Day 219: Xining – Ledu
Start: 7:00 – Finish: 15:30 – Distance: 76 km – Ride Time: 4h 30
Last night I discovered I had gone North up the G6 instead of East. So this morning I had to carry all my stuff back up onto the motorway and then cycle the wrong way back up the motorway…………….I got 10 km and then things started to go pear shape……………I felt that funny feeling which you dread and sure enough I had flat tyre number 10. They are starting to come quick and fast on these Chinese roads and especially now I don’t have a pump (after it broke last week) and that is another thing you can’t get in this part of China. I kept calm under the situation and tried to wave down a few cars.
The only one to stop was a taxi and he was no good because he had no room for the bike because his boot was taken up with a gas tank. Fortunately I was outside a large office building so I went and asked for help and someone sent out the handy man with a foot pump. We were able to rig it up so I could pump the tyre up. It was only 9 a.m. and I thought this isn’t too bad , I haven’t lost much time and I sped off down the motorway. I got a whole 2 km before there was a horrible bang as my front tyre exploded and it was quite frightening trying to control the bike. I couldn’t believe my luck. So I turned around and pushed/tried to carry the weight on the front wheel to minimize damage the 2 km back where I started. The handy man was surprised to see me again. The inner tube had a massive hole in it and was finished and the tyre after 13499 km was done as well. So for the second time on this trip I had to get my emergency tyre out (the one I nearly didn’t bring because I thought it was too heavy and took up too much room and I would never need). How wrong I was. Before I left they invited me for lunch in the staff canteen.
It was 11 a.m. when I got away and I was very nervous as I cycled along. From the motorway I could look down on the towns and I could see animals getting slaughtered everywhere. It was a mess. There was blood everywhere. I saw a lot of police……….and none of them seemed to care I was on the motorway or cycling the wrong way. But after 70 km the motorway police caught up with me and chucked me off. The exit took me into a city. It was late in the day and I thought its going to be difficult to try and find somewhere to camp before it got dark so I headed for a hotel. It was also raining which helped sway me. Internet in the room so I’m set.
Day 229: Ledu – rest day.
I went and brought a new front tyre and then I realized I couldn’t change it because I wouldn’t be able to pump it back up.
Looked and still couldn’t find a pump. Have been watching a lot of Chinese telly. Went for a shave this morning. I had a guy show me where to go. I was very surprised it was a woman. So for the first time I had a women give me a shave. You have to be quick to have a shower because most hotels seem to turn the hot water off during the day and also the middle of the night.
Day 221: Ledu – Lanzhou
Start: 8:00 – Finish: 15:30 – Distance: 106km – Ride Time: 4h
When you are tucked up in a nice hotel………..it’s hard to get yourself out especially knowing your next night will probably be in the tent and that later in the day you wish you had stayed in the hotel.
I only got 25 km down the road this morning, when I got that horrible feel and you just know its another flat tyre. 11 in total now………..so I guess still not too bad at one every 1000 km. so I wouldn’t mind keeping that average. Again I was a bit stuck on the road……………………still no pump. Makes things a bit tricky.
Though it always works out…………..a women taxi driver saw my plight and she walked me up to her friend’s house. There we took the wheel off and she drove me to the garage to get the puncture fixed. It cost me a grand total of £2.40 for the taxi ride and puncture repaired. Got on for another 60km and stopped for lunch. Passed a truck crashed down a bank and looking a total right-off. There a guy invited me to stay in his house in a small village. It is actually the first home stay I have had since Iran.
Day 222: Lanzhou – Yanguo
Start: 7:30 – Finish: 16:00 – Distance: 65 km – Ride Time: 6h 25
Didn’t get far this morning. Just 1km down the road there was a bit of a party going on. I was invited in and at first
I thought it was a wedding and then I saw the casket and realized it was a funeral. It was very interesting. There were lots of people, lots of food, fireworks and a big altar and a bit of a ceremony going on with lots of people praying and chanting. Well-fed for the second time this morning I got on my way. Went only another few kms and stopped to look at a temple on the hill. Again I was offered breakfast.
Getting back to cycling…….I soon left the flat and it became steep and I spent the rest of the morning climbing till I joined up with the G213 which I will follow about 1000km south to Chandu.. With a big climb there is always a nice downhill. I saw the three gorges dam and crossed the yellow river and climbed again up to 2335 meters where I camped in field. Later on I was invited for another home stay while putting up the tent. I declined because I needed to go and get a haircut and I would have had to wait around.
Day 223: Yanguo – Yellow River
Start: 6:30 – Finish: 15:00 – Distance: 59 km – Ride Time: 3h
I am lost. I am stuck up in the mountains and instead of heading south East, the road I am on is taking me North west. I cycled 5 km along the ridge of the mountain and stopped at the first town for a hot breakfast. When I went to pay
I made the mistake of giving over a 100 note because I only got 20 back. I wasn’t having that. They were taking the mickey. I raised my voice and left with another 50 in my pocket. The family I stayed with near Lanzau had written me out directions to get to Chandu in Chinese. I just kept showing these to people and getting them to point me in the right direction. This occasion they said just keep going. I did for another 12 km hoping my course would change. Instead I was just getting higher and higher. I got to a small town and I asked again for directions and was told I needed to go back………………I was gutted to hear this……………for two days I had been told to keep going the way I was heading. I now know I had been sent in the wrong direction. The guys who were helping me got the English teacher at the local school to come down and help me . She explained I needed to go back 24 km to the turn off and then continue down to the river where I needed to then get a boat. I wasn’t keen to cycle back……………also I am really pushed for time now. I need to do 1000 km to Chandu in less than a week so that I can renew my visa.
The taxi cost a mere £5 and in the end took me all the way to the ferry. There I had to wait two hours. While I waited some locals invited me to join them for lunch. They were business men and spoke a little English. The ferry only cost £0.50 and took 40 minutes to cross the yellow river. When I arrived on the other side it was late in the day and I wasn’t going to make Linixa so I just headed on to the beach and set up camp for the night. I made a little fire and relaxed.
Day 224: Yellow River – Linixa
Start: 6:30 – Finish: 9:00 – Distance: 27 km – Ride Time: 2h
In the morning as I left the beach, there was a guy with his falcon.
I went back to the restaurant I had eaten the night before. I had bowl of noodles of course…………It’s about the only thing you can get…………looking forward to the day I can get some variety. At present it is only big noodles or little noodles.
Leaving the river it was a very steep road up and down. It is a lot greener on this side of the river and there are crops everywhere……….no room for a tent. Come 9 a.m. I was done for the day finally reaching Linixa……………..though I should have been here two days ago if I hadn’t got lost.
I checked in to the nicest hotel on the trip so far (£14). Not very productive in the way of kms but I got another 50p shave. I tried to get some laundry done. Getting desperate now. Was looking good till I was told I could come back in 3 days to collect. Got my cycling pants sewn back up for 20p. Most importantly, I finally found a bicycle pump.
Day 225: Linixa – Hezuozhen
Start: 8:00 – Finish: 15:30 – Distance: 94 km – Ride Time: 6h 30
I did not at all want to leave the comfort of the hotel this morning. It was a very cold and overcast day. When I finally got moving…………….it took me 1 hour just to find my way out of the city.
As I cycled out I saw a truck load of butchered meat………..no refrigeration or hygiene here. Touch wood after 5 weeks in China I haven’t been sick yet. I finally found the 213 and it took me on a climb for the rest of the day as I followed the river up the valley. The tops of the mountains are covered in snow. It was a bitterly cold day. My feet were completely frozen from 9 o’clock in the morning, till the time I stopped. When I did stop I just set up camp in a field next to the road. I made a hot water bottle and while waiting for the water to boil, I tried to pump up my tyres with my new pump. Bad mistake. I should have tried the pump back at the hotel because more air was coming out then going in. It’s too cold to be cooking a proper meal at night so for dinner I just had a couple of muffins, an apple, a jelly and some nuts. I was going to have an orange but my hands were so cold I couldn’t peel it.
Day 226: Hezuoznen – Nyimaluns
Start: 6:30 – Finish: 14:30 – Distance: 66 km – Ride Time: 5h 40
There was a heavy frost overnight. The tent was covered with a white thick ice. Inside and out. My hands died dusting the ice off. I had to stoop every minute to warm my fingers up. It makes it a slower than normal process packing up when you really just want to get on with it. But with the pain from the cold in your fingers you have to stop. I am just so used to it now…………day after day I always seem to have to battle into a headwind. I yearn for a day when I get a good tailwind and I can speed along………effortlessly. I’m back in the mountains where the tops are covered with snow………..which is getting lower and lower.
I spent the day climbing and climbing. I didn’t get far at all. After 66 km I stopped in a small Tibetan village where I went into a local shop looking for some hot food. Best they could do was 2 minute noodles. I sat in their lounge around a pot-belly stove. I got very comfortable and after my noodles I asked them if there was anywhere in the village to stay………They kindly said I could stay with them. That was great I could completely relax. Opposite the shop was a Tibetan shrine where I watched the locals come and walk around many many times praying/chanting. Just when I was enjoying relaxing I noticed I had another flat tyre…………..I went about fixing it and I had two local guys wanting to help………………..bad idea because in the morning I got up and it was flat again. I took the tyre off and discovered they had put the patch opposite the hole and not where I had marked it in pen for them. The family made up a bed in their shop and I slept there while they slept in their house across the road.
Day 227: Nyimaluns – Zorge
Start: 8:30 – Finish: 18:00 – Distance: 192 km – Ride Time: 4h 50
I was very warm last night in my little bed in the shop. They had given me an electric blanket which was a nice treat. It was all quiet for a few hours and then I could hear the mice or rats running around the shop
which was a bit nerve-racking. Then at 3:30 a.m. I was woken by some chanting. There was somebody doing laps of the shrine while chanting. When I awoke again I found it was snowing and rather happy to be where I was and not in my tent. Before the snow I had already decided I was going to hitch a ride today, to get me back on track. I have to be in Chandu by Sunday to apply for my visa extension. After the snow stopped it turned out to be a very nice winter’s day. Just as well because I was on the side of the road for two hours before I got a lift.
Gave me time to do my nails – bit of time management – then they only took me 25 km………….which I could have cycled myself in that time. One and a half hours later the next lift was even shorter on the back of a 3-wheel motorbike. Taking me a mere 3km. It was looking pretty bad having only gone 28 km with most of the day gone. But it did put me in a better position because it was at a truck stop and I soon had some guys come over and offer me a lift which was just as well because it was getting late in the day and I had gone nowhere. They were carrying a load of steel and we throw the bike on the back. They took me 167 km which was good progress in the end. Though I was kicking myself because apart from the first 6 km which was uphill. The rest of the road was downhill all the way.
Day 228: Zorge – Song Pan
Start: 6:00 – Finish: 16:00 – Distance: 158 km – Ride Time: 9h 13
The hotel I stayed in last night was terrible. I would have preferred to be in my tent…………….I was out of there at 6 a.m. After half a dozen steam dumplings from the local Dumpling house last night I was at 3500 meters and wished for an easy day coasting down to Song Pan at 2800 meters.
Wrong I spent the whole morning climbing up the valley and its wide grasslands scattered in snow and full of thousands of Yaks and other cattle. After 70 km it became very deserted, there were no cattle or any farms. After 96 km I finally reached the top of the 3840 meter pass. It was absolutely freezing cold. There were lots of snow. My feet were in a bad way. They were so cold. They had gone from being very cold to actually hurting with sharp pains as I pedalled to actually becoming completely numb and not feeling anything at all. The morning had definitely been the coldest day so far on this trip and I don’t wish to experience another morning like it. Coming over the other side of the pass was treacherous
with ice and snow on the road. I had to go even slower than usual proceeding with caution. I nearly came a cropper in a tunnel when I came across ice. It gave me such a fright. As I got lower down the mountain the road got better and the sun came out and thankfully my feet warmed up . This side of the mountain the houses were all timber and the small villages Tibetan. 30km from Song Pan I got that feeling again. The back tyre was a bit funny. 10 km on I could see it was definitely going down slowly…………..but as I got closer to closer to Song Pan it was now a lot flatter………….in the end I had to get off and push the last km. I asked for the dorm room in the guest house…………..But for £5 they gave me my own room which was good. I heard you could get western food in town and basically just dropped my stuff and headed straight round to Emma’s kitchen for a pepper steak. Here I saw my first Western tourists in 29 days.
Day 229 & 230: Song Pan: Rest Days
Song Pan is the most touristic city I have visited so far.
There are many Chinese tourists running around and about 5 Westerners. Song Pan is an ancient walled city with 4 stone gates and a fancy covered bridge. A strange sight greeted me when I came out of my room this morning. Outside my window was a rack with about 50 hanging yak tongues…………I had to look twice when I first saw them. I decided to stay an extra day to swap the bike for a horse and spend a day trekking up to a Tibetan monastery. There were only two other people on the trek, a couple in their 70’s from France. As we rode out of Song Pan there was an old guy slapping cow patties on the side of his house where they wait for them to dry out before burning. Parts of the track were very rough and very narrow and made me a little nervous when the horse was so close to the edge. It was a very nice sunny winter’s day and as we got higher and higher the view was very nice. In part of the trek we passed through snow.
While we visited the monastery the guides cooked some lunch
The monastery was surrounded by hundreds of pray mills. There was an old lady turning everyone…….I followed her round and she showed me a secret passage. Lunch was simple but good and after a little rest we headed back. Just as well because the weather changed very quickly. The wind started to blow and it started to snow……….lucky for us we were able to stay ahead of it and when we got back to town you wouldn’t have even known it had been showing up in the mountains.
Day 231: Song Pan – Chengdu
Start :8:00 – Finish: 20:00 – Distance: – Ride Time: 8h 30
Slow start this morning. First stop Emma’s café for a cooked breakfast. I got a mere 2 kms on my bike when a wassssssssssssssssssssssh brought me to a stop. A two inch nail was sticking out of the tyre. I unloaded the bike and didn’t even bother patching the tube but replaced it with a new one………with the usually local crowd watching on. With my dodgy pump I was able to get a little bit of air in the tyre, at least enough so I could push my bike back to town to where I could find a compressor. After a wasted hour I got on my way again for a very nice and scenic ride down down down the valley towards Song Pan following the river and surrounded by mountains. I was loving it. Then £$$%££$%%%%%^^^^^^&&&&&&& I got another flat tyre (15)
I was stuffed this time in the middle of nowhere…………..so out came the thumb………The first van that stopped asked for money…………so I told them where to go…………….I only waited 20 minutes more and a courier driver stopped for me. I was actually feeling a bit sick today. So when he asked if I wanted a lift all the way to Chengdu………….I said why not……………………It’s getting a lot easier now to except lifts……Once I leave China I will be knocking that on the head. It was a bit of a stop……start affair as we called in to a few towns along the way for a few deliveries. The road to Changdu had to be rebuilt after the 2007 earthquake…….On the opposite side of the valley you could see wrecked cars and kms of the old road buried under tons or earth. Many bridges along the way had collapsed into the river.
We did a little detour to see the collapsed ruins of a high school which are now a memorial to the victims. Just as we were coming into Changdu the van broke down on the express way. After some running repairs…………..we moved about 500 meters before we needed to do some more repairs. Finally got going…………was getting late. The courier driver took me round to a garage to get the tyre fixed and then showed me a hotel.. But 4 stars and £50 a night I wasn’t keen and told him I would be ok and let him go. I found another local who helped me find a cheap hotel…………………..they weren’t allowed foreigners. But lucky for me They let me stay.
Day 231 –235: Chengdu: rest days.
Chengdu is a city of 4 million people. It has a real western feel. With KFC, Starbucks, McDonalds, Pizza Hut all appearing after 4 months. I stayed last night in the South East and had a 15 km cycle across the city to find Sims Cozzy garden hostel. I enjoyed cycling across the city. There were cycle lanes all the way. Finding the hostel did prove a little difficult and I did get a little lost and found myself pushing my bike through a busy grid-locked market……………
I was happy when I finally found the hostel with the help of some local English-speaking kids. The hostel is very nice with a very green courtyard full of trees and ponds. A pet rabbit runs around the garden The first thing I did was wash my clothes…………….after 6 weeks they now look so clean. Then a shower and then I went to the hairdressers…….couldn’t find a barber. I felt like a woman – I was there an hour……..longest haircut I ever had. Washed the hair, head massage, had a shave, had a haircut than back for another wash, then back in the chair to be styled all for £2 and left with a Chinese style haircut. It was straight back to the hostel for a shower and a bit of restyling.
Day 232 was Panda day. On the spur of the moment I joined a French couple to do the one compulsory thing when you come to Chengdu and that is to visit the Panda research station. The Pandas were great. We got there early and saw them feeding.
They are so funny and very cute. We got some roly-poly action as a panda fell out of a climbing fort and another went sliding down a bank. The 3-month cubs didn’t want to do anything. But one of their mates had other ideas crawling all over the other sleeping cubs looking for someone to play with.
In the afternoon I found a bike shop and finally got hold of a decent bike pump. I hope now I will have less troubles. On the way back to the hostel I treated myself to KFC.
The following day I met a Chinese tourist from the west. I was lucky because I was able to join her for the day. With her it made traveling on the bus so much easier. We went and visited some very nice temples and then went for a walk in a very nice park that had a very impressive minute garden. Around the park everyone was playing Mahjong . They bring their birds and from the trees hung many cages. We finished the day visiting the old part of the university before going for a ride on the metro which was very modern. Talk about going cheap. We stopped in a worker’s restaurant and had a meal for just 15 cents each. Sticky bun, spicy salad and a bowl of watery rice. It was great having a local guide.
Day 234, I went out and visited some more temples and two convents. At one of the convents just as I was there they were in the temple praying so I sat and watched for half an hour while they prayed and chanted accompanied by bells and small drums. I am really enjoying the hostel. Lots of travellers around. There was a quiz night in the bar. I teamed up with a American girl, Kristina and a Dutch guy, Martin. We came last…………..but still had a good time. It was 1:30 a.m before I got to bed. I am normally in my tent by 6 p.m.
Day 236: Leshan
Was in bed at 1:30 a.m. and up at 5:45 a.m. for the trip to Leshan. I have decided to go there for the visa extension because you can get it in just under 2 days. Leshan is famous for the giant buddha. So I will see that too.
I was joined by Kristina who also wanted to go to Leshan to visit the big Buddha. When she asked to join me I don’t think she thought we would be leaving so early. Full credit to her she was ready to go at 6:30 a.m………….We got a bus for the 2 hour – 165 km journey. Some parts of the journey were quite frightening as there was a heavy fog – but it didn’t slow the bus down.
We made good time and arrived in Leshan at 9 a.m. I checked straight into a hotel……because part of the visa extension requirements is to have a hotel receipt from the town you apply for the visa in. We then jumped in a cab and round to the PSB office………..15 min it was in with the instructions…………come back tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. Kristina was kind enough to wait for me while I sorted out my business. We then headed down to the pier to catch a boat out to see a massive buddha statue carved out of the cliff. We asked a local to take our photo and they asked us if we were on our honeymoon…………..so that became the joke of the day. After our boat trip we took a bus round to the buddha park where we spent the rest of the day, firstly going to the top of the buddha and then climbing down the cliff to its base. Afterwards we visited some old burial tombs in the cliff and some temples.
We stopped for lunch. Swimming around and ready for lunch were snakes, turtles, crock and fish which were on the menu…………….but we settled for the veggie option. The last temple we visited had a hall with 500 life-size buddha statues all with different expressions. I had a great day with Kristina and it was sad to put her back on the bus for Chengdu………….
The hotel I booked into was a nice surprise. It was very nice………..2nd best I have stayed in. The breakfast was included and very good. On the roof of the hotel was a very nice Chinese tea garden with lots of bonsai. I stayed in the hotel till check-out and then walked down to the PSB to try my luck…………..No luck. They told me to come back at 4:30 p.m…………which I did and then bolted for the bus station for a bus for Chengdu.
Day 237, 238, 239 & 240: more Chengdu rest days.
Day 238: went with Martin the Dutch guy to see the big square with all its fountains and Mao statue. We also went and saw the regional museum.
Day 239: I treated myself to another 80 cent shave followed up by a 1 hour – £2.50 massage which was complete value for money. Was only going to have 3 more nights back in Chengdu………
Day 240: the bike was packed and ready to go…………..but by the time I had breakfast…………..I thought what the heck I’ll stay another night and have a day of doing very little. I really enjoyed the hostel……………the western food was good. English breakfasts, burgers and chips. I also made some really nice friends over the week – the Dutch girls. two girls from Slovakia and a French couple Elodine and Sebastian also cycling and who I hope to run into again, Martin from the Netherlands and Kristina from Chicago.