Wednesday, 30 March 2011

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

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