cycled up a slow hill for a long time, we saw piles of red. At first I thought it was brick or some kind of stone, but as we got closer we saw it was mountains of red chillies. We cycle for mile seeing people bagging up chillies and loading them onto trucks. We nicknamed the hill, Chilli hill!

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We cycled until late and then pulled off to camp near an old mud sheep fold, in between our road and the big G30 highway in the distance. it was a great spot and we had a peaceful nights sleep.

Next day we continued and needed the help of our ipods to keep us going. The road was beginning to get monotonous and the landscape had little for us to see, so music can be a good from of escapism – thank goodness for Mumford and sons! At times we could see that there was a huge mountain range to our left and we knew it was there on our map, yet the air here is thick and foggy, hazy and seems to act like a layer of cloud. With all the coal burning power stations in this area I couldn’t decide if it was pollution or just wintery mist. Either way we couldn’t see the mountains until sunset, where the absence of light seemed to give a brief glimpse of them.

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We put in a long day and struggled to find anywhere to camp. The fields were covered in cotton plantations and every inch of land was in use. With darkness falling we pulled off anyway and had a mini argument about camping there. There was a small patch near the cotton plants, not brilliant but good enough to fit the tent. Chris loves finding great camping spots, where as I really dislike cycling in the dark and trying to find somewhere to sleep when the light and temperature is dropping away. We agreed to camp there albeit with Chris in a grumpy mood and I put up the tent whilst he cooked dinner.

Being on the road together day in day out does mean that now and again you disagree and fall out over pretty minor stuff, especially when you are tired, cold, hungry or all three! But we are pretty lucky, we rarely fall out or argue and both try hard to listen to each other and communicate – and not expect the other to be a mind reader. Of course there are days when you are feeling grumpy or fed up or impatient and we know each other pretty well, so can sense when the other person is unhappy or annoyed. Sometimes we just need a bit of space or time to ourselves, other times we need to talk, eat food or have a big hug. Most of all though, I think being kind to each other is the key.

In the morning it was cold and the sun was rising when we got up. In between the cotton plants there were large cabbages growing too

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Having arrived in the dark the night before, we now had the chance to see the cotton fields and plants up close. I have to say I haven’t really seen cotton growing before and didn’t really know much about it. This what the plants here look like…

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Having done a little research since, we found out that China is a largest producer of cotton in the world! Although most it is used domestically (in China), and the US is still the biggest exporter of cotton. We see the workers in the field picking cotton all day long starting at sunrise an finishing at dusk, it’s all done by hand and  it seems that China has an army of cotton workers!

The next day we cycled a long old day again, clocking up 90km.

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and we camped by the road again, but this time the land was sandy almost like desert – felt like the gobi again only we had a huge tarmac road nearby!  It was much colder too, the temperature was steadily dropping now as we reached the end of October.

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Getting back on the road we had a stop / start morning as Chris’s trailer was wobbling, nothing we tried seemed to fix it and it was slow going. After 75km we were losing the light again and reached a town where we found a hotel and lots of very friendly people. We had planned to do 100km and we were running out of time. Despite our efforts and long days, we still had 200km to do to reach the border and only 2 days left – including actually crossing the border. We had heard that the fines at the border could be as much as $500 so there was no way we could risk that. We decided to get up very early and try to do a really long day.

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However, after 4 days of hard cycling, our tiredness got the better of us and we slept through our various alarms, waking up at 9am!! So once again, we decided to look at hitching a ride or finding a taxi/bus to the border. It would be nice if there was a international cycle touring visa that allowed you to cycle in countries without time restrictions and cross borders without having to put your bike in a jeep or have all your bags checked twice – it feels as if we are always racing the visa deadlines!

We asked around town but the only people willing to take us wanted 1000 yuan! We cycled out for a few km and waited by the side of the road but no-one stopped. Eventually a police car came and chatted to Chris. They offered to take us to the nearest bus station where we could get a bus to the border. Another policeman met us at the station having been called by his colleagues. He spoke some English and was trying very hard to help us. He was very sweet and obviously nervous about being given this task – his hands were shaking!  He helped my buy tickets and then said goodbye. We weren’t really sure what time the bus was arriving and having asked we came back with 15 mins, 5pm or 10pm and didn’t really know which.

The first bus arrived after a few minutes and promptly told us that we couldn’t get on, no room for all the bikes and the driver was quite rude really. The second bus said no too and we were a little worried that this wouldn’t work out after all. It was 3.30pm and we just had to cross our fingers and toes. Finally another bus arrived and the driver already seemed to know about us and was friendly and helpful. We loaded the bikes and all our bags under the bus, with other passengers watching from the windows above. It all fit and we were ready. The driver asked us for more money for the bikes and luggage. It wasn’t unreasonable as we were taking up a lot of space and we had no other choice really. Once on the bus we explained what we were doing and where we were going. They agreed to drop us at the town nearest the border, about 30km east of khargos.

The bus journey went smoothly and we crossed a high mountain range with a huge lake by the side of the snowy mountains.

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and as we passed between the mountains we saw some amazing feats of engineering and architecture, with huge roads soaring over the valley below, feeling like  we were on a helter skelter, we wiggled our way through and passed through 3km tunnels before coming out a few hundred metres below.

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A few hours later we arrived at the town and unloaded our bikes, repacking them, with an ever growing crowd forming around us. Phew we made it. Travelling is funny really as you never quite know what is going to happen on any given day. One minute you are worried about how things will work out and think that it’s going to be too difficult, the next you are laughing and smiling, wondering why you had worried at all! Things generally do have a way of working themselves out you just have to keep smiling and being positive, and eventually the universe will provide :)

It was getting dark and we were too late for the border that day, but we would cross tomorrow on the last day of our visa and go to our 10th country – Kazakhstan.

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Broke in Mongolia

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

2011-09-22 003 (600x338)Having arrived at the ger camp in Jargalant, our luck began to change and the man running the place was really nice. We had a cosy ger for a cheap price and even better they had a hot pool, which would be great for our muscles.

The next day we were trying to decide what to do next, our Mongolian visa was running out in a few days and we were 800km from the border. Our plan was to cycle to Tosontsengel 90km away and arrange a van or jeep to take us the rest of he way to the border. However the man here seemed to be saying he could drive us to the next town Ik Uul for free to help us out. We asked him if he could take us to Tosontsengel (we’d pay). He didn’t want to do that but was happy to go to the next town. So we said yes. First though we needed to go to the bank in town and change our last few dollars into Tugrik as we had none left, and said we would meet him by the bank. Unfortunately the bank wouldn’t change dollars, maybe the next town…  We weren’t able to buy any food, but hoped that the next own might be better. We waited around for ages for the guy and eventually he turned up, but had a flat tyre that he needed to get fixed first. He told us to cycle on and he would catch us up. We went a few kms and then stopped to wait. And wait, and wait. It got to about 2pm and we both felt a little frustrated, we’d left the camp at 10am and gone nowhere, we would be half way there if we’d cycled. This is often the case in Mongolia – people offer to help you and then you wait around for an age, wishing that you’d just gone and done it on your own. So we sat there with no food, no money, waiting for a man or may or may not turn up!

A jeep pulled up and a Korean guy called Solomon got out, he was really nice and spoke great English. We explained that we were waiting and he sat with us a for a little bit chatting. We also asked him about ATMs and banks, explaining our predicament over having no cash. He very kindly offered to exchange our dollars, giving us some tugriks. This was a big relief as neither of us liked being in a situation where we had no money, especially when we didn’t know when we’d be able to get some.

Not long after our friend turned up in a different car, a shiny 4×4. WE quickly unloaded the bikes and got ready to out them in. The man was saying something and shaking his head… he seemed to be saying there wasn’t room for both bikes and one of us would have to cycle. We tried not to roll our eyes. Having waited all this time, the idea that one of us would now cycle was a bit ridiculous. Chris took charge and quickly convinced the guy that both bikes would fit. In the end they did and we set off. After about 25km of bumpy roads and river crossings we stopped and pulled up near a couple of gers. There were lots of people here and there seemed to be something going on. The man told us that we would get out here and cycle the rest of the way to the town, about 15km. Right. We didn’t want to be ungrateful for is help, but were a bit puzzled as to why he wasn’t going all the way – we could have cycled 25km?! But we didn’t have time to worry about it as we were soon surrounded by a large group of friendly children, and lots of photos were taken. Everyone was very nice and the man who brought us was very proud that he had brought us to meet everyone and was telling them about our trip.

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We hadn’t eaten anything and it was about 4.30pm, so we went over to one ger to see if we could buy a meal. We managed to ask for Tsiuvan and the lady agreed.

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Cooking this from scratch turned out to be yet another long wait for us, so we spent time playing with her little girl…

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watching the children practice on their horse fiddles…

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Then we got talking to the other people and we realised that there was a small wrestling festival going on, the kids were there to play.

Some of the men had a go on my bike…

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and we showed them the map with 20 people crowding round us. Mongolians really like seeing maps of their country, they are a bit of a novelty as most people navigate by the rivers, mountains and dirt tracks.

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Eventually our food was ready and we sat down to eat. Lots of people came into the ger for tea while we were eating and one family invited us to stay at their house/ger in Ik Uul. However it was late now and we planned to cycle a few km down the road and camp – it was a bit too far to the next town, and despite not having cycled anywhere that day we were both a bit exhausted, mentally after the day we’d had. So we said thank you but no and then left to waves and goodbyes.

We camped up the road, on a hill side and both agreed that we much prefer being master of our own destiny rather than at the mercy of others! Despite that the man had been very kind and helpful and we got to meet a whole group of lovely people that afternoon.

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The next day we cycled to the town, an easy ride along a lovely river with interesting rock formations and a good road. We would have a meal here and then carry on to Tosontsengel, 45km away. As we arrived into town, a scooter pulled up alongside us and we saw that it was a man and his wife from yesterday. They had been particularly friendly and were the ones who had offered us a place to stay. They now asked us if we wanted some food. We did, and not wanting to say no twice, we took them up on their offer. We then spent 3 hours with them having a lovely lunch, looking at family photos and we showed them photos on our laptop.

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They were extremely nice and it was a very genuine encounter with a Mongolian family. They made traditional dels and boots, so we tried on a couple of shirts when they asked. They lived next door to the temple and we understood that his father had been a llama /monk here. He took us to have a look around…

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Finally we said goodbye and got back on the road.

The road into town had been great, but it took a turn for the worse now and was sandy, rocky, bumpy and really hard to cycle on. It was hard going and after 10km we both decided to stop – we weren’t going to reach the next town today anyway. We found a great camp site by the river and sat down to relax.

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It wasn’t long before we were invaded by sheep and goats, who looked quite put out! Goats eat anything so we kept a close eye on them as the bolder ones got close to all our gear!

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In the morning, I poked my head out the tent door to a welcome sight, it’s not always you can wake up to such a nice view.

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Next day we reached Tosontsengel on a sandy road that made us feel like we were back in the desert.

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Reaching town was a relief and we headed straight towards the centre hoping to find a bank or ATM. The banks were closed but there was an ATM hurray! But, ‘computer says no’ the ATM didn’t want to give us any money, or anyone else either. It was either empty or broken. Great now what? We realised it was Saturday and that everything would be closed tomorrow, so we would need to wait until Monday. I was fighting back the tears. I don’t know why, but getting here was a milestone and I was hoping to get money out, stay in a hotel, charge our laptops, have a nice meal and then find a jeep. We had a little bit of money but not enough for a hotel. Chris suggested we cycle out of town and camp, then come back on Monday I wasn’t very impressed by that to be honest. We asked about getting a jeep or van to Ulaistai (200km south) and got a few shrugs and try the edge of town waves. This was not looking good.

I went into the hotel to see how much it was and then called our friend Dash in UB. I explained that we couldn’t get any money until Monday and asked if the hotel would let us stay and pay on Monday They agreed and said no problem. Phew. They were really nice at the hotel and helped us with our bags, made the beds nicely for us and brought us hot water. So long as we could get money on Monday we would be ok.

Immediately cheered up,we had a hot meal, which was really good and filling and with power for the laptops we kept busy all day Sunday. I managed to draw our route and a picture of a truck, plus us and two bikes so that we could find out about a jeep or van come Monday First though we went to the ATM. It was still not working!!!! So we went to the bank hoping we could withdraw money using our bank cards. After a tense 15 minutes and a lot of huffing from the queue of people behind us, we were finally handed some money!

All we had to do now was find a jeep and get to the border before our visas expired in 4 days time!!

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Gobi – Day 8 Reaching Sainshand (and a shower!)

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

We had a leisurely morning drinking coffee and tea and using the last of the fuel for breakfast. Despite missing Ulaan Uud, the town where we had hoped to resupply, we still had some noodles left and the water that we had got from the yurt was just enough to keep us hydrated till we reached the town. We set off mid morning, and got back on to the tarmac road and started to climb up the hill. We were glad of its safety as the track to the side was steep, narrow and very sandy. Not enough room for a bike and a truck to safely pass. We reached the top of the hill and tried to get our bearings.

Into Sainshand

There were a large group of buildings and yurts to the west and the railway line was infront of us. I was convinced that this was not the town and just the start of it. My research indicated that the place would be much bigger. Liz assured me that this was it.


We cycled on a bit further and checked our position on the phone. We were right on the outskirts of town. We cycled up the small hill and the town opened up. Much better I thought, we cycled into town and stopped at the first shop to celebrate our success with a couple of cold cokes. We were soon surrounded by locals, young and old, interested in our bikes and which direction we were going.

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We explained as best would could then waved good bye, in search of a shower and a bed. After about 15 minutes Liz had sniffed out the nicest, most expensive hotel in town. I couldn’t say no, not many girlfriends would leave home and cycle across the world, and make it half way through the Gobi desert!

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To be fair the room is lovely and it’s nice to have a desk to work at. We have been here for a few days now, catching up on the blogs and resting. The last two days there has been no power, so it has been a little frustrating. But when I reflect that we are in a city the size of my home town, that is literally surrounded by desert for miles and miles in every direction, having any power in the first place is amazing. The power is back now and we have taken a gamble to stay one more night to try and get on top of our jobs. Yes jobs, it’s not all one big holiday you know!

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The wind should be in our favour on Monday and Tuesday and we hope to make great progress to the next big town 200km away called Choyr. We hope to give you the odd Tweet or Facebook update if the mobile waves stretch across the sand, but if not then have a look back on the blog. I have posted some new blogs about my time in the mountains of Sichuan, China. Snow, ice, altitude and bears!

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Shangri-la to Batang Yunnan & Sichuan Day 8

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Morning broke again, I fired up the stove and then started brewing the coffee and making porridge. I was reckoned that I had about three days riding to Batang, but I could not be sure, my basic map had some distances on it but the last few were a little ambiguous as to where they were measuring from and to. I took the bike over the natural assault cause that surrounded the camp site and then went back for the rest of the bags. I pumped up the tyres as much as I could loaded up set off. Immediately I noticed a difference, the new tyres had not been up to pressure before and had been making hard work of the cycling. I followed the river again flanked by steep mountains that had been home for the last week. The road was still good and I spent the day on undulating roads, going up slowly and down as fast as I dared.

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I had lunch at the side of the road where some people had built up a rock shelter under the overhang of a cliff. When I arrived the place seemed brilliant, but the longer I spent investigating the place, the more the place felt bad. There was rubbish everywhere, everything from cigarette buts, bear bottles, old clothes, noodle packets, sweet wrappers a dead rabbit and the skin from a small goat or sheep. There were flies buzzing around and generally the place felt wrong. Attitude to rubbish in China is different to that in England, people don’t seem to mind dropping things anywhere, in the small towns the streets are swept at least twice a day but in areas like this the rubbish piles up. I wondered at some of the things that were discarded and pondered what their previous owners were like. Perhaps people were not as poor as I thought or maybe there were just less poor people than I expected and that many people have the luxury to throw things away rather than repair them. roadside shelter china

A short while later I met a three guys on a bike, I was filling up with water from a stream and and they stooped to wash some of their dirt of their bike and have a chat. It was a lovely brief encounter and they sped off while I saddled my bike and followed slowly. I caught them up about five minutes later. They were attacking the small box attached to the back of the bike. I stopped to see if I could help. I could not work out what they were trying to do but realised they had had some sort of crash. Eventually with a big heave the box was ripped off the bike and thrown in rage across the rode. I was a little surprised, it was only lightly damaged and I had enough spares bits in my tool bag to make an adequate fix that would last until they could get to the next big town. The older of the boys wanted to leave the metal box in the middle of the road. This was an obvious hazard to other vehicles and I wondered why he wanted to do this. Fortunately the younger boy who was probably about 10 moved the box to the side of the road. The older guy then tried to sell me some old kind of coin which I declined. Partly because I did not want or need and old coin and secondly I had taken a dislike to this guy now. They got the bike started, did a few test runs back and forth and set off again. I was taken back at the events and pondered still where along the line humans decided that it was easier to just throw something away and get a new one, than try and salvage what you have.

We parted company again and an hour or so later I met another two young lads on the bike. They were very friendly and interested in what I was doing and going and keen to have their picture taken. They seemed genuine and sort of restored my faith in humans again. I asked them where I was, I was delighted that the big bridge ahead of me was a road to Tibet which meant that I was much further north than expected and only 40kms from Batang. We said goodbye and I soon found myself at a police check point only 32kms from Batang. The police were really friendly and asked about my trip and my route. One of the policemen even brought me a bottle of fruit drink. I was slightly taken back, most of the reports I had heard about police check points this close to Tibet were bad. With my passport checked I was waved on with a smile. As I cycled on I was excited -  a town, a bed, a shower all were within my reach. It was just after 5pm but I could make it tonight. I decided I would keep going till my legs gave out, if that was before Batang then I would camp, if not great. I split the journey into three parts and guessed what I thought to be about 10km legs.

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I kept eating as much as I could to keep my energy levels up. The road was really good, smooth, only slightly up and down with not big climbs. I worked my way round the valley walls and was soon on a good downhill stretch. I motorbike passed me and I heard the guy chuckled to himself as he looked back and saw I had front as well as back light. After many pedal strokes later the valley walls opened out and I could see the lights from a town below. A wind had developed, it was circling around me sometimes helping, sometimes not but I kept pushing. Then quite unexpectedly I arrived to a junction with street lights, shops and lots of people. I had arrived. Now all I had to do was find somewhere to sleep.

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I asked about for a hotel as was pointed up one of the roads. I fielded all the hellos from the locals and a young boy of about 8 or 9 started to follow me asking where I was going. I told him that I was looking for a hotel and he pointed across the road saying it was just there. We went round the back entrance and a young guy helped me lift my bike up the steps into the hotel foyer. The young boy who had tried to help with the bike lifting then tried to lift the bike on his own. I laughed and said that he was not strong enough and suggested that he needed to do some press ups to get stronger. Without hesitation he dropped to the floor and started doing press ups. I laughed again and felt like this was going to be a good place, I just hoped it was cheap. I turned the corner on arrived at the front desk. The pricing on the wall was not promising but you never pay the advertised price so I asked what the room rate was. This is where things got confusing, different prices were being thrown about and apparently the TV did not work, that was the least of my worries. Eventually we go to see the room, a triple. As far as I could work out it was 20 for the bed and 60 for the room as three beds. As I was only one it would be 60, it was more than I wanted to pay and the room was quite shabby but it was late and I could find somewhere better tomorrow. As we left the room I asked where the showers were. I was told that there were no showers on this level but if I went up a few floor I could have a shower but it would cost over 100 Yen. I tried to explain that I was pretty smelly and needed a wash. This was not met with much help so I went back downstairs, thanked them all the same and went in search of a cheaper hotel. I found the other big Hotel, did not even bother going in as it looked nicer than the last one and continued asking for a cheap hotel.

Eventually at the other end of town I found a small hotel I got a room for 40 Yen and they had hot water and a shower. I dumped the bike in the back and went to go and get food I was really hungry. On the way I met a policeman who asked me where I was staying and that he needed to register with me. I told him that my documents were back at the hotel and I was really hungry so could I eat first then sort out the paperwork later. Not a problem, he said he would come with me, he took me to a restaurant and we chatted while I ate my fried rice. He had met Margo and Ben when they had come through and spoke excellent English. We walked back to the Hotel, sorted the paperwork and I got settled in. Had a lovely hot shower and crawled into bed to watch a movie and fall asleep. The last eight days had been an amazing adventure.

cycle tourer in mountain china

loaded touring bike cycling winter shangri-la china in the snow

Photos for this ride here

All China photos here

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Shangri-la to Batang Yunnan & Sichuan Day 4

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

little helpers

The next day I had decided to have an easy morning and make the most of my accommodation. I got all my water bottles filled up and changed the tyres on the bike back to the slicks as the snow was gone. The two boys helped me with the tyres and packing up the bike and then I waved good bye. It was another good day, the road was good and the hills good as well. I arrived in a reasonable size town and stopped at a restaurant for a late lunch, for some reason the women did not seem to understand my request for fried rice. There was some meat in a glass cabinet at the front of the shop so I pointed to that and to my surprise the meat was mixed with some spices and then served cold. I got some rice and started to tuck into this interesting looking dish. After a few mouthfuls I was not sure if I could finish, the meat had something crunchy running through it. I was hungry though so ate as much as I could and left. it was a strange experience, most people in China are so friendly but here I did not feel so welcome by the staff.

hydro power china

I found some helpful people outside the shop who pointed me in the right direction and I carried on. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful apart from shouting at two young kids that were beating an animal with a piece of wood. They were very surprised by my short sharp shout and stopped. I did not stop so have no idea if they carried on, I hoped not. The rest of the day was good,  I covered more ground and by 5 o’clock I stumbled across a good bivi site. Hidden by a mound of dirt and just off the road with access to the river water. I inspected a few others site up the river but this was the best. I got my sleeping mats out and started to get dinner on the go. I sort of dozed a bit but woke up to almost cooked rice and decided that I should try and get an early start tomorrow. Only an hour or so after sun set I suddenly realised it was really dark no moon or anything. I then started to panic a bit, for some reason I felt exposed and vunerable, had someone seen me dive in ogf the road were they going to come back later and steal all my stuff or worse. The more I thought about it, the more imaginative situations I conjured up in my head. I didn’t know what was happening, I never normally have a problem with camping or biviing. I can only remember feeling like this once before in England.

I had set out for a walk late afternoon with the plan to be in one of my favourite valleys by midnight. I was still looking for a cave that was meant to be in the area. Anyway the last part of the walk, in the dark, was was over a flat more that is covered in small mounds of grass. I had not walked this way before. After a while I thought that I should have been across the moor by now and descending into the valley below. As I progressed I came to the conclusion that there were small dwarfs behind each of the little mounds of grass. They were not nice, but evil and they were leading me off the right path. Every time I though I saw one it vanished just as quick. I kept checking the compass and decided that if I was going to trust anything it would be that. As I progressed I thought this was getting a little ridiculous. So decided instead of being evil, these dwarfs were going to help me and make sure I was on the right path. A while later I reached the path that led down into the valley. I descended the path and started feeling a whole lot better. I walked half way along the valley and rolled out my bivi bag and crawled inside. Not long after I stared to have this feeling that the worst was going to happen. I eventually fell asleep and was pleased to wake up in the morning and find I was still alive and all was well, amused at how silly I had been.

I though back to this moment as I lay there, this time in China and decided short of packing up and cycling though the night there was not much I could do. The thought of packing up was less appealing so I lay there and eventually fell asleep. Around midnight I woke up and was happy to still be there and slightly encouraged as well, the moon had risen and that made me feel a hell of a lot better. I re-adjusted my pillow and fell back asleep.

tibetan house

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