After a week of sloth in Chengdu, burgers, beer and the infamous CC club which I frequented about 6 times (though this is a story for another time) I met Regula, one half of the Swiss Guard and joined her for a mini tour to XiaoJin in the Sichuan Mountains to meet Iris and accompany her back to Chengdu. A days bus travel over some terrifyingly high mountains that disappeared into clouds (over 4000m high) then we were in the sunny mountainous Amdo (Tibetan) region. We met Iris and began our mini Odysee through apple orchards and rural villages. It was about here that my tyre trouble began, no spares and a huge hole I had to patch four times.
The second last day was where the real adventure began. We cycled up steep winding road of the Mt. Four Sisters to 4481m, which took the best part of 6 hours. Once at the top, the clouds came in for total whiteout and freezing temperatures, then the fun part of descending to 700m in about 150km - wee! Bombing down at 40+km/hr with nearly no visibility and hairpin bends that went over a sheer cliff was hours of fun. Then there were the 2km long pitch black tunnels, I reminded myself I need to buy a better torch, couldn't see my hand in front of my face. Once below the clouds the view was spectacular, carved green mountains, bamboo forests where the last Pandas live apparently and more downward winding roads. I must hand it the Chinese, they are constantly repairing or outright rebuilding their roads and they are perfect. Or in places not there at all. The last part of the one day odyssey was the earthquake stricken region I saw only from a bus last time. Entire mountains had come smashing down, covering the roads with rubble that turned our nice gentle path into rugged mountain bike trials. Also fun but hard work, I hope my bike doesn't fall apart on me.
That was the end of the exciting part, the rest was fairly uneventful highways, bridges, trucks and haze that led into Chengdu. Ah Chengdu, I missed you. I wasted no time in getting back into the city party lifestyle once again. After a week of this I got ready to leave with the Swiss Guard so bought a sleeping bag, grabbed the tent I was given, lashed everything to my encumbered bike and began the 2000km voyage to Nan Ning 南宁.
We avoided some uninteresting distance by catching a bus to Chong Qing, another huge city I've never heard of. The next week or so consisted of cycling, eating noodles or rice (tough choice everyday), getting stared at or mobbed, going through lovely rural China, camping off the side of the roads (once in a potato field), cooking on my little stove and sleeping in my tiny tent. One night the girls convinced a Chinese primary school to let us stay in one of their classrooms - as you do.
It was a total sense of freedom; I was picking up tips from the experts and starting thinking about when I had to do this on my own if I could be as efficient as these two. Plagued by constant punctures, no spares and no patches I just made to a town and was able to procure some replacements, phew. The other good reason to go live in the wild was that for this week China celebrated its founding day or some such, which meant that all 1.3 Billion people pretty much, went on holiday, caught buses or trains, saw attractions and went shopping - at the same time! It was crazy.
We arrived in ZunYi after hitching a ride from a friendly local with a truck, and took a day off. Drank a beer, washed socks and t-shirts and did nothing. Our progress was a little slow and as we had a timeframe to keep due to Visa issues we took a train to LiuZhou. To get on a train in China you must a) be the first in line b) push everyone out of the way and c) ignore any authority trying to stop you. Once you've done something you weren't supposed to do it's too late and the Chinese will smile and accept what has happened. 14 hours and we arrive in Chinese city number whatever and start cycling again. Always nice to be back on the road after a break. The scenery was totally different once again, now it was spectacular Karst peaks and rice fields, and it was hot. 40 degrees once day. The people are wearing pointy Vietnamese style hats (they're made of silver fabric these days) and working the fields or riding oxen carts full of produce. We were pretty close to NanNing now and managed to get a bus for the last 60km which is always a good idea when entering a big city as the scenery is generally uninteresting and the traffic bad which large trucks blowing out your eardrums with their deafening horns.
Now we're waiting for visas, eating McDonalds (that luxurious food of the gods) and chilling. I wonder how bad those floods are in Vietnam….