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

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