Sunday, 19 June 2011

Week 31 Shangrila to Wase 391 kms cycled

Highlights: Riding alongside the Yangtze
Low blows: Alot of rain, cold, mud
Music of the week:  Untrust Us – Crystal Castles

Rained most of day. Had a wander around town a bit, a huge building in town that looks like a monastery is actually a cinema. Opposite here was an underground supermarket beneath a square. The construction was bodge cos all staff mopping up inside from water leaking through the concrete roof. Was gonna buy some cake but didn’t fancy any that might have been dripped on. Chinese cyclists had invited me to dinner so went round theirs at 7 and had a big feed and lots of beer. They hold chopsticks differently here in China with just little finger for bottom stick and rest on top one, gives superior grip but hard for me to get hang of so went back to Thai style. Wished them good luck on their trip. Back to gh at 10:30 and more beer as invited to sit with owner and pals in garden. Pretty cold tonight. 
Woke intending to leave but raining so back to bed for a while. Rained all day. Wanted to have a wander and eventually did later on. Buildings look pretty but its very much a  tourist town now and the boulders they’ve dumped in the street as paving are really uneven and annoying to walk on, especially in the rain. A few people wandering around with umbrellas or eating in the fancy and marked up restos in the old town. I found a cheap place at end of road just out of old town, even had an English menu so ate huge pile of beef, potatoes gravy and rice for lunch. Had a big feed of veg at another cheap place Id found on 1st day for tea. Bought snacks for tomorrow as definitely leaving no matter what as nothing to do here. Even monastery up road charges 80Y to get in. Seems such a silly place after all the ‘real’ towns Ive been through.
Shangrila to Qizong    105kms cycled
Light rain in morning but sky lighter and a strange glowing orb visible through the cloud. A window to leave- hurrah! Busy morning roads in urban area and then along a road being upgraded. The last 2 days rain had turned this into a sludge pit so it was horrible going for first 13km as lots of mud kicking up and trucks/4x4s going past spraying me with mud. A few kms climb to top of a hill, an eagle circling nearby overhead with a crow buzzing it every so often, then a sooty van stuck in mud and blocking road, tailbacks on both sides, plenty of people gawping but no one doing anything to help. Quite satisfying to walk through and past it all with the bike as I passed all the people who’d blared horns at me in their rush earlier. Reached top of pass and the vehicles had gotten through now in wacky races formation so pulled over out of way for a rest and a mango. Started to rain lightly.
Downhill all way to small town at km30, mud eventually turning into surfaced road. Had a brief chat with a cyclist who reakoned he was gonna sneak into Tibet.  Found a warm resto and huddled next to stove to thaw out while I ate fried rice and drank hot tea. Chatted a bit with woman running it.
Set off again, steep downhill for first 25km on smooth tarmac through a lovely gorge, small waterfall cascading down into river Im riding along side. Tibetan village up on hillside, had quick chat to old bloke that came up to me as I was taking photo, he told me he was 65. Washed this mornings mud  off in an irrigation channel. Soon reached Yangtze river and decended to carry on alongside it for rest of day. Beautiful steep sided valley with changing rock types, shrubs and small trees clinging onto cliff faces, powerful river with some mad currents below. Large thorny bushes with hundreds of white flowers scenting the way.  A few small settlements and solid looking houses perched high up on hillsides and later in day whole villages as more farmland available on occasional flatter areas. Flying foxes to connect to other side of river. Hardly any traffic all day on this road. Light rain intermittently all day.
Passed through a small town but didn’t fancy stopping there, had a quick chat with woman cyclist coming other way. Carried on to next town and found a gh there. 60Y after haggling, they weren’t gonna budge but as I was gonna walk agreed to lower price. Hosed my bags and bike down, went and ate food up road (remembering the last time I ate in a place Id haggled in) then back for long hot shower. Nice view over river. Strange room full of colourful heavy Tibetan style furniture, carved bed base, and 2 throne like chairs. Had a rug laid out on each bed, which I think was a kind of base layer, but I took it off. Had to put own sheets on bed which was odd.
Damp countryside around Shangrila

Sludgy start to the day

The day improved from here

Tibetan village clings to the hillside

The throne room

The most solid house in the village

Qizong to Shigu          106kms cycled
Some noisy people arrived at 1:30am, shouting and banging doors, and they woke me again at 6am doing the same. Felt tired. Had noodles up road, and set off by 10. Light drizzle to start. A wonderful days cycling heading downstream along very quiet road alongside right side of river. There is a road on each side and most traffic goes on other road.
Passed through farmland and small villages. All villagers out in fields harvesting barley, potatoes and shallots, and planting in rice. People had arrived at fields via biycycle, tok tok, motorbike all parked along roadside. Some buffalos tethered to trees ready to lead the wooden carts once full. Barley harvested with small hand knives, strimmers, and the occasional mini combine harvester. Some farmers putting sheaves across the road so passing vehicles will thresh the seed from the stalks and create chaff for the fields at the same time.
Arrived at a village and getting hungry. Loads of kids sitting in a doorway eating rice so after a sweep of eating places I reakoned that one must be the best as most popular. Ducked through archway and it turned out to be the school canteen, kids all lined up with pots of rice choosing from different bowls full of food. I asked if I could eat and the servers fetched me a bowl and some chopsticks. Got a big serving of rice and 3 types of veg for the bargain price of 3Y. Sat where I could keep an eye on bike and curious schoolkids. Drew a massive crowd and chatted a bit with them, the braver students saying English phrases. Good fun.
Carried on through village and road suddenly became a very wide and new (apparently this stretch was part of Chairman Mao’s long-march so worthy of a fine piece of tarmac), villagers making full use of it by raking grain into long strips to dry in the sun, or spreading fresh cut sheaves all across it.  Pleasure to see such an industrious healthy farming area.  Now quite warm and sun actually popping out for a bit, although overcast later and threatening to rain where dark skies overhead.
More farmland on plains further down river, all busy with harvesting and planting. River starting to eddy a little now, a churning mass of water rounding long sweeping bends. Must be an impressive sight in full flood. Several mini quarries crushing aggregate into queued trucks, and a few large scale stone masons with lifting equipment to move massive blocks of marble.
Arrived Shigu 5pm, had a big bowl of noodles. Could see rain coming down the valley in a thick sheet of light grey, found a gh for 50Y, just as it arrived. Relaxed on bed then had a wander in last bit of eve sun, a rainbow over river where it makes its uturn and heads NEast.
Had a big feed at night, plate of cabbage, one of potato and a bowl of boiled beef in gravy, surprised myself that I managed to eat it all.  After todays dose of farming my hayfever kicked in bigtime at night.

Fields in full production

Threshing barley the easier way

Maybe this roadside herb is the reason for the friendly locals

Where the Yangtze river makes a U-turn

Shigu to Jianchuang   59 kms cycled
Slept well. Had big bowl of noodles up road, a cycle along riverfront walkway, a nice little park for locals, then set off after 10, warm start but then overcast. Along river, a pleasure speedboat buzzing along with passengers in dayglo orange lifejackets. 10km along road climbing up and away from river and joining road busy with trucks and buses. A lot of dust and black exhaust fumes on this narrow road. Scenery pleasant but traffic made it a chore. Uphill turned into a bit of a downhill then flat after about 30km for rest of way. Sun actually came out for a bit too. Some local women traditionally dressed either in Naxi pudding caps, or a folded black headcloth with colourful embroidery, and a smock like jacket with piping on it, buttoned at shoulder.
Near destination farmers putting heaps of barley in road for cars to thresh. Arrived 2 ish, hungry so had some doughy dumplings then in search of a room trying to find somewhere off busy beepy main road. Several hotels here but all overpriced (weird how some Chinese towns are like that). Eventually found a nice hotel that had a cheap room section 40Y share bathroom in a courtyard away from road.
Followed signs to the old town, the whole row of wood fronted shop houses had been creosoted in black, and the ‘carved’ front shutter doors were all identical, which made it look tacky. These doors also just cheapo cos on the backs was nothing revealing crappy wood. Further on up a lane were original old buildings. All crumbling adobe walls, worn wooden doors and porches with faded paintwork, chipped and worn carved cornerstones. Water ran along the narrow cobbled lane Lijiang style with a few small stone bridges. Had a sneaky look in a few courtyards, some really pretty inside, well kept with flowers, others decrepid and very poor.

The oldest street in Jianchuang town

Jianchuang toZhoucheng    84kms cycled
Noisy in night as local wood yard started chain sawing logs at 3 in morning. Mostly truckers staying here too so they were all up and about shouting early on. Lots of unflushed turds, cigarette butts and spit all over floor in communal toilets and someone with diarrhea had crapped everywhere and not bothered to clean it up. Delightful start to the day. At least it was warm and sunny.
Set off 10ish after dumplings and rice soup. V dusty road so wore bandanna, farmers raking crops over road in many villages along way. A lot of traffic on a narrow busy road, surprised they are only just making a new highway. Blaring horns all day and a few close calls with trucks overtaking me and cutting in and a few cars coming the other way deciding to overtake despite me being there and only just being enough room.
Reached top of hill after 20km steady climb, then flat and down, then flat again, lots of greenery as rice fields being planted /  transplanted. Through a narrow downhill section and soon at the big lake near Dali, joining the almost finished bit of the expressway. I stayed on the small road as all other traffic went onto a busier road next to lake (great road planning there!), the new expressway hugs the hillside away from the lake which should leave the view with less traffic or only sightseers at any rate.
Wanted to stay in Shaping village and wait till Monday for mkt, but no accom there. Cycled a few kms down road asking. Ended up near some tourist place, butterfly spring, then went down to a pier looking for a place. Found a YHA! Really nice traditional building and dorm bed 30Y, room all to myself! From reaction of all people in this area I get impression that not many foreigners venture around here – only Chinese.
Had a ride about, looked in another place I came across further up the lake which had an amazing lake view room for 480Y. Now at lower warmer altitude the mozzies are out having a nibble.

Teenagers cool off in Erhai Lake
Zhoucheng to Wase    37kms cycled
Set off around lake, busy road to start, then a dusty bouncy track through villages and then onto a route under construction. They are putting in a railway and a massive expressway around the East side of the lake so picked my way along that for most of way. Felt sorry for the people who’d been living a peaceful existence in these small lakeside towns and who now had half their house bulldozed to make way for the new road. Also lots of heavy plant and trucks thundering along. Must be awful for them. Eventually hit the smooth tarmac of completed road for last 10km, although nothing been done to landscape the remaining piles of boulders next to lake into walking areas, no where to sit down, nothing, just the road, would be very easy to make the lakeside a really pleasant recreational area for local people.
Arrived at Wase town, a mkt underway. Asked where ferry was and pointed further up road so carried on a bit. Interesting section of road where trees had been left in near to lake, but they eventually ended up in middle of road creating an obstacle course. Why they didn’t move them is anyones guess. Came upon a funeral prosession preparing to come down the road, relatives dressed in white and with white cloths wrapped around head knealing in a line in front of a wooden casket lined with straw. They covered the body with a blanket then put a live cockerel on top, lifted it up and started off down the street. Blokes at front throwing firecrackers as they made their way. Householders up road had a table outside their homes laden with incense, fruits and other stuff, and the procession stopped off at each one.
Had some fried potatoes on a stick and asked about ferry, apparently there is one tomorrow. Went back into town and got a rooftop room with view for 30Y. Had a wander round mkt, lots of fruit, veg, cakes, household supplies, woven goods and brooms, herbs etc, all haggled over by ladies in traditional dress with baskets on their backs. Hot here. Had some noodles and sat down for a while to cool off in draft. Back to gh to do laundry, then had a nap.
Asked in gh about boat- there isnt one from here but is (might be) one further down coast. Ladies dancing in town square (the usual swishing about in trad dress, Im still convinced this is a government invention) to the most upbeat ‘tribal’ music Ive heard yet  - some Indian style singing and some really fast beats too, no whistles or glow sticks tho.
Sat on roof to take in a beautiful golden sunset over lake.

Not the Propylaea, but base struts for a new expressway 

Road coming through

Beautiful sunsets like these will be visible to and probably enhanced by future commuters

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