Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Week 25 Yangshuo to Rongjiang 416km cycled

Highlights: Karsk landscape, pine scented air
Low blows: Incessant beeping of horns
Music of the week:  Trinidad, Sound of the Sun – Westland Steel Band

Yangshuo to Xingping  25km
Fancied a lie in but was woken by the tour group heading out of hotel from 6:30 till 7. Ignored it for a bit then decided to get up anyway. Had dumplings up the road, packed and left at 11ish. Decided to head to Xingping not far upriver and see if that was a bit quieter.
Felt like I was in Krabi as I passed Karsk outcrops in the sunshine. Soon out of town heading along road, farming on either side, rice paddies and later on fragrant orange orchards with blossoming flowers and ripe fruit. Crappy surface to road so had to pay attention rather than daydream, and a lot of tourist buses to and fro.
Arrived at Xingping a few hours later, amazing scenery. Looked for a place to stay and found a YHA - room in 3 bed dorm for 35Y. Had noodles up at mkt, did laundry  in twin sinks as down to last tshirt then went down to river. Chatted with an American bloke sat in best seats overlooking river for a while, then back to gh and off up a big karsk peak nearby with a girl from hostel who’d invited me. Steep steps and whizzed up it. View at top really impressive, a 180 degrees view of bend in river karsk peaks all around. Convoys of big boats and small bamboo boats ferrying tourists about, big boats blasting their horns and spoiling ambience a bit, and later on one long boat leaking petrol into river a big rainbow spill, seeping out of the back of it.  Sat and chatted for a few hours as we took in the scene perched on rocks. Really beautiful scenery here, busy river, surprised most people day trippers and don’t stay here as far more impressive than that other town.
Eventually joined on peak by some elderly Chinese photographers trying to find the best angle. Came down before sunset as didn’t fancy a dark descent. No sunset as such which was a bit disappointing as waiting on roof of gh for photo op.
Thought I had room to self but young Chinese lad arrived and wondered if I wanted to go paddling in river even tho already dark – no ta. Impressed by YHAs in China so far, both modern and nice places.

Feels like Krabi

Lovely limestone

Lovely limestone

Great view in Xingping

End of day in Xingping form the hostel roof

Xingping to Wutong  98km
Bouncy road, orange orchards, fruit being packed into trucks, bloke shouting at naughty cow going up hill, brilliant scenery first half of day. Lots of pick ur own strawberry places. Lunch in small town, was making good pace then had to try and find my way through the sprawl of Guiling which was frustrating, laborious and tired me out.  Looked like a dump eventually found way across city and onto busy provincial main road until arriving 5:30pm at Wutong. Couldn’t find gh so asked and ended up on road although later saw a few in town. More egs of fakes brands Kewesekl and Yamahnd or summat. GH a dump but itll do. 60Y for crappy room and shower bust up too. Noticed an Ethernet cable behind table so got free internet too!  Long hot day, bit burnt and tired.

Morning view

Orange orchards

A great road

More quality scenery

Wutong to Longsheng  60km
Traffic beeping annoying. Oranges. Trad wooden houses/villages along way. Flat then up then good downhill then steep up and long downhill to finish. Took a while to find accom. Tired so couldn’t be arsed with hot springs and thought about Tengchong experience. Wander around town, riverside full of old people and mothers  - drum and dancing performance, , a couple singing, nice riverside walk and a lot of new building on opp bank of river – felt sorry for people whose houses mustve been in an ideal spot now perched on a dug out hillside/banking or surrounded by road /huge buildings. Same all along new roads Ive been on -buildings with rooms  half torn down. Price of progress. Town not that bad.
Longsheng to Chengyang  77km
Lovely ride along turquoise river. Trad villages of dark wooden homes along way. Overcast. Easy downhill to Sanjiang. Lots of wood yards along the way cutting pine into planks of various sizes and shapes, air fragrant with fresh cut wood. Good lunch, then over bridge and nice windy country road to Chengyang to see the wind and rain bridge, passing a few large wooden water wheels along the way. Got student price entry 30Y after chatting with ticket people a while and then haggled for room overlooking bridge about 100m away for 50Y. Went to watch the tourist dance display which was actually pretty good entertainment –some tiny and almost bent over double old ladies peddling colourful hand made souvenirs to the crowd as this went on. Had a wander through villages, which were all almost interconnected so not far to go. Loads of higgledy piggledy large wooden houses tightly packed together on hillocks and along small streams. Lots of chickens but no pigs. Interesting to see a typical Dong village up close. Rained at night. Chatted with 2 blokes from HK at gh. Later sat and watched the floodlit bridge for a while.

Traditional Dong wooden houses

Traditional Dong wooden house

Dancing display in the town square

Chillin beneath the drum tower
View from the gh balcony

Wind and rain bridge by day

Decorative birds

A poster in the village - the machine that goes ping!

Chengyang to Congjiang  bit of bus and cycled 75km
Light rain /drizzle in morn. Wild white roses in bloom all along river banks. Horses/mules ploughing fields/paddies. Lots of horses in Dong country, one running off from bloke trying to harness it. Cycled down to town, went to bus station on far side of river to be told it was back over other side so made my way to that and put bike in boot after removing front wheel to get it in. Odd to have bus station here cos it has to go back across busy bridge, would ease congestion to have it on other side. Knees cramped on bus and blokes smoking. Glad to get off at Fulu as road had been pretty knackered, bloke putting a load of musical instruments in boot as I took bike out and I saw him later in Congiang with a crowd buying from him. Had lunch in this lively little town, lots of trad dressed people in mkt.
Had been overcast all morning but sun came out for pleasant afternoon ride along river. Many Dong villages of dark brown wooden houses. Traffic eased off too. Arrived Congiang 4pm. Found gh room overlooking road but so are all other gh’s. Lots of horn blaring in this town too. Decided to go and find Baisha village which is a Hmong village so had to do a 8km uphill to get there. Road good and lots of pine trees, ferns and greenery further up. 2 lads walking home from school decided to run and have a race with me going uphill – I managed to keep them at bay, and saw one lad up at village just as I was leaving later on- must be healthy walking 16km round trip to school everyday. Had to buy ticket to get in – only 12Y but Idve missed him if 5 mins later as bloke just shutting up shop. Road into village and through it before going up a set of steps – a bloke coming through forest dressed in black pyjama type clothes with a long sheathed sword, he went off down the hill. Path took me back into village so had a brief wander about, not much going on a few old people about and kids back from school. ‘Chatted’ with a bloke Id seen bringing his buffalo up hill earlier, then set off back, saying hello to a rowdy bunch of kids in carpark on way out of village and them checking out all the fancy bits of my bike (disk brakes, suspension etc). Fast downhill ride and back into town in 10 mins. Ate up road, got some supplies in supermkt as snacks finished. Happy to find my favourite brand of crisps which hasn’t been available in last province and the crisps they did have were terrible.

Congjiang to Rongjiang  81km
Terrible nights sleep, traffic all through night but worse was that the partition wall wasn’t sealed at the window so could hear neighbours TV and snoring and smell their cigarette smoke. Went round at 2am to ask one bloke to turn TV down then at 3:30 banged on other metal window frame as other tv going, then banged on other blokes window as super loud snoring coming through. Arrgghh! Horn beeping idiots woke me up. Knackered. No hot water either despite running it for ages so went for bf, had dumplings and noodles after as hungry. Hot water strangely available when I got back to gh but sod it.  Glad to get out of this town and idiots blaring horns.
Pleasant days cycling. Road followed turquoise river practically all the way, road ok but intermittently knackered and a lot of dust churned up by passing trucks but traffic not too bad. Some lovely Dong wooden villages along the way, some with tiered drum towers and a couple of small wind and rain bridges. Trad dressed locals working in paddy fields, tending vegetables, or slowly driving herds of water buffalo along the road or down on the banks of the river, some fishing boats being punted up river in the shallows and some rowed down river in the current. Easy ride with steady up and down all way. Had noodles in a towns only shop along the way and he’d just closed up so had to get stuff out again thankfully, as otherwise there’d have been no food for rest of way. Bloke brought bowl to table. Put a large spoon of MSG in then was about to dump a heaped teaspoon full of salt in too. Luckily I stopped him or it would’ve been hard to stomach.
Last 10km broken road and really dusty, probably because of construction of expressway on a bridge a few hundred meters up over the river and spanning the valley. Further on the new part of Rongjiang town nearly finished, rows of identical appt blocks next to each other and dust everywhere. Main town also full of dust. Took me a while to find a place to stay as first 4 said no foreigners and everyone kept directing me to an expensive gh. Asked them and they insisted nothing less than 100Y in the town. Went in search and eventually found one for 50Y after haggling. Daft cos this area is only 2 blocks from centre and it has loads of gh’s. Theres usually such an area in each town – its just a matter of finding it. Washed off the dust then went in search of food – a pick your own up near the bus station, where you point to diff types veg in small square plastic baskets, then select meat and chef will fry it all up for you. 10Y Very tasty. Cycled briefly round dusty streets of generic shops, bought some munch then back to gh.

Along the river

Getting ready for planting rice

Dong village with drum tower

Expressway high above

Slept pretty well, only a few clacking of heels and horns to wake me during night. Overcast day. Decided over dumplings and noodles to stay here for day and head out to a market described in LP as a must see 40km away. Got in mini van and soon bouncing over bust up roads (heavy lorries building expressway responsible), arriving in Pingyong just under 2 hours later and feeling travel sick. Asked where mkt was and wandered down there. Could tell something was amiss along the way as a distinct lack of life and people in the town. Hardly anything in mkt so back to van stop. Driver said mkt day was today in Rongiang and tomorrow up here! What a waste of time. Bagsied front seat of van but a woman with baby turned up so they got it and I bounced around in back again with cramped up knees, hunched over trying to look at scenery through super smoke glass windows. Friendly bloke asking me all about what Im doing here- I gave him my phrasebook so we passed it back and forth pointing at questions and answers for a while.  Into town by 1pm feeling sick again. Lots of hilltribe people doing there shopping in the mkt which is 2 lanes along from where Im staying and where Id also been for breakfast – not bad a 40km round trip to within 100m of the gh.
Stretched legs and got some air in my gills before having lunch, then wandered down to a temple style building. Inside was an exhibit about Chairman Mao’s rise to power from what I could grasp by the photo’s (writing all in Chinese). Mooched about in afternoon and relaxed, lots of hilltribe people doing their shopping, and seemed to be more interesting for them to gawp at me than vice versa.

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