Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Week 21 Yongda to Lancang 469 km cycled

Highlights: Paddies being planted with rice, Smiley people
Low blows: Dust, Rain and cold, Haaaaaaaawwwwwwwwk
Music of the week:  Chunga's revenge - Gotan Project

Yongda   Rest Day
Had a wander round the town and dumplings for breakfast, watching 2 blokes and 2 women prepare the pork paste and veg wrapped in pastry and put it on trays before steaming. Wandered through mkt, lots of fresh veg for sale, scruffy looking live chickens, a fancy looking one with bright white feathers and a fancy fluffy bonnet.
Bought some bananas, oranges, and strawberries all which tasted very good back in my room. Fruit price is quoted by the half kilo, nanas were 20p kilo, oranges 80p kilo and I just gave her 30p for a bag of about 20 strawberries. Had lunch in a pot shop, Internet café in afternoon run by friendly woman, then had a hair cut and shampoo. In eve went to same resto as last night but theyd sold all their pot stuff so had to have a plate made up. This town reminds me a bit of La Paz in Bolivia as its set on a hillside with steep side streets going down to each level.

No idea whats going on here

Cute wedding car

Yongda to Wumulong   91km
Reasonably warm this morning. Noodles for bf,  then nice downhill and a bit of flat for the first 50km. Impressive views heading down a valley onto a plain but air a bit smelly and polluted from factories in bottom. Wasn’t looking forward to the 40km uphill, but it turned out not that bad at all, reasonable gradient and almost flat in parts. Tree lined road winding its way up through lovely terraced hillsides of golden barley. Several older hilltribe people in traditional clothes, lots of chickens and pot bellied pigs scratching about at the roadside. Stopped off every 10km for a short rest. Was very hot to start but cooled down further up. Had lunch at Yalian at 62kms into ride then carried on, most amusing trying to mime toilet to the girls in the resto..
Reached top of pass at 84kms but downhill a bit disappointing cos road all broken up so couldn’t let fly. Nearly ran over a young boy who decided to dash across road without looking, skidded and only just missed him. Road went down a beautiful narrow gorge, high rocky cliffs on either side and a stream running alongside road, then big hillside being farmed, and some of rock being quarried. Arrived into the one road town of Wumulong at km91, earlier than I expected and lucky I checked where I was or Id have continued a while further on.
Quickly found decent hotel, lovely view out the back window of terraced hillside and rocky outcrop. Wandered up through town and tried to order food in a resto but young girl didn’t have the gumption to mix beef with vegetables, so went to one next door where they did. Soon had a tasty dish of veggies on rice in front of me and chatted with local blokes sat round a table drinking cherry brandy, a small bottle in front of each bloke, they offered me some and it tasted ok too.

Downhill into the misty valley

Locals take a break


View out the back of the hotel

Wumulong to Lincang 115 km
Had noodles in shop and a bit of a ‘chat’ with people in there. Pleasant start to day on a narrow road winding through pine trees, terraced hills and past small  adobe houses with barking dogs outside. People carrying large bundles of veg/wood on their back and one woman balancing a whole banana tree on her hoe – mustve weighed a ton.
 A lot of dust whipped up from beneath trucks labouring up the hills, just what I needed to breathe! After 15kms the start of a massive 35km downhill. Very hazy in valley so not much of a view but gradually cleared and got warmer until quite hot at bottom. Half way down backed up traffic, which I passed and came to the cause of it all - a broken down truck, although everything coming other way all chocker too so no chance of merely reversing it out of the way – big tail back and still people trying to skip ahead just making blockage worse. Whistled through and carried on my meander downhill through tree plantations. Most other land dry and crops already harvested.
Hit road construction in valley bottom, a mess of dust. Stopped away from road next to river for a rest before carrying on the next 15kms of dustfest, clouds being churned up by traffic but lucky there was the traffic jam up the hill or it’d be a lot worse Im sure! Shame cos really pretty stretch meandering along the riverside with blossoming trees and craggy gorges. Hit tarmac and ate in a truckstop place, then carried on to where main road was at km72. Turned right through a tunnel and then just plodded along the new highway, surface not smooth and a bloody headwind plus feeling tired so really labourious. Also busy road and every vehicle beeping which got to be annoying. Some really small hydro plants but good they can have such a micro industry to generate power, probably not cost effective in UK. Slogged on, bum and knees aching and eventually reached Lincang – loads of new building going on here.
Asked a bloke and found an ok place 60Y. Went to eat round corner but it was one of those rip off places with plates in cellophane (I asked price when that appeared on table and told them it was too expensive, would’ve been about 30Y just for food alone). Got on bike and found a place up road, dinner and 2 beers 22Y! Don’t like feel of this town, lots of people thinking they are hip in this ‘happening’ ban nok place. What is it that cities do to people? Maybe it’s the anonymity? Dont like the place anyway.

Rural traffic

Lincang to Shuangjiang 101 km
Busy main rd to start with annoying honking of traffic and learner driver Nissan patrols with red and white stripes on, packed with students weaving about. Turned out there was a test centre along the way which explained why there’d been so many yesterday and today. After 20kms onto old road and a lot quieter and winding through pretty countryside, pine trees and terraced small hills. Stopped off in a village for a break and a bag of crisps. Noticable difference in the people, lots of people shouting hello, approaching me when stopped and kids waving and greeting me then giggling. Must have crossed some invisible social barrier, maybe a different peoples here and a pleasant change too. Climate is warmer so maybe that’s got summat to do with it?
Easy riding up gradual gradients. Herders slowly walking with water buffalo down middle or edge of road. Stopped off for lunch in a busy place. Was looking forward to big downhill which started at km58 and was great zooming along smooth tarmac through the pines, but eventually hit major consrutction of the new road so had to negotiate dusty temporary roads on hillside as they dug and moved earth for the new route. Quite funny cos instead of having orange tape with orange flags on it to signify danger, they use multi coloured flags like you’d get at a village fair, so it looks like theres been a lot of parties all over the place. Took a wrong bit of dirt track when following motorbikes and we all had to uturn. 
Eventually onto tarmaced new road and into Shuangjiang. Glad to find a place quickly as tired and getting late (6ish). Ate at pan stall then got a load of munch from supermarket and a bottle of rice wine that I think is an imitation of buffalo grass vodka as it tastes the same – I expect its just a flavouring and not the real thing, slighty nutty.
Had a few  good slugs of the rice whisky and surprised to feel room wobbling around at just after 10pm, the curtains were moving too so figured out it actually was an earth tremor. Decided to go outside where quite a few people had gathered, one man in his bathtowel!  Seems everyones scared cos of all the quake coverage from Japan. Owner said it was ok so I went back to room, but left a grab bag and bottle of water next to door in case I had to make a quick exit.

Shuangjiang to Shangyun 72 km
Turns out quake was in Myanmar, 150kms north of ChiangRai, 1 person reported dead in Thailand cos a wall fell on them. Noodles for bf then off by almost 10am (bit fuzzy headed). Road ok to start but then onto new road that hadn’t been surfaced yet. Pretty quiet traffic wise but lots of dust when vehicles passed. Impressive to see gangs hand building huge stone walls. Had to wait in a few narrow sections for diggers to move rubble / put it in trucks etc and at one place for blokes knocking rocks of cliff face. Realised the sides of my legs were being nibbled at by a load of small black flies, really itchy bites and the buggers had drawn blood too!- bit like the small yellow conero flies in Bolivia. I was first to pick my way through rubble strewn road once the all clear was given before the Wacky Races show started.
Happy to reach tarmac at police checkpoint. Coppa reakoned it was good road for rest of way but soon went from tarmac, to unsurfaced new road, to road still being cut out of cliff face. No traffic control at one long stretch (3kms) and the road just a track halfway down rubble strewn banking, everyman for themselves and the convoy of trucks coming other way was winning. A massive wall of dust as they revved along the narrow way, loaded high with massive chunks of coal. I waited in a tiny side section until a gap and then went as fast as I could onto next gap and so on till Id cleared this dangerous section. Despite having lots of diggers and eqpt about there didn’t seem to be any workers – strike? Annoyed at no traffic control and covered in dust. One bloke had walked about 1km along the way to a corner so he could tell the people in his car when it was safe for them to proceed. Carried on through the custard powder and eventually back onto a decent surface again. Hard going.
One huge valley section looked like a Japanese painting with trees clinging onto barren rock, but also a bit like a recent bombing campaign as all rock freshly exposed to its new surrounds.  Impressed at the scale of this construction but also amazing devastation. Will be beautiful when finished as lovely forested valleys full of blossoming trees.
Road started to go up a bit and away from river,  land opened out into paddies being prepared and planted. Buffalos and cows dragging ploughs or a kind of skateboard with sticks in it, (bit like a large comb), people with tufts of rice separating them and making neat rows. Stopped off in one horse town for snacks and had a pot noodle, ice cream and fake pepsi which cost same as a real pepsi and tasted like those old cola icecreams, so a bit gutted.  Asked where I was on map, woman shop owner had bad eyesight, next bloke couldn’t read, so it was the young lad sat having pop who got the job. Loads of people shouting hello along way. Pretty knackered as not had proper food, but only another 12 kms up road and at the days destination.

Taxi rank

Breakfast - the one in the middle tastes like spaggy bog

First part of a long day of construction

Men high up the cliff knock down huge boulders with crowbars

Every man for himself (biggest vehicle wins)

Through the worst of it

Bottoms up

Preparing paddies for planting

Shangyun to Zhutang     60km
Woke in night to truck garage behind gh trying to fix a gearbox at 1:30. Noticed it was raining too so brought washing but it was already wet from rain. Mozzy also buzzing me and nibbling so put net up.
Struggle to get up, don’t think Ill drink that rice whisky anymore. Had noodles across road, lubed up bike and set off just before 10. Just out of town road was under construction, redirected on the old cobbled road for a bit, but I could see the tarmaced new road below so decided that would be a better way as long as it didn’t suddenly end, so dropped down onto it at next small workers track that came up.
A good move, easy going and no traffic to harass me, plus really didn’t fancy riding on cobbles. Road smooth for a while, then dirt and around sections where bridges were being built there was a detour road. Last nights rain had made these detour areas into muddy bogs, which were especially bad where a depot of some kind had heavy plant going in and out and churning the thick orange clay and silt up. Earth mover had to shove a stuck truck out of one section.
Amazing to see it all under construction, especially the shoring up of the hillsides – some massive sections having steel cable pushed into hillside by a machine and then large squares being wired together by hand before being cemented together into connected columns and rows, quite a feat of manpower and must be so expensive to do – I doubt the west could afford to build roads like this as the construction is epic. Carried on up up up, gorgeous views over valley and people plating rice in paddies below.
Sky starting to darken and wind whipping up. Nearing the top and cloud gusting across road with cold wind. Into tea plantations, sky jet black and hard to see in murky gloom. Threateneing to rain. Road ended so pushed bike up through a small settlement and was right on top of hill when massive drops began to fall, dashed under roof of nearby shop as did everyone else around and several people coming in off of tea plantations with umbrellas and plastic macs.
Wouldve been a good place to shelter except there was a really drunk guy who of course wanted to be my friend and show off to everyone else in there. Really loud and in my face and annoying. Trying to get me to drink booze then forcing fags on me and then a bottle of beer. I was really hungry, thirsty and was out of water so last thing I need is this. Also v cold despite changing into polyester top and fleece.
Thunder, lightening and low cloud-like fog, rain hurtling down. Rain lightened a bit after 30 mins and I was getting sick of the bloke mauling me so good motivation to head off. Got rain jacket on and left, but still raining hard and v cold (steam from breath) and 10m visibility. Slowly made my way down sludgy track following temp signage although lots of criss cross tracks not making things easy. A workshop appeared out of the cloud so asked bloke in there and he pointed me in right direction. Soon on tarmac and out of cloud, still raining tho and cold. Heading downhill, soaked, all workers snug in their tents round fires and swigging tea. Plantation workers picking tea though, wrapped in plastic sacks, they must be freezing! Carried on down, through sludge at points, but started pushing bike over bridges that were still being wired cos the cranes go on them to lay the huge concrete sections so safe enough for me to cross. Worried about getting punctures from sharp wire so cautious.
Past cranes lowering in concrete sections onto bridges. Eventually stopped raining and sun came out, hurrah. Arrived at bottom of valley and onto normal road, glad Id been on new road despite my adventure cos a lot of traffic and that would’ve made it unbearable I think. Ate in a shack up the road and then carried on. Decent road in parts, but still some under construction. Chain unhappy to be covered in grit and mud, and sounding bad. Fed up. Odometer packed up too, probably cos of rain. Kept going up, lots of workers giving me thumbs up. Plod plod, trying to dry stuff out a bit from handlebar bag as drenched. Some bloke had bagsied a small hillock to make his workmans shelter on, quite funny to see.
Road eventually leveled off and in an area with limestone hilly outcrops. Arrived town of Zhutan 6:30 ish. Found gh under renovation, room ok and only 40k although only had a flannel sized hand towel available. Sprayed off mud on bike and bags, then warmed up in the hot shower. Ate tasty dinner (pricey at 20k) while it rained. Cold here. Thought itd be a nice quiet room but theres a peasants shack in the allotment behind with Tv a blaring; thankfully they went to bed at 10.
Shoring up the hillside

Epic scale construction

The storm cometh

Out the other side- not impressed!

Best little shack on site

Zhutang to Lancang   30 km
Still raining in morning, although not too heavy. Went and found a shop for limited snacks and had 2 bowls of noodles as feeling hungry and cold. Decided not to head further into mtns reasoning that the views wouldn’t be up to much, itll be colder and the weather is likely to be worse if yesterdays mtn experience was anything to go by! Decided to head to Lancang just up the road. Set off 10am in fleece and raincoat along good road.
Rain eased up and eventually stopped. Initial uphill – 2 dogs attacking me so stopped and threw stones, then long downhill giving me plenty of spray off my tyres into my face if going too fast. Had a stretch along old road, really pretty windy section with blossoming trees and through villages. Turn off to Lancang, followed a road soon busy with local traffic into town. Had a look at a grotty place – room not cleaned yet but why anyone would want to leave it in that state is weird – filth all over floor, cigarette buts and crap everywhere.  Found a decent one up road with friendly staff and clean rooms for 50Y.
Sunday is mkt day so had a wander round after lunch. Sunday for locals means getting drunk and shagging in short time hotels, as well as shopping at the mkt. Mainly fruit and veg, but also hundreds of baby chicks and yellow ducklings all chirping away, cake stalls of which I got a massive lump for 3Y and ate the lot. People finding me amusing to look at with my shorts and sandals on. Hot sun came out in afternoon – nice!
Went on internet, found a supermkt and bought lots of crap to eat (including more cake), and slobbed out. This town has to have the most uneven pavements anywhere, almost every single tile is out and because it’s been wet they squirt water up when you tread on them.
Pumpkins weren't a favourite at today's market

A Bong for all occasions

Week 20 Longchuan to Yongda 472 kms cycled

Highlights: Hospitable locals, strawberries, downhills
Low blows: Pump stolen, nasty accommodation
Music of the week: Stevie Wonder – Everything is alright

Longchuan to Ruili  30km
Chilly start to day. Wanted to buy a papaya from mkt, but expensive so got dumplings instead and took them back to warmth of room to eat them and drink tea while the sun warmed the day outside.
 A bit of flat then pretty much 15kms uphill, which was ok but tedious. Eventually got to top and then big downhill before arriving in Ruili less than 2 hours later. Rattan palm lined avenues and lots of stuff for sale – phones and shiny things. Found a nice hotel for 50Y then went and ate before having a wander about.
Went down to mkt, the meat section pretty grim, but also had a live section with chickens, geese and further along scared snarling dogs in small cages. A few boiled dog carcass lying around, lovely. Wandered through fish section and onto veg then normal stuff. Lots of traders fast asleep as now afternoon. Bought a cup of fresh blended soy beans, which wasn’t that great, a bag of green tea and some juicy oranges. Later went up to jade mkt, lots of shops selling jade in various colours, shades and forms. Bought some betel nut to munch on way back to room.

Later went to internet café, passive smoking de rigour here. Went out on bike to find a resto at night and eventually found a street full. Asked girl price of my dish and she said 15, so I said ok. Plastic wrapped plates came out so sent that away. Food came, I ate it but when I went to pay the price had somehow changed to 27. Talked with woman owner but she got all eggy. They made a big show outside, but I stuck to my guns and eventually agreed to pay 20. Fancied some beer but only 3.3 per cent stuff around, or Budweiser so decided not to bother. Lots of Burmese around the town.

Slice of dog anyone?

Nap time at the fish stall

Who needs green fingers when youve got plastic

More gastronomic treats (yes, the turtles ARE dead)

Ruili  40km
Did some laundry and stuck it on roof to dry. Had ravioli for bf then went for a spin around countryside, once off main road followed a quiet tree lined road through farmland, tobacco and loads of other stuff in production including a pine tree nursery. Back to gh by lunch.

Found a pot stall and ate there before going to another wholesale mkt area for clothes but which also had huge carvings from wood or stone. Some of the work not bad but mainly just ostentatious ‘look how rich I am’ type stuff. Not much style to it. Internet café in pm, someone nicked the pump off my bike while I was in there too, so had to get a new one from supermkt next to gh for 3 quid. Ate in cheap pot shop for tea and had a small tin cup of rice whisky, which burnt my lips but didn’t have that much of an effect for the amount I drank.

Load of bull, one of the better carvings on offer

Ruili to Mangshi  96km
Overcast all day. Busy road with lots of trucks and cars, some passing within a whisker of me despite having the dayglo thing on the bag. Mainly uphill and a boring ride. Came upon a long tail back halfway. A mobile crane had got too close to a car in front and smashed it rear window, looks like they had stopped in road and then a truck had run into back of the crane. Not a mark on crane but the trucks front end was mashed into a thin section, steering wheel folded and cab destroyed – driver mustve been killed. Police directing traffic.
Got to top of hill and then a 9km downhill spoiled by all the vehicles that had been waiting in queue now going past and playing wacky races with each other. Surprised there weren’t anymore crashes with blind bend overtaking. Lorries incessant honking a real drag.
Ate at small pot stall for lunch. Weather quite cold and threatening to rain. Flowering privit hedges lining the road for miles. Black soot in my nose from all today’s diesel smoke. Arrived Mangshi 4ish. Found a place just as it started to rain. Nice room for 60k. Once rain slowed wandered for ages until I found a place to eat. Quite cold now, got my tracksters and red jacket on much to amusement of local people as looks a bit odd. I’m warm and dry so don’t care.

Danger lurks around every corner

Mangshi to  Longxin  55km
Overcast nearly all day and cold. Ate noodles round corner from hotel, established there wasn’t a short cut through mtns (to knowledge of hotel staff anyway) and set off about 10. Uphill all way - very busy road lots of trucks and not wide either so didn’t enjoy it. Back tyre squidgy too. After police check at top of hill (looking for heroin from Myanmar) stopped off for lunch in Longling and got tyre pumped up before carrying on for more uphill.
Latched onto a few tok toks and trucks as found it hard going. Eventually reached turn off and lovely quiet road winding through terraced farmland. Lots of spuds being grown. Many encampments of tents quarrying away at the river bed, extracting the giant off-yellow stones/pebbles that are sold in Ruili and displaying them for sale at the roadside. Big pot works too.
Carried on to Longxin and stopped at post office to ask where a place to stay was. Bloke in there really helpful, he sat me down and called a few places but all full, he eventually turned up with a few English teachers and we sat round back of post office while they and a bunch of people decided what to do with me. Policeman checked my passport and they kept me entertained till they found a place round the corner, very dingy wooden room upstairs in a restaurant but right enough – not like I can complain is it! Cost 30Y.
Put my stuff in and then ate some food before being taken on a tour of town to local school, police station and then to a lake outside of town by bloke from PO and his friend, a policewoman. We took a bamboo raft across the reservoir (water very low at this time of year) to a small island. All terraced hills around here in full agricultural production. Blokes on rafts go fishing in day too. I jumped off raft first and ended up ankle deep in mud! Washed it off. We climbed to top of small hill for a view, we had a good laff.
Back into town. I ate again and then we chatted and drank tea around a bowl of glowing coals for a while as now cold. Went to bed 9:30. Once again impressed by local hospitality. I know they possibly didn’t want to, but when Chinese decide to be hospitable they are superb. Best reception that Ive had anywhere, ever;  which says a lot.

On the road

Upland farming

English teachers to the rescue

Beautiful view - Potatoes!!!

Guo Hao and Lin Yan Bo, my hosts for the afternoon

Longxin to MangNuo  85km
13km out town downhill along river. The yellow stones of all shapes and sizes being quarried far down in river below then cleaned, polished and for sale at roadside- wonder what type of rock they are? Must be worth a lot as some huge efforts at excavations going on even diverting bits of river pumping out the pool and then getting at it with large eqpt.
Specks of silica in road looked like shiny glass. Great downhill, cold. Asked directions a few times at splits in road. A couple of small hydro power stations along the way. Road eventually degenerating into dust/dirt and then an annoying cobbled section. Tried to keep to the sandy edges wherever possible but a real pain even for the brief 15km stretch I was on.
Lots of flowering trees, lovely scenery but quite hot. Hungry and thirsty. Eventually arrived on tarmac for last 18km into Mangnuo, big factory, a lot of glass on road in town. Had noodles on arrival as starving. Terrible choice of accommodation, looked at a few crappy overpriced places and ended up in a real dump but 40k so ok - chose it cos got a good feeling from  woman whose really nice -all other places just lazy teenagers. Cracked bath and buggered bog. Room Id originally picked was quiet but had no power, so moved to one overlooking the towns roundabout so bound to be noisy, it’ll have to do. Karaoke wailing at night directly across road so watched movie till 11, then covered my head with pillow and it didn’t seem to go on too late.


Inner courtyard and dining section of my accomodation

Mr Bean's motor, Chinese style

Mangnuo to Mangbeng  67km
Up at 8. Slept pretty well. Hadnt caught Aids from dirty room. Ate bf downstairs, then set off.  Flat and a bit of a hill to start, groups cutting sugar cane in fields with an over see-er, cows and bulls tied to trees  at roadside munching on cane stalks and waiting for a load to be ready to carry in their saddle bags, or pull a cart. Some really beautiful countryside.
Downhill and crossed river on a bridge then started 25km climb. Large stream tumbling down rocky channel. Lots of flowers in bloom, trees in particular, every inch of terracable land in production, lots of autumnal colours, browns, golds, yellows, pine trees mixed with deciduous and clumps of bamboo. Head wind channeled down gorge onto me so tough going in parts, leaves on bamboo rustling, legs tired.
Eventually got near top and had bag of crisps and some more dates Id been munching on all morning. Nearly broken my teeth twice, yesterday there was a small stone in the dried raisins I was snacking on and today my pitted dates weren’t as pitted as they should have been. Over top and start of a downhill. Found a small resto to eat in in a village so had a big feed and then set off, downhill/flat pretty much all the way and stunning scenery, massive hills to one side, lots of smaller hills in middle and sweeping into plain below, really beautiful and so happy to be cycling amongst it all. Eventually onto plain, golden barley being harvested, some green and some beautiful lilac coloured flowers in some fields amongst the golds and yellows of other crops. Been saying hello to people Ive passed all day and the only real response I got was from a bloke humping huge bags of freshly tractored grain who grinned cheek to cheek when I said hello. Most of Chinese just sit their impassively. Even the kids don’t say anything, such a contrast to Laos, or Thai kids.
Small town but found a really nice place to stay first try – 60k all mod cons. Nowt in town, had a small dinner as still full from late lunch.
The preferred, 2 wheeled option

First of the day's lovely scenery

Looking back down a long uphill section

Another cracking view

The best scene of the day

Mangbeng to Yongda   89km
Misty morning. Got take away dumplings and freshly fried crinkle cut chips for bf, ate them back in the room while waiting for morning to warm up. News on TV very repetitive, all waffle. I was annoyed at a report that Japanese people haven’t returned to normal-  ie going shopping, Im sure that’s the last thing on people’s minds right now with thousands dead,  homeless and nuclear radiation leaks– ooh think Ill do a bit of shopping!
Set off 9:30. Easy downhill along a river and down a lovely forested gorge, blossoming trees and singing birds. Had to show passport at police checkpoint at valley bottom so got changed into warm weather clothes while I waited. Then start of a 40km uphill.
Had lunch in town on way up and got a take away too for later on. Road pretty good surface all way winding its way up the valley, tree-lined all way so not too hot and lots of vegetation and farming on the terraced hills. Stopped off every 10kms for a rest. The first 20km was ok but started to feel knackered after that and just slogged it out. 10kms before pass there was a bit of a downhill and along through a village which was a welcome respite before final effort to top along a not too steep gradient that was much more do-able. Several tombs set into fields on hillside – cyclists who didnt make it perhaps? J A group of about 7 beautiful blue birds in a tree and flew across road and into bushes down banking, very long tales which they fanned out when landing in trees, wide at body end and thinning out to a taper at tip of tail, vivid blue with brilliant white zigzag edging, very impressive. Bit like a kite. Must be mating season as have seen lots of birds along the way for the whole trip, lots of wagtails esp.
Made it to top of pass and ate my take away. Tea plantation in neat rows, a group of giggly women just finishing work and walking along track. View into valley with Yongda far below. Had a good rest then started downhill, road winding its way down through pines and round contoured hills which were a patchwork of browns greens and oranges. Road knackered half way and to bottom so my 26km downhill reward not so sweet as avoiding huge potholes. Passed a lot of stone masons whose designs were the best Ive seen so far, bit more artistic style to them. Big circular saw blades cutting into huge slabs of stone.
Ended up on a brand new wide section of road leading to the town, pity they’d not spent a bit of this cash on the knackered bit futher up. Yongde set on a steep hillside so up a big hill to 1st hotel. Had a look at some rooms and tried to get young girls to let me have em for 60Y per night but they wouldnt budge, so found a place up road instead, better rooms and only 50Y after haggling. Mustve been first foreigner to ever stay here cos 6 police arrived and made me wait about an hour while they typed in my details to hotels computer. Was asked what I was doing here and why I came here etc so got map out and talked about my bike trip. Pain in arse cos Im knackered and all I wanted to do was have a shower and relax, lucky Id eaten earlier too. Sat and waited for them to finish then was taken to my room. During the time theyd been putting my details into computer, the room Id picked had been given to someone else, but this one was better as it was huge and had a mahjong table in it in a kind of lounge corner bit, almost a suite! Wandered up road and found a pot place to eat and had a beer, before back to room and bed.

Shady lane keeps the sun at bay

Pleasant distraction en route

Tea pickers make their way home, Yongde far in the distance below

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Week 19 Kunming to Longchuan 354 kms cycled

Highlights: Chinese food, scenery, lovely people, great roads, potatoes!

Low blows: Some really BAD public toilets
Music of the week: Henry the Great – Jackie Mittoo

­Had a greasy bowl of fried veg and beef with egg on top for bf, while teaching the 2 kids in the resto English. Spent the day on foot in search of outdoor shops all of which were expensive. Bought a long sleeve top in the end for a tenner. Sunscreen is a rip off -5 quid for 75ml. Got a map in Chinese for Yunan province too. Sunday is beggars day – loads all over the place. Lots of people going to the zoo, temples and park. Trees blossoming. Watched as people threw bread to hundreds of red beaked gulls in the park, old men flew kites high in the sky using pro kite flying wheels that let out the string/ wound it in, pedalo’s bobbing round the lake. Groups of people dancing in ethnic costume and one group of old ladies did a fan dance just for me, music pumping from a battered cassette player as they danced and twirled a red fan in unison. Delightful to see people just doing their thing. Had a sit down and a beer. Very calm, orderly and relaxed feel to the place. Atm in bank worked first time. There is a large police presence here, mainly for traffic on each corner and they also have officials with yellow flags and whistles that make sure people obey the traffic lights.
One woman and friend with her small baby. Baby didn’t want to walk so mom said  (in Chinese) ok you can stay here and she let the child sit on a brick wall, the baby just waved and said bye bye, which was hilarious. A bit of commotion going on on a trendy street as a girl marched past with a baseball bat and wacked a tramp bloke with it. He then wobbled after her and she and her crowd ran off. He’d done something in one of the shops further up the road, seemed a bit harsh mind.  Public toilets on 2nd floor of some buildings which I found strange and restos don’t have toilets inside. Not many people spitting either, tends to be the older ones that have a good hawk up.
Ate in same resto as last night, pork with egg and mushrooms – I drew pictures of each item to make sure I was ordering the correct thing which they thought was very funny. Quite cold in evening. Amusing to watch a blokes big white dog attempting to hump him as they walked along the street. It kept jumping up behind him and latching on, shop keepers were laughing too. 

Its considered good luck to feed bread these red beaked gulls in the local park

Ladies doing a fan dance

Pro kite flyers compete with each other

Slept badly. Everyone in room snoring . tried rockin bed to shut bloke below me up and was driven to wacking him with my pillow at one point  to get a result. Fed up so got up at 7 and went on internet for a bit in quiet lounge. Ate tiny omelet and coffee from hostel – most disappointing. In morning went and bought fleece from Carrefour - 3 quid, funny cos no one was paying any attention to the bin until I started rooting through it and it created quite a throng of bargain hunters. Might just have been cos it was bloody cold this morning – woolly hat is on!.
Had a ride round the old bit of Kunming. Looks like these few remaining streets have been earmarked for demolition and rebuilding in old style. Looks good what they’ve done, but you cant re-create higgledy piggledy houses with grass growing out of the gutters. Im still astounded that you can replace an entire city with new buildings and expand further too. Had a look in sports shops next door to hostel and got some tracky bottoms for 10 quid – just what I need too! Went to Walmart later for  toothpaste, cakes, and snacks, a whole 50 meter section of pick n mix sweets to be weighed and massive bins full of peanut brittle and other sweet treats.

 Wardens keep the traffic running smoothly 

A new 'old' building and an old soon to be new building (background) 

Open back trousers -handy for people with the runs, or kids during potty training

Kunming to Baoshan by bus
Last night turned out to be a total snorefest. New people were in the room. An old man had been wandering around the hostel earlier with a hanky on his head to keep warm. Turned out he was in my room. Id gone to bed about 10ish. He arrived 11:30 announcing his prescence with a rasping fart. Then he proceeded to go to the bathroom, but instead of taking all his stuff with him he made 3 separate journeys, taking one item at a time. Old bloke put his head on pillow and proceeded to make death rattle noises and deep snoring all night. At 1:30am went to reception and asked if I could sleep in lounge which they said ok. Slept fine after that. Guess Im not cut out for dorms.
Up at 7, went over to buffet in hotel across road 16Yuan (80baht) for an all you can eat/drink buffet. Amusing to see the Chinese all scrumming in to get what they want  (theyd do well at an English jumble sale) plates piled high, and they left half of it too. Such a waste. Ate my fill then headed off to Western bus station about an hour away. Despite having a cavernous hold the driver wanted to know if I could take the wheels off and turn handlebars sideways. I just smiled and pointed to the massive empty space which my bike eventually went into using bikelock and bungee cord to hold it upright. Boarded bus which left for Baoshan in 10 mins time, expensive at 207RMB (10=1pound). Dying for a pee but had to wait for them to unlock the bog, which was relocked when Id done – probably gets trashed if they leave it open. Hostess gave us some French bread buns (actually cake) and bottle of water. Buses only stop was Baoshan so quick going. Left 9:30 and arrived 4:30. Scenery just greens and yellows of crops in valley bottoms/plains, and dry stunted pine trees, shrubs and grass on the hills. Mud brick Chinese houses with roofs that fanned out at the ends, coloured faded wooden house fronts with balcony and lots if windows. Outer walls whitewashed and painted with decorative picture or something like a crest in each village. In the area famous for dinosaur relics loads of dinosaurs on sides of houses, in a mushroom growing area mushrooms, even had mushroom shaped water towers up on the hill.
Stopped off for lunch and was told we only had 20 mins so wolfed it down but actually had about 40 mins. Id sat at a table and tried to order food but wasn’t having much luck till I noticed a young bloke eating from a tray. He guided me to buy a Styrofoam tray of rice and whatever I wanted on it – veg, pork in sauce and beansprouts – very tasty. 
The compartment where Id put my bike was open and full of boxes of live chickens all chirping away, the driver was giving them some air and left the door propped open with a trapped plastic water bottle when we set off after lunch. Some pretty big hills but massive mtns and gorges after Dali, hydro power being harnessed from river. Expressway going high up the hillsides and through tunnels. On the bus, entertainment included several Hollywood explosion action movies and an amusing Jackie Chan film in Chinese. Arrived Baoshan, at new bus staion so took a while to get my bearings.) Looked at a 30Y place – too grotty. Cycled up road and found another, very nice rooms thought Id got a bargain at 50Y until girl said it was 50Y room charge plus 50Y rent, although it took a good 20 mins to figure out what she was on about. Further probing revealed they had room with no bathroom for 50Y. Shared bathrooms grotty, but at least have hot shower with 2 huge mixer taps. No snoring tonight (I suspect tv noise will pervade instead). Tried to get girl on reception to suggest a cheap restaurant but she wrote something on a piece of paper which no one could understand when I showed them so just went for a spin and found my own place. Plenty of shops and allsorts here and not the dusty backwater I was expecting. Had a ride about, smoke and bits of ash falling from nearby incinerators. Moved rooms before I went to bed as neighbours got telly on cranked up to 11. Slept well after that.

A small part of on-going construction in Kunming

Baoshan to Tengchong 83kms by bike, rest by bus
Up at 7, shower then went and had a look at a Ming dynasty (1386 -1644) pavilion, although could’ve been made 10 years ago by the look of it. Cycled over to a small lake with pagoda too then off to find bf. Not much open, some shops around mkt area but meat looked nasty, just shreds of fat. Headed up to where I ate last night and found an ok looking noodle shop. Not so full so had steamed pork dumplings across road too and took 5 away that I couldn’t manage. Handed key back and discovered that you get a deposit back for the room! That’s what all the weirdness was yesterday, why she couldn’t mime it to me I don’t know. Got 20Y back. Laughed. The really nice room would’ve been 50 after all! Ah well saved 2 quid.
Lots of building going on here too and a helicopter transporting stuff about, road busy with trucks and buses but soon eased off as got out of town. Really good road with smooth tarmac, gradual gradients, and hardly any traffic. Easy to ride on despite going up big hills. Passed a large hill covered in tombs facing East and lots of stone mason workshops lining the road with examples of their handy work. Hitched a ride on a few tok toks transporting huge slabs of marble type stone, just grabbed the back and let them pull me up steeper sections. Farming on terraced land, patchworks of colour browns, clay yellows and reds from the soil, various shades of green from crops, and fields of barley going from green to yellows through to golden brown. Pine trees on hill sides. Some big downhills, farmers walking up slowly behind a few cows and buffalo. A small white car newly crashed, probably took corner too fast and weaved. Its occupants squatted like birds in a line and smoking cigs.  Farmers boiling vast pots of barley? Lovely smell wafting across road from time to time.
Had taken a photo earlier of traffic sign so knew the figures for Tengchong. Halfway down a long down hill there was a turn off. Stopped and looked at map, Tengchong was straight on so carroed on down to valley bottom. Express way on stilts high up other side of mtn. Stopped for lunch and chatted with woman and 2 blokes using phrasebook. I thought Id ordered meat mixed with veg, but got 2 separate plates so cost me 20Y. Drank plenty io tea. Tasty though. Had a good rest then carried on. Toilet across the way rank and stinking full of half dry turds.
Been filling up water bottle from restos along the way where they always have a ready supply of hot water in a flask. Water bottle goes all rubbery though and have to wait for it to cool down. At least its safe to drink. Bottomed out in valley. Warm here and roadside mkt selling huge papayas, neatly presented in cloth cushioned baskets, also bananas and some sour apple type fruits. Road busy now and people causing blocks by stopping to by fruit.
Start of a long uphill section, but gradient cyclable. A lot of trucks on this road. Up, up, up. Looking for a place to stop but only passed 2 truck stop places and reakon they’ll be summat further on. Only 4pm so have plenty of time before dark (7:30). Carried on up here for next few hours. Starting to feel knackered. At 80kms stopped at a toll booth and asked if there was anywhere to stay around here.  Young woman spoke a bit of English and came out of booth to help me. She said another 40kms along or 35kms back where Id come. Ah! The road onward was still heading into mtns and I realized my Odometer clock is set to thai time (1hour behind) so now actually 6pm. Didn’t fancy being stuck in mtns in dark! Woman said a bus would be here in 5 mins. Decided to take bus. She and her mate haggled with driver for me and I thanked them. It was only a little bus so bike ended up in the aisle which freaked everone out at first but they soon got used to the idea.
Gutted cos scenery for next 20kms uphill was beautiful and down other side too. Think we passed a few truck stop places but not sure. Probably wouldn’t have made it before dark anyway. Got to Tengchong. Got my bearing from hotel staff near bus station then found a place up the road. Really nice room 50Y and friendly staff. Showered. Now 9pm.  Went to eat at place theyd suggested across road but they wanted 20Y a plate. Went back to gh nd girl accompanied me and got me a plate for 12 instead after Id show her menu Id photographed from Kunming and everything on it being 12Y.

Ealry morning in Baoshan's park

Complex corner piece of a new roof

Boot hill

Ill take the old low road - new expressway up on the hillside

Set off to visit Heshun village a few kms out of town. Had dumplings with a delicious dipping sauce and rice water soup for breakfast along the way. Village set on a hill at edge of fields and quite a draw card for Chinese tourists of which there were several bus loads, Wandered around the town up and down quiet lanes and along the lakeside. A lot of construction/reconstruction going on here, stone masons chipping away at volcanic rock, carpenters slotting together complex designs, and some bog standard breeze block and cement jobs going up too. Lots of original old buildings too, some over 100years old. Outer walls often volcanic rock base then mud bricks higher up. Large wooden doors opened to reveal inner courtyards full of blossoming flowers, birdcages, washing etc and wooden fronted rooms inside. Had a nosy in a few including a quaint gh where some Chinese tourists were staying – had a chat with them.
Funny to see a bunch of army blokes of mixed ages all wandering round sightseeing in full camo uniforms and photographing everything. Had lunch back in town and chatted with some really friendly girls who worked there. Decided to head to the Spa 12kms down the road. Ok at first but they were upgrading the road so all the down hill section was very dusty, especially on ungraded bit where I was stuck behind a convoy of busses shipping people into the spa. Got there covered in dust only to discover the entrance fee was a massive 265Y!!! What? Talked for a long while with ticket people who then revealed there was a less swanky spa down the hill but it still cost 80Y. Really not bothered at that price, plus tons of Chinese all heading in there so it would be packed. Back uphill into town. Wouldve been a nice ride except for the dustbath, Showered then went in search of internet. Found a place just up road but girl running it was rude and wouldn’t help me, just huffing and puffing as if she couldn’t summon the energy to spend 2 mins to explain. A guy in there explained that you needed an ID card to go on internet in China, and suggested I try a bit further up road. Girl in next place was normal and went to trouble of looking through a wallet full of different IDs (probably left behind in shop) and logging me on. Several people smoking in the shop. After internet went to find food. Picked a busy resto but woman didn’t want owt to do with me. Strange cos most other restos staff have had the brains and manners to figure out that if I point to pork and veg then that’s what I wanna eat. Again 10 mins wasted on avoidance rather than 5 on solutions. Left there and found another place more than willing to help. Had pork and aubergine but so much oil which had soaked into veg probably caused Brent crude prices to dip. Also there was a charge for the ‘fancy’ bowl and plate as it came wrapped in plastic. Just paid as couldn’t be arsed.

Inside Heshun village

Around Heshun village

Inner coutyard to one of the homes

Fancy inner courtyard of a hotel

Old mud brick wall

Stone mason working on a new building

View looking out over the towns entrance

Lovely people in a small food shop

Tengchong  Volcanic area 89km
Plan was to visit volcanoes 22km out of town and then head off after lunch. The way was mostly uphill so my plan didn’t look likely by time I got there at 10:30. Impressed at the new road which was lined in one section with wind and solar powered lighting. Also had a massive bike lane although it could’ve done with a sweep. Some huge construction about to commence of Tengchong future city just outside of town, malls, homes, etc etc.
Arrived town of Mazhan, road leading to site under renovation. A lot of shops being done up and attractive lava tiles and curbstones being put in place. 40Y entrance with most people heading up to either the big or little empty volcano. I opted for the big one. 1km walk up to base and then up some steps to the top. Not much to see from there but a walk through the pine trees at top revealed an impressive view round the other side, a sight few people bothered to see. Back down and not very impressed but after chatting with ticket people they said there was a road that lead to another part of the park. Popped back into town for some food and water and as the old woman who ran the shop couldn’t get it together to mix mushrooms mange tout and cabbage together, I was invited to sit with a group of 20 somethings from Tengchong. Turned out they worked at the toll booth up the road (strange that the toll people are so friendly and helpful! Maybe all the exhaust fumes? J) Chatted and ate with them before they had to go back to work -they paid too. Very kind.
Took the first road to the right after coming away from the ticket booth and there was a brand new smooth tarmac road that led me round the back of the big volcano and then a cracking down hill for most of the 12kms. Great scenery passing farmland, a small encampment quarrying volcanic rock, farmers with buffalo ploughing the fields, a flowery scent on the air, pine trees lining road and mtns in the distance. Locked bike and went down into gorge to look at hectagonal columnar outcrops streaked along side of cliff face. Woman selling huge bracket funghi for 20 quid each.
Was supposed to be a circular route from here but people in carpark said other way was better so cycled back way Id come. Not too bad but flagging a bit towards the end so grabbed hold of the back of a truck that was going slowly and let it drag me up for a few kms. People Id met in the village yesterday went past in a van and leaned out taking photos of me. People Id had lunch with now working at toll booth so said hello as I went past then a long downhill Id been looking forward to all afternoon. Played tortoise and hare with a tok tok transporting loads of wood (there were several), theyd pass me on the ups and I passed them on the downs.
Ate in town on way back. I pointed at meat and girl suggested things I could have it with – so simple when they want it to be! Had an ice cream too then back to gh for tea and biscuits. Knackered.

Breakfast of champions - steamed pork dumplings

China is way ahead! - solar and wind powered street lights

View from top of the Big empty volcano

Having lunch with some new friends

Random chicken wandering the high street

Great riding round the back of the volcano

Huge bracket funghi for sale

Remains of a whole cow

Tengchong to Yingjiang  90km
Had some ravioli type stuff in soup for breakfast on the way through town– very tasty. The first 8 kms on the northern outskirts of town was a huge micro industrial area, with loads of operations quarrying out the rock from ancient lava flows and cutting it into slabs of various shapes and sizes. Also many stonemasons, rock crunchers making aggregate and anything else volcanic rock related. Suffice to say the air was full of dust and smoke, which hung in the valleys cold morning air in an off yellow/brown. Lots of trucks rattling along laden with huge boulders, and smaller toktoks chugging up hills and belching black diesel fumes as they struggled with theirs.
Soon past this area and on a brand new smooth road through farmers fields. Passed a lot of people dressed in traditional costumes, some women with a fancy shiny trimmed scarf wrapped round their heads, and others which looked a bit like hmong clothes, lots of beads. Quite a few large round kilns along the way, smoke rising from the tops, with long neat rows of pots or tiles in the yard outside. Quite a few herons hunting in the wet fields, brilliant white feathers, whispy at the neck. Several convoys of VIPs going past in landcruisers escorted by police and all with their hazard lights going. Stopped off for a steaming bowl of noodles along the way which fuelled me all the way to Yingjiang. Pretty flat all the way today as along the bottom of a plain following a river. Only a few sections where new road not finished so plane sailing.
Arrived Yingjiang mid afternoon. Evidence of an earthquake as shop fronts lying on the pavement and a few cracked buildings. Stopped for a pee in petrol station and wished I hadn’t – squat toilets piled high with stinking turds – disgusting!
Got to a traffic island and asked some police sat in a van where a gh was. They explained all gh’s were closed cos of earthquake. Asked them what I should do and they made a phone call. Woman on other end of phone spoke good English. She said I should come to the police station so I followed the van to the traffic police headquarters. Here I was met by the woman Anida, a local English teacher whose husband was a coppa. We went to her friends house and had a chat and sit down. Four women sat around a ‘professional’ Mahjong table, where you pushed the bricks into a hole that opened in the centre and then a new set of bricks automatically came up out of a long slit in front of each player- most impressiveI In front of each player was also a silver drawer that flipped out for keeping betting money in and of course an ashtray too.
Later I was presented with a tent to sleep in at the end of the car park, far enough away from the police HQ which had been condemne.  All office equipment being transferred and set up in a big tent too. Played ball with the girls in the house and taught them a bit of English as they were very excited to meet a foreigner. They wanted to teach me Chinese too so brought a massive pad full of Chinese characters. Went for a wander around town later on, lots of teams of soldiers and local people cleaning up, mustve been a lot of devastation cos 3 days into operation and theres still tons of stuff around. Was 5.9 on richter scale and lasted 20 seconds.
Lots of shards of broken glass, and rubble. People housed in big blue tents all around the town, and a kind of encampment around a lake in the town centre. The worst hit buildings were the old mud brick ones and these were being pulled down, in one place by a gang of blokes with a rope tied to roof and another fella knocking corner base of wall out with a crobar before they pulled the whole thing to the ground. In another place a larger building getting the same treatment by 2 earth movers. Very sad to see people in such a predicament. Saw one bloke in a red crash helmet standing forlorn and picking through the remains of his home, some people had piled up what they could salvage next to their tents.
Went back to HQ. The ladies still playing mahjong. Went to canteen to eat at 6pm, loads of tasty food. After dinner went to Anida’s parents home just up the road. The alleyway full of rubble from walls on way there. Their house had escaped but had a large crack in garden wall and neighbours kitchen wall had collapsed into their back garden, some windows cracked too. We sat round a table eating snacks and chatting when an aftershock occurred. Really big rumble. I felt calm, but Anida grabbed my arm saying don’t panic and her mom jumped up in the air, which of course made me panic. We laughed about it afterwards.
Wandered back to HQ after a while andhad a quick lesson how to play Mahjong before going to bed at 9:30 as knackered. Tent tiny but can just about stretch out corner to corner, glad its got a built in air mattress.
2 aftershocks in the night, shaking me awake and having an unusual rumble shhh sound, bit like a large truck going past, in fact when large trucks were going past in the night I thought it might be start of another aftershock.

One of many kilns along the way

Runway sized section of the new road

Around Yingjiang

Clear up team pulling down a condemned building

One of many emergency accomodation around the town

Around Yingjiang

Around Yingjiang

Around Yingjiang

Chinese family who looked after me

My overnight acccomodation in the police compound

Yingjiang to Longchuan  92km
Got up 7:30, put stuff on bike and then went to Anida’s parents for breakfast. Had noodles, then soy milk with dippy fried batter things and some cake. Chatted then it was time to go. Took some photos, thanked them for their hospitality and asked Anida to thank everyone at the police station, then set off. Quite temperate here which was good for last nights camping, which Im sure all the locals stuck in tents are thankful for.
Brand new road to start but eventually came to long stretches where the construction was on going and so a pre tamaced surface with lots of dust. Lots of people working in the fields and walking down the roads carrying baskets on bamboo poles like weighing scales. These people looked like Lisu tribe I think, baggy pants, a smock and coolie hat. An older woman had a black hat folded into a pirate hat shape. Harrgh. Busy market going on either side of road in one village, lots of beer being drunk by blokes. Bit worrying to see trucks and taxis hurtling down hill towards it as very narrow to pass through due to the throng.
Start of a 15km uphill section. Road very dusty and broken in places due to all trucks using it. The new expressway is being built higher up and parallel to this road so loads of debris coming down hillside. Very dusty when trucks passed and got annoyed after a while. Im sure this section was really beautiful before as going through forested hillside with river tumbling over rocks in gully below. Eventually reached the top and now on a plain full of yellow flowering crops stretching off down the valley. Gorgeous. A Dai people stupa in distance too. Stopped off for lunch and a needed rest a few kms along road at Manbing where shops made and engraved swords, several rows of them on display, ranging from small daggers to massive broadswords. Small buck knives stamped with names like AK47 and CCCP.
Wafted flies away from my dinner and chatted a bit with some blokes and a woman who was interested in my bike. Set off after recuperating only to start another uphill stretch for the next hour and a bit. At least the road is good here. Really pretty scenery. Eventually got to top of mtn and then a massive downhill all the way onto a wide long plain. Sugar cane grown here, buffalo grazing on the cast off leaves, and people tending neat vegetable and herb gardens which had an enormous variety of different plants creating  different colours and textures in the garden. Onto busy road and passed by several learner drivers in  landcruisers all red and white striped bumpers, honking at me as they passed and weaving about in road. Fragrant pick yer own strawberry fields and a few small stalls at roadside.
Glad to arrive in Longchuan. Asked in a hotel where a cheaper gh was and they pointed me just up road. Got a decent room for 40Y. Only problem was cold water not working so water scolding. Managed to cool it a little by crouching down and splashing the water onto myself but still crab boiling temperature. Ate across road then had 2 different beers in town. The Chinese beer Ive had so far has been very disappointing, weak, fizzy and warm (usually ambient temp as they don’t keep it in the fridge and those that do don’t have the fridge on that cold). American Budweiser is also on sale here as a ‘premium’ brand costing triple the amount of a local beer, so Im sticking to water for now.

An entire plain of yellow

Water buffalo graze on disgarded sugar cane leaves