Monday, 2 May 2011

Week 26 Rongjiang to Chengdu 238km cycled

Highlights: Winding through lush green gorges, trees in blossom and scent filled air
Low blows: Xijiang tourist village
Music of the week:  What else is there – Royksopp

Slept pretty well, only a few clacking of heels and horns to wake me. Overcast day. Decided over dumplings and noodles to stay here for day and head out to a market 40km away. Got in mini van and soon bouncing over bust up roads (heavy lorries building new 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 up 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! Doh!, 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 which helped to pass the time. Into town by 1pm feeling more sick. Lots of hilltribe people doing their 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 wandering down to a temple style building, but 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.

Rongjiang to Leishan  by bus then 40km cycled
Noisy in night, blaring tv’s again. Had noodles then went to bus station, wanted a ticket to Leishan but buses don’t take mtn road anymore, but new expressway that skirts it. 9:20 bus only back seats left and driver didn’t want to load my bike so got a ticket for 10:20 for 50Y and tucked bike easily in a slot underneath. Had a look at the grim pictures adorning the wall in one corner of the waiting hall. About 15 A3 sized posters all depicting grisly accidents that had occurred on roads around here. Lots of rolled cars and buses with mangled bodies scattered about or corpses laid out in a line after they’d recovered them. Nasty stuff and odd to have it here in passenger terminal cos all people taking the bus wont be the ones driving- should be in the drivers room. Just what you need before going on a bus ride -Have a nice trip!!
New bus zoomed along expressway, through so many long tunnels and over tall viaducts passing through this mountainous area. Lots of Dong wooden villages along way, and locals having hiked up onto road trying to flag bus down.
Arrived Kaili 2pm, had a bean based lunch in station and then went in search of a gh. Ones that looked half descent were 80Y/100Y or more and so many others didn’t take foreigners. Fed up after an hour so decided to find PSB and ask about opening hours next week during holidays. Eventually taken to an English speaking bloke on 4th floor of an office, he was polite but a bit sinister and sly, and didn’t know the opening times next week so better I sort visa out this week. Said thanks and decided to head to Leishan. He’d said it was 40km away along a good road, problem was trying to get out of the bloody city. Kaili is a small city, that hasn’t been renovated yet hence the lack of decent accommodation. Seems the new roads put confuse people too cos when asking the way people were pointing me all over the place. Really frustrating to be stuck in a crap place and cant find the way out! 30 mins later I was on a new road heading out of town. Filled up water in a resto then followed river along lovely tree lined valley, a lot of blossom and lovely scent. Lots of Dong villages along way, one house in middle of a funeral ritual – person laid out on bed (I could see their slippers from the road), men playing read pipes, and all visitors dressed in full costume and silver head dresses entering house and dancing around the body. Watched briefly from across road until I realized it was a funeral, then carried on. Some old farmers carrying huge amounts of wood or other materials strapped to each end of wood over their shoulders and trudging up the road. Road smooth and flattish so made good pace and arrived in Leishan 6:30. Soon found a gh down an alleyway. Trying to avoid noise now but this above busy residential alley and near a junction so we’ll see.
Ate in friendly pick n mix food place, chatted with English speaking bloke then went for walk around town. The main square has been remodeled and looked good all lit up at night, although the flashing zigzag lights along the river were a bit much. Glad I set off to here instead of the dump I was in this afternoon.

Decided to visit nearby Hmong village of Xijiang so after a late start hopped on a bus at 11. Bus stopped at ticket office at mid day. I went over there to discover entry was a massive 100Y (10 quid). I immediately asked for a student ticket but woman on door said no way. Student price was 50Y, still steep, but as far as I knew the only bus back was at 5:30 so had to do something for afternoon. Sat down on chair and waited. The bus left me there. A few mins later security bloke said I could have a student ticket but I would’ve walked if nothing materialized.
No map, no interpretation of any kind, just a ticket. Walked down to the viewpoint set amidst loads of tat shops– remodeled village below, knew it was gonna be bad. Wandered down hillside through wooden housing to river in bottom. All very twee and prettied up, even the rivers banks had fancy boulder linings. Over river to main street, just a shopping street for tourists and nothing to do with village life at all. Walked up that to the new main square which had a strange totem pole thing in it shabbily crafted. If it had any real significance a lot more effort would’ve gone into its making. Racks of trad costumes all around square for people to hire and be photo’d in. Continued up main st past more shops and noticed buses leaving so think I can get out of here before 5pm. Decided I should at least see what was here so did another sweep down the river front, past open air bars and restos and then climbed up a hill a bit before back to square. Decided to wear a dress and got some Chinese tourists to take a photo of me. Women hiring the clothes asked if I wanted her to dress up and pose with me, I when I asked why she said cos she was from here but as if that makes a difference when things are so far from reality. I said no and she got all grumpy, probably cos couldn’t charge me extra. She then tried to hide away my jumper behind the clothes she put back on rack so Id forget it. Stupid. Went and found a bus that was leaving at 2, which actually left at half past.  Most of passengers local and all off within 30 mins at various stop salong way. Found it ridiculous that the scenery along the way – winding through lush green gorges that followed small rivers, traditional wooden houses along way and rice paddies, trees in blossom and scent filled air was free and the ‘main attraction’ was a cost loads and was a waste of time. Laughable.
Back into town. Got a bad haircut then ate in pick n mix as really hungry. Bought some beers from supermkt. The outside air is warm but inside buildings really cool. Wish Id cycled through the mtns now, although I was gonna cycle to Xijiang and stay so would’ve been gutted if Id gone all way for what was there.

Almost as ridiculous as the village, me and some Chinese tourists in traditional Hmong costume

Leishan to Guiyang  by bus and 15km cycled
Misty start to day. Set off after dumplings and a bowl of hot soy milk for bf. Easy downhill for most of way and mist clearing revealing hot sun. Had an orange and changed shirt. Hopped onto bus in Kaili 50Y and quick 3 hour trip alomng expressway to Guiyang, chatting with bloke from Kunming who was a fish trader. Very hot in Guiyang. Soon discovered that this massive new bus station was in a new suburb out of town. Inquired about tickets to Chengdu and then got directions into town from some very helpful staff who said the city was 20km away!
Luckily the route was straight all the way so easy to navigate. Arrived in city after only 13km and pleased to find my waypoint of train station nearby. Then went in search of a gh. Very hot day in city, lots of flushed looking Chinese everywhere, as well as traffic police and flag waving whistle blowing red armband officials too. All places I tried were nearly 200Y a night. Remembered there was a YHA in town (actually part of a massive hotel) so found that – 50Y a night in an 8 bed dorm but only 2 other people in there so plenty of room. Young educated Chinese so no smoking or spitting etc and nice to talk to. 5pm. Ate in crappy place nearby as starving (didn’t have lunch), then had a wander. Carrefour across road has Speckled Hen so had a can later on, lovely!! Walked along promenade following the city’s smelly black river – lots of gas and bubbles rising from it, then to a square with statues of Mao and some glass triangles a la Paris, in front of a huge tv screen. Turns out the pyramids were entrance to an underground wallmart! This area also a hangout for homeless people.  A lot of people relaxing in the gardens by the river, sat for a while and listened to a lady singing opera style accompanied by a guy playing a flute. Chatting with Chinese bloke in room I learned that entry to the falls Id planned to visit was a whopping 20 quid  so thats that scratched from the to do list.

Huangguoshu falls as seen for free in the hotel lobby

Guiyang  Quest to find the Visa office. 38km
Only a noodle shop offering small portions nearby so went into Carrefour once it opened. Amusing to watch people waiting outside. Even though no one was there to open the door at 8:30 the queue suddenly thronged at the door and still had to wait a few more minutes. The big rush was to get to the fresh meat section and loads of people scrabbling to buy up todays bargains. Eggs also very popular. Probably resto owners or summat. I got some dumplings, although Id had my eye on some breakfast baps last night with egg and bacon in but for some reason they weren’t on offer for bf! Using LP map the office for visa extensions seemed nearby and so I cycled up there at 9am through busy city traffic. Arrived in area and asked in hotel where it was. A military woman was checking out of hotel so asked her and she said it had moved out to the new suburb (near new bus station), but didn’t know where exactly. Decided to double check so popped into a newspapers building asking the security guards if anyone spoke English. They ushered me to wait in the corner, so I did, but then noticed that they weren’t doing anything so went over and motioned for them to call someone. They faffed about using a directory and I realized they had no idea so took one of blokes to floor directory board outside and pointed for him to call journalists dept as likely someone there would speak English. 10 mins later a girl came down and translated for me to an older woman who made a few calls and eventually I headed off up street armed with a piece of paper until I found an admin office. Things looked promising in here. 2 English speakers appeared and grilled me for a bit before informing me I couldn’t get extension in that office. I really had to probe them to get the address of the new place, which they eventually gave – up at the new suberb! Ahhh! Woman reakoned I could get a taxi there for 50Y, but I spoke with Chinese bloke in dorm last night and he said a short trip in town was 30 so I knew Id be ripped off. Bloke also said why don’t I extend elsewhere cos I have 7 days left on it, which I could do, but it would be another wild goose chase for sure wherever I ended up so better to do it here! Decided to cycle as wanted to find this place by myself – a bit of a challenge, and nothing else to do anyway.
Thought I was heading out the correct way and cut through a horrendous 2 km traffic jam before I checked with some blokes and they said it was wrong way so u-turned and soon on an expressway with big signs to bus station. All looking promising until the signs offered 2 directions to go! Asked policeman and he said keep going so did that until again offered 2 ways. A bloke on a motorbike said to follow him, which I did until I recognized yesterday’s road then said thanks and he sped off. Eventually arrived at bus station and asked for an English speaker. A girl was eventually found and she was super helpful, calling her brother and we eventually figured out it was only a few blocks up the road, got a map from her then she took me to the food place and said goodbye once I was sorted, said thanks so much! Just 3 roundabouts along and a right turn brought me to a huge administration centre. Started asking in each building and was pointed to the next. Did this about 5 times and eventually hit the jackpot!!!
Special desk for foreigners and woman super efficient. Had to prove I had money by showing bank books and slips from ATM, fill out an application and photocopy of passport and visa , which were done free by a bloke nearby. In and out in 25 mins! – Only took 5 hours to find it!!  Woman said normally process would be 5 days, but said shed so it next day for me. Jolly good. I also asked her what holiday were and it turns out they only get Monday off and she said the policeman I asked in Kaili would’ve known that, so he was just being an arse for the sake of it.
As bank holidays are meant to be bad times to travel, I bought a bus ticket for Saturday morning to Chengdu in case the bus sells out (only 1 bus), then back into town. The Speckled Hen Id stashed this morning in a fridge had been taken out so hid some more behind the Gatorade (which I figured wouldn’t sell much) and picked up 2 lovely cold cans later on.

Confusing directions

Guiyang   38km
Lazed about in room. Tunisian bloke left so just me and a Chinese girl. Chatted with her for a while then got some sausage and egg breakfast things from Carrefour. Wandered about the shopping mall munching on them, back to room some tea then set off to visa office. Found way easily this time, although quite a lot of traffic in town. At office an hour later, had to pay 160Y in bank nearby then give receipt to get my passport back. Very efficient and streamlined. Back into town, picking my way through traffic jams once in city centre. Room now full with 8 people – a bit of a squeeze. Went out for dinner with Chinese girl, turns out there’s a load of cheap restos a few blocks nearby. Chatted and then went for a walk, river area looking pretty all lit up, the smelly black river wafting up every now and then. Nice to have some company to walk around with. Popped into Carrefour for 4 cans to take with me and some sausage baps for tomorrows trip.

Guiyang by night

Colourful lights and a stinky river

FIRE!!  60 seconds to study the map and get the hell out!!! ...erm.....

Guiyang to Chengdu  by bus and 26km cycled
Slept badly, too many people, French lads didn’t come in till 1 am and old bloke next to me snoring. Glad to get up and out of there at 6am. Streets pleasantly empty of traffic and ride leisurely enough apart from nutty bus drivers tearing about picking up people going to work from the crowded bus stops. Onto bus at 8:30. Asked driver not to put bags on wheels of bike but when I checked later a few heavy backpacks dumped on front wheel, which I moved. Driver then asking for cash for bike in hold. I pointed out Id paid 200Y for ticket so they were getting anymore out of me. They should have given me money back cos my seat wouldn’t recline, the a/c vent above me was bust and my window was a myopic impressionist vision due to condensation inside the double glazing – great!
Painless enough journey. Stopped off for food half way, then the girl next to me swapped with another who wanted to practice English so chatted with her for a while. Decided to phone ahead for a room and got lucky on second attempt. Lots of KungFu movies on tv and a few blockages on road as crashes had occurred, a truck being ripped in half by another and a car running into back of a pickup righting itself off in the process.
All was going well until just 12km from Chengdu when the bus started cutting out and coming to a halt. They got it going again several times and then it conked out completely. The guys fiddled with it for a while and then flagged down a passing bus to siphon off a few gallons of diesel. They got it going after that (maybe it had run out of fuel) and we arrived in bus station 10 mins later. Bit of a wait while 5 buses in front arsed about with their passengers blocking access to the station and caused a traffic jam in road. Got off. I asked taxi driver where we were and he pointed on a huge map – only 10km from centre and straight all the way. Easy riding along wide roads. Past the flashing lights and dancing fountains of the main square and then managed to find hostel just round corner. Hostel located down a pedestrian street and a guardian bloke trying to stop me walking bike down saying I couldn’t. I said where I was going and just carried on. Nice place. Checked into 8 bed dorm  50Y, then went in search of food as starving. Ended up with a pot noodle which I ate sat next to fishpond in the courtyard of hostel. Showered then went to bed at 11 as knackered.  Annoyed by Chinese people sharing room who kept coming in and out and leaving door open so room getting hot. They eventually went to bed at 2am. Jolly good. The joys of dorm accomodation.

Woke up at 9:30. Lounged about and chatted with a bloke who was trying to get teaching work here although he didn’t have a degree or TEFL, so gave him best advice I could. Had dumplings and bowl of noodles for bf, funny cos old woman who worked there trying to get me to have a 2nd serving of dumplings too! Walked up to an old temple then picked up a Chinese map of Sichuan province. Went to a market after that – snakes and crocodile tails some of the more extraordinary culinary items for sale there then down to the outdoor shops area, which were rather expensive so didn’t get anything. Caught tube back to main square then back to gh, having a wander along the lane outside with the old/new buildings and Chinese tourists posing outside the older places. Same fiasco at night with the Shanghai people.

The temple guardian can smell my sandals

Giving the lion a lucky rub

Big pot of insense in front of main temple building

Crocodiles tails, next stall along Crocodiles tears

Grocers shop in the market

No comments:

Post a Comment