Posts Tagged ‘sichuan’

Day 2 Noises in the night – Batang to Baiyu

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

I did a 360 degree sweep of the area and could see nothing, no bears not even a mouse. I stayed sill and watched and listen for 15 minutes, still nothing, I got back in the tent and eventually drifted off to sleep. I woke up again at 2.30 feeling cold, the sides of the tent were frozen, it was colder than I thought, I pulled out the other sleeping bag and soon fall back asleep. The 6am alarm went off and I felt like had not slept at all. I switched it off drifted back into dream world. I woke up again at 9am and decided it was really time to get up. I packed up had breakfast and instant coffee, still no real coffee found. I ran out a week ago. I pushed the bike up to the road and cycled back the way I had come to the junction. I had already asked another guy that morning and he had confirmed it was the right way. It was a steep climb and the road was in bad shape, initially I was doing ok, cycle about 10m stop catch my breath and carry on.  This was a good bit of road.Bad road


Then I got really steep and I had to push for a bit, luckily this only lasted a few hundred meters and I was soon back in the saddle puffing and panting as I climbed up the hill. I only passed a few people and when I could, I asked them if I was still on tracked. All seemed to be going OK until I reached a high point and started to descend. This was not in my route description. With no one to ask I kept on going. I stopped for lunch at 2pm having had a late breakfast. I managed to get a GPS location from the phone and found that one of my maps had latitude and longitude on the side. I plotted my position and was slightly relived that I was on the right road. However three seemed to by a lot more roads around than the map had and I was not 100% trusting the GPS as it was on the phone. The compass said the road ahead was north to I washed up and carried on. The road was flat now mostly, following a river. Every so often I would have to climb up a steep section and then I would be able to plod along again. I stopped at the sound of an interesting animal and looked up in the trees to see a group of monkeys. I got a glimpse of a few of them as the moved but then they were quick and soon hiding in the higher trees. I pushed on a admired a flock of birds with blue wings diving in and out of the trees and valley. I watched them as I had a break, maybe they were waiting to see if I had left any nuts or raisins behind.

Abandon huts

I pushed on leaving a few nuts for the birds and found myself by some seemingly abandon huts. It was 4.30 and the road ahead looked like it was going to climb. I decided I would set up camp here for the night and push on in the morning. Whilst I cooked dinner I pondered, I had either done the first pass, missed it by taking another road or it was still to come. All were possible but I would not know until the next day or until I arrived in BaiYu. Only one motorbike came by and it did not stop, they said hello waved and beeped their horn but that was it. As I had stopped earlier I thought I have better make good use of the time and started writing some of the blog.

camping in an abandoned hut2

While doing so a small mouse scurried from the hut under my legs. I filched and it went strait back where it came from. At least it was not a bear, still I though, best to put up the inner tent to prevent any visitors in the sleeping bag during the night. As I fell drifted of I though, I am protected from mice and bears tonight, I think. Just hope that I don’t get woken up in the middle of the night be a disgruntled or worse drunk hut owner.

Abandoned hut China, Sichuan

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Day 1 Dealing with bears and route finding – Batang to Baiyu

Monday, March 14th, 2011

On the way out of town and asked a few people the way to BaiYu just to be sure there was not a concealed road that I had missed. The ride was pretty easy with good roads. After about 23 km there was a short climb for two kms and I arrived at the first sign for BaiYu 180km, less than I though. The only problem was that I was unsure which way the sign was pointing. I asked some people that they said I must go on, the small road to the left went somewhere else, or at least I hope that’s what they said. I continued on up the hill climbing for a few more kms.

Tunnel leaving Batang

I passed through three tunnels each progressively longer. I had been asking people for the road to BaiYu but I was starting to get confused, unsure looks. After the third tunnel which was 3km long, I asked a group of people which way. They pointed in all four directions. This was not looking good, I though I had come to far and missed the turn off. I waited a bit longer and asked some more people, then to be sure waited longer and asked some more. Two votes for a left turn. I turned left onto the bumpy road and started cycling. The road was pretty desolate with no villages or people. A few motor bikes and a car passed me and I was pleased that they said that this road led to BaiYu. I arrived in a small village to shots of hello, I love you, goodbye, tashi delek. I stopped to buy a fizzy drink and everyone crowed around the bike. I said goodbye to the smiley faces and got 10m before another group of young lads asked me where I was going. I answered the usual three questions and was on my way. The road had got a little worse but it was still better than I was expecting.

 Confusing junction 2 

I reached a junction and wondered I should go up or not. I opted for the low road and a few kms later found a flat spot off the side of the road that would be home for the night. I put the rice on and while it was cooking I put the tent up. After dinner I stopped a motorbike that was passing to ask which way to BaiYu, he said it was the high road at junction I had just passed. He offered me a ride on his bike but I said I was ok, sleeping in my tent for the night. He motored off into the night and I retired to the tent. The plan was to get an early night and then an early morning. By 9pm I was tucked up in bed and trying to fall asleep. Unfortunately the thoughts of the bears crept into my head and I could not get rid of them. By 10pm I was sure there was something out there so I got out the tent armed with my camera tripod and shaking with fear to confront what was out there.

Catle on Raod 2

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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.

boat in river china

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.

road side friends china2

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.

2011-01-25 014

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 6

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I woke up at about 8am, my mountain top camp-site was still cold and the sun was a few hours of warming everything up. The tent and sleeping bag were covered in a layer of frost and ice. I had some porridge and decided that I would wait until the tent and sleeping bags were dry before I set off. It would also give me a chance to find out what was wrong with the back brake. I lay some of the wet kit out ready for the sun and sat with a coffee admiring the valley below me. There was little there apart from two or three small houses. The occupants were awake and they were starting to bring the animals out to pasture. I watched as the slowly started making their way up the hill towards me.

moutain top camp site china

I inspected my back brake and was surprised to see that one of the brake pads had actually come off. Just the rubber pad which is replaceable, not the whole block. I checked for rim damaged but everything seemed OK. I replaced the pad and gave the bike a quick check over. The sleeping bags were dry and I was just waiting on the tent. I moved it so that the side not in the sun would dry, as I was doing this a man came up near my camp-site and sat down. I finished pegging out the tent, grabbed the hot water flask and went to sit next to him. He declined the offer of tea, but took a cigarette. He did not say anything but gestured as to whether I had slept here, I told him I had and the conversation continued as to where I was going, if he was looking after the cattle and the road condition, and if there were monkeys and wolves here, apparently so. The guy must have said two words the whole conversation, I wondered if he had taken a vow of silence. We sat there for about 10 minutes sometimes not even talking or moving 2011-01-19 074

With my tea finished I started to pack up the now dry tent, the man watched, fascinated as to how the tent poles came out and then folded out and then everything packed away into its bag. With the tent down, his curiosity seemed to be satisfied and he said goodbye and went back to his cattle. I finished packing up and pushed the bike back up the steep slope to the road. Downhill all the way to the next village apparently, I was very pleased. I sat on the saddle and let the brakes go. My pleasure was soon interrupted as I discovered the road down was like the road up, really bumpy, every time I started to get some speed up, the bike would be bouncing of rocks and I would start to loose control. The only way down was going to be slow. It could always be worse I thought and it’s good training. After a short while the road flattened out and I was on a flattish plain, with nothing but the cattle to keep me company, it was a magical place, so quiet you could hear silence itself. catle grazzing tibetan plan chinaMy solitude was only disturbed by the odd passing car and a beep of the horn. One car that seemed impressed that I was where I was on the bike. The nice smiley guys took photos with me before heading up their hill in their nice 4×4. I stopped for more nuts and raisins, and readjusted some of the gear on the bike that kept coming loose with the constant jolting. The flat plain started to descend and I soon found myself snaking down a windy path into another valley below. Physically, riding was quite easy, not much pedaling involved, but mentally I was tired, constantly have to concentrate, although this soon became second nature, I was glad to reach the bottom. bad road chinaI stopped for some more nuts, it was 5pm already, it had taken me all afternoon to come down the hill. I contemplated what to do. There was still more light left and if I was lucky I could make it to the next town and find a hotel for the night. I set off, the road still slightly down hill and still very bumpy. I passed through some small settlements and thought that the village might not be far. My computer speedometer had stopped working so I had no idea how far I had come or how far it was until the next village. All of a sudden there was a big bang, pop and a high pitched hissing sound that got lower in tone very quickly. It was a familiar sound and I jumped off the bike quickly to reduce the weight on the back wheel. The back tyre was completely flat, a sharp rock or piece of metal, I had a brief look but could not find anything obvious. It didn’t really matter, I just wanted to get it changed quickly. I lent the bike on its side to save having to take all the bags off and started to change the tube. It was getting cold and I was tired, puncture chinaI worked quickly and had a new tube and on the bike in about 15 minutes. I could not find the hole in the old tube and the tyre seemed to be fine. As I was pumping up the tyre I realised I had made a silly mistake, the small nut that goes on the valve of the tube was still on and inside the rim. I took the tyre off, then the nut, then put the tyre back on and started pumping again. Just as I was about to finished in noticed a big tear in the tyre, I half cursed and half chuckled to myself, this was the longest tyre change in the history of cycling touring. I took the tyre off again, got one of the mountain bike tyres out and put that on instead. It took ages to get it on, I was really worried about the rim, but I had to force it. It popped on and I breathed a sigh of relief. It had taken me an hour just to change the tyre. I quickly packed up, put all my lights on and got out the high vis jacket. ripped tyre chinaI passed a few settlements and wondered about asking about camping, for some reason I just wanted peace so opted for carrying on. I still answered all the hello and goodbye calls but did not linger to chat. The temperature had really dropped and I was starting to shiver, I put on the last of my warm clothes and set of down the bumpy road again. I arrived in a small village where a small bridge marked a turn. I had a quick scout for a camp site but most of the area was people’s garden so no good for camping. A group of people were crowded around a small fire by the side of the road, so I went to ask for directions. I approached cautiously, it is uncommon for a hairy white guy on a bike to pass through their village. It can be unnerving when a white guy with reflective clothing and lights on his bike and head approach you in the dark. Some of you might think why bother with the reflective clothing, you are in the middle of nowhere. Well that is precisely why. Granted people walk around the road at night all the time, but it is quite easy for them to dive into a bush or something if a big truck as not seen them, that is if they get the chance to do so. Driving on these roads must be hard enough, so driving at night even harder. The more visible I am and the longer the driver has to compute that there is something about the same width as a scooter on the road and that s/he must avoid it, the better. Yes I look silly but not as silly as I would do in a box on a plane home to see Mum. Anyway I quite like my hi vis jacket I think it cool.

So I have digressed, I tend to approach with caution when I am looking like a Christmas tree. Fortunately after the initial shock and the people realised I was just another human being lost too, questions started being asked. I found out the the road the village was straight on and that it was not far. How far, not far was I don’t know but I was encouraged. We then got on to the subject of sleeping, I explained about my tent, I have a few pictures of the tent on my ipod to show people my home. I decided the village seemed friendly and so I asked I there was anywhere I could put up the tent in the village. On of the guys, said that I could sleep at his house. I was very thankful, I checked again to make sure that I had understood and was soon making my way to his in small village china

A few people from the original crowd at the side of the road helped me with my bags and a was ushered up the stairs to a large room that functioned as a kitchen and living area. I said a brief hello the the curious faces in the house then went back downstairs to get the bike. The ground floor was covered in straw and young cattle that were sleeping here for the night I presumed were coaxed out the way to make room for the bike. I thanked everyone for their help and we went back upstairs to meet the family. It was a bit of a shock for me and for them I think, the house set up was very different to anything I had seen before but it was warm, cosy and inviting. I was offered a seat and tea and then a plate of food and beer was given to me. I thanked everyone profusely. I started to explain my trip and answer questions as best I could. The family consisted of three men, one of these being the guy that had offered my a place to stay. An older women I understood to be the mother of the three men, three children and two women. I could not work out who was mother to the children, one of the women I really could not work out how old she was. I guessed she was either a young mother in her early twenties or sister to the men.

I was frustrated at my lack of ability to talk, learn and share about our lives and cultures. I did the best I could. My hosts kept encouraging me to eat and I managed to convey that one beer was plenty for me. One of the guys that was also drinking beer said that I should drink more and that he had already drunk three. I actioned that if I drank more than one I would dizzy and would not be able to cycle the next day. This seemed to be amusing as everyone laughed but they must of understood at the same time. I drank tea the rest of the night. The tea was different, rather than leaves it was hot milk and my cup was constantly refilled after every sip. Two of the tree guys wore red robes, I think that this makes them Lamas and perhaps explains why there weren’t drinking but instead were sniffing something from a small container that I presumed to be snuff. Lamas differ from priests in that they can leave the temple and are allowed to live outside it. The closer to Tibet I have got the more men and women I have seen dressed in these red robes. tibetan women

The mother of the house had some tea and it looked as though she was reading the tea leaves. She talked to me and I have no idea what she said, I just hoped that it was good news. She was a strong woman, and confident. Different to the impression that I had of the local women who often seemed a bit meek and sometimes wary of me when I pass them on the bike. Bringing up three boys must have contributed to this and where her husband was, I don’t know. So many question and so few answers. She announced that it was time for bed and a mattress was brought out for me. I prepared my sleeping bag but was stopped from putting it down. A ladle of sorts was placed in the fire and hot smoking coals were brought out of the fire. The smoke was circled around my bed and everyone seemed to approve and I was motioned to lay out my sleeping bag. With all the tea I had drunk I was desperate for the toilet. I asked where it was, outside, followed the guy that had originally taken me in and was shown to a wall in the small dirt street outside the house. I went back upstairs and the family watched me get into bed. I said good nights and thank you and when I lay my head down they seemed happy and went upstairs to sleep themselves. I took me while to get to sleep, my muscles seemed to be active still, I should have stretched. Eventually though I drifted off, I felt safe and secure and was very thankful to the family for taking me in.

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Shangri-la to Batang Yunnan & Sichuan Day 5

Monday, February 21st, 2011

I managed to get a reasonably early start and was cycling before the sun had risen over the valley walls. I passed through more small settlements and a few locals on the road. I noticed a group of guys who were standing by their bikes and I wondered if they had broken down. I slowed down and they motioned for me to stop and join them. I suddenly realised that they were in a sun spot and were warming their fingers and toes. I smiled and carried on, I had not been going that long and wanted to get at least one hours cycling done before my first break. I managed this quite easily and was soon sipping tea from my Thermos and munching handfuls of nuts and raisins. I was at the top of a small rise and the land below me was all being prepared for the next planting season. I wondered what this place would be like in the spring and summer. All I could see now were shades of grey and I wondered how anything could grow in that soil. With my musing over I carried on and within half an hour I found myself in a small village. I stocked up on a few bits and pieces but could not find any more rice to buy, the woman in the shop assured me I could get some in the next village.

monument china

I said goodbye to quite a few people that had come out to see who the hairy English guy on a bike was and carried on. The road weaved up surrounded by a few houses, the houses became less and less as I peddalled. It was not quite lunch time but there looked to be a climb ahead of me and the flat grassy plane to my left looked like and appealing lunch stop. I got out the stove and made some noodles. I lingered for a bit enjoying the sun and tried not to drink all of the small bottle of pepsi that I had got in the last shop. Eventually I packed up not quite ready for the climb ahead of me. I slowly started to climb the hill, first past a new reservoir that got smaller as I turned each of the bends. I avoid all the cattle on the roads and thanked them for not charging and spiking me with their big horns. I turned another corner, left the cattle behind and kept going up.

2011-01-19 057

The road by this point was narrow there, was only enough room for one truck at a time so I had to pull over each time a truck went past. I felt better when one of the truck drivers game a look of astonishment and bewilderment like what are you doing up here with that. The road had become increasingly difficult and I was having to push the bike where the gravel road was too loose, and I could not get enough traction to cycle up. The road kept going and when I thought that the next bend would reveal the top, I would see another few lines snaking their way up the mountain. I started counting the bends, one more bend to go, one more bend to go I would say. By the fourth bend I thought I must be at the top. It had taken me most of the afternoon and I had only been climbing for about 10km. I stopped at what I hoped was the last bend and took some photos, the view was amazing. I felt like I was on top of the world. If only could camp here I thought. I hoped that the road would turn the next corner and the summit would be just above me.

cycle tourer in mountain china

I turned on my bike lights and carried on up the hill. There was another bend then the road went straight. Much further than I had hoped, probably only 200m, but it looked so far away and I was tired by this point. I said the ‘just keep pedaling’ mantra in my head. I set myself goals and tried really hard to get to a certain rock or mound of earth by the side of the road without coming off. It worked and I got the the top in just three goes. I crested the summit that was adorned with prayer flags and was pleased to see some promising camping just near the top. My back brake had stopped working so I could not go downhill any more today. I pushed the bike a small way off the road then went to find some flat ground to camp on. It seemed colder up here so I thought the tent would be a good option for the night. I found the best spot I could, it was on a slight slope but it was late and would do for the night. I got the tent up and then crawled inside the sleeping bag. I was to tired and a little cold, but with my down jacket on and inside my sleeping bags I was starting to warm up. The thought of cooking was too much so I had some biscuits and nuts and told myself off for being naughty and not cooking and went to sleep. I had a pretty good nights sleep only waking up once for the toilet and noticing that the thermometer was reading -12, I still didn’t trust the thermometer and wondered what the actually temperature was before falling asleep again.2011-01-19 065

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