Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 88 Thu 23/09 - Xia Zhuangzhen to Xia Guan

Today Distance : 93.6 km        Total : 4565.8 km
Today Weather : 20 - 33C      Sunny
Time On Bike : 6 hr  48 min
Ave Speed : 13.7 kmh             Max : 56.0 kmh
Ave Climb : 3%                       Max : 9%
Trip Altitude : 925 m                Max : 2242 m
Today Spend : 61 rmb             Total : 986.0 rmb

A day of long riding with mixed terrains,uphills,downhills,bad roads,good roads, passing a number of small villages and farming fields of paddies,corn and tobacco. Talking about tobacco, on my observation since entering China, 7 out of 10 Chinese are smokers and mostly are male, very seldom I see women smokers, even in the city, maybe the culture here is , young women smokers very hard to find boyfriend, and the married women smokers get scolding or may even get divorce from their husbands.Unlike their European counterparts, female smokers more than the male. There are a wide range of tobacco brands in the market in terms of quality and prices. The price for a pack can range from 2 - 100 yuan over.While quality of  a cigarette can be very personal, the expensive one might not suit your taste,so basically burning money, the more i look at it ,is for showing off their status, even the not so rich. And the Chinese smokers like to offer cigarettes to show their friendliness, especially in situation when they need helps.Understand this norm, so it is wise for me to carry them while on the road. There is one place I passed particularly caught my attention is the making of granite slabs for graveyard, the process include breaking,sawing,polishing,carving and painting.They are huge and tall with prices from 5000 to over 20000 yuan a piece. Soon I came to a superb wide road with lots of decorated carving giant stones of chinese writings,indications are that I am close to Dali.As usual I don't intend to stay in the city at this late hour, I prefer to explore in the morning. Xia Guan is my stay tonight, I saw a " binguan" sign on other side of road but it was quite hidden behind a truck workshop, 35 yuan for a std room, no towel,no soap but with aircond and tv.
                                                                 Tobacco farm
                                                          Harvested tobacco leafs
                                                                 Cow homes
                                                                   Granite industry
                                                  Granite caving and painting
                                                 They are huge and tall
                               Rock decoration on a superb wide road to Dali
                                                   Telecom tower up on the hill
                                          Hidden hotel in Xia Guan behind a workshop

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day 87 Wed 22/09 - Shaqiaozhen Camp to Xia Zhuangzhen

Today Distance : 47.0 km        Total : 4472.2 km
Today Weather : 18 - 32C      Cloudy
Time On Bike : 4hr  26 min
Ave Speed : 10.5 kmh             Max : 41.0kmh
Ave Climb : 4%                       Max : 21%
Trip Altitude : 612 m                Max : 2353 m
Today Spend : 60 rmb          Total : 925.0 rmb

A sudden unexpected rain in the early hour of 3.30am woke me up from my tent. The rain was not too heavy, but because my tent was set up at the lower end of the cement walkway, the rain water flows slowly and gather around the base of my tent. As I was busy cleaning up the water and rearranged my staff. The guesthouse owner came with a torch to my rescue by opening one of the room, so that I can shift all my staff and the tent inside to continue my sleep in a warm, comfortable dry bed. A big TQ from the bottom of my heart to this kind man, moment like this always warm my heart,I might be travelling solo on a wild foreign land,but I knew I am not alone, somehow or rather the feeling of some helping souls are following behind, watching ,they will be there to help in trying situations. It is with this positive believe that keeps me going,,,,again and again...trip after trip with my bicycle.I took the opportunity of the early sun to dry up my wet staff and only able to hit the road by 11 am . The climb continues on gravel road to 2353m, before a short downhill to a town called Xia Zhuang. I prefer to stay in a hotel so that I can continue to clean up and reorganise my staff due to the rain. After checking in the 30 yuan Cheng Yu hotel , I went for a walk in the street for dinner, saw many children are celebrating "mid autumn day" or full moon with many different design of colourful lanterns. A scene that hardly can be seen back home. I realised that I left my camera in the room, so you readers, no luck !!
                                                           Entering Dali province
                                                            A scenic lake view
                                            Passing thru' a small town-Yunnanyi
                                                 A short downhill after the climb
Taking a rest after the tough climb
Xia Zhuang toll gate
                                           Celebrating moon cake far from home
                                                       30 yuan hotel room in Xia Zhuang

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 86 Tue 21/09 - Chu Xiong to Guesthouse Camp 10km after Shaqiaozhen

Today Distance : 85.0 km        Total : 4425.2 km
Today Weather : 18 - 35C      Sunny Blue Sky
Time On Bike : 6 hr 42 min
Ave Speed : 12.6 kmh             Max : 56.5 kmh
Ave Climb : 3%                       Max : 10%
Trip Altitude : 978 m                Max : 2319 m
Today Spend : 55.5 rmb          Total : 865.0 rmb

A short ride into the city of Chu Xiong for breakfast. I was attracted by a Muslim lamb noodle restaurant which I haven't got the chance to try since entering China. Never want to miss it this time, what with my stomach already screaming for food.. food...and more the end, I must say that " this is the best noodles so far ". Not only the soup is tasty, the lamb meat also very fresh & tender, and you get more surprise that it cost only 3.5 yuan. Strongly recommended if you were planning a trip here. Nan Hua is the next big town where I had lunch for 17 yuan . I saw many stalls selling moon cakes, so this reminded me that the "mid-autumn" celebration, bought 2 pcs for 4 yuan, one to eat on the way and another maybe in camp or guesthouse. Weather has been kind to me so far, no rains but blue sunny sky. Not much sweating even on the climbs. The road G320 turns really bad after the town of Shaqiaozhen and worse, it lasted for 10 km on a continuous steep climb to a max. altitude of 2319m. There are roadside guesthouses but many of them are already out of business. The owners told me that G320 was once very busy and prosperous, that is before  the expressway G56 was built. Sensing the need to camp, no rice to cook but is ok with 2 package of instant noodles and one can of black bean fish for dinner. Once decided, the next will follow..soon there is a row of guesthouses on my left and a concrete house with a big compound on the right. As usual ,not a soul  was seen around but all the guesthouses were padlocked. I happily setup my tent on the cemented corridor floor and had myself bathe at the outside water hose. Then out of no where, a man aged 60+ was standing near with a surprise look. Sensing he could be the owner, politely I told him the whole scenario and seek approval to camp. True enough he is the owner of the guesthouses and lived alone in  the big concrete house opposite. He wanted to open one of the room to let me stay free, but I politely turn down the offer cos' I already had my tent up.Instead he invited me to his house for dinner, simple dinner but i ate the most, this is one way of showing my appreciation and gave a positive impression of " See, your food is delicious !" After the dinner chat, I came to know he has 2 daughters working outstations, come back only on festivals but did not mention about his wife, I think he must be happy to find a company to at least talk to. Before back to my tent, he gave me a thermal flush of hot water, Yeah.. no need even to boil water with my stove, to enjoy some hot coffee tonight.
             Chu Xiong - Beautiful with its mirror clean river and red flower
                                           A scholar bronze statue ( no name can't recognise him)
                                               Another view of Chu Xiong
                                               Local angles fishing on the river
                                                   Way to go - G320 Nan Hua
                                                         Bicycle friendly I guess....
                                                  Roundabout in Chu Xiong               

                               Inside the beautiful tower is the market in Nam Hua
                           Surprise to know that Malaysia's roast duck is so famous here
                                               Tough gravel climb after Nam Hua

                                                      My copyright trade mark of posting
                                                Expressway G56 climbing the hill
                                              View from the top of G320 old road
 Depleted roadside guesthouses on G320 where I camped with a water hose for bathe
                                   Concrete big house with a lonely old man
                                               Two lonely men happy to find company
                                           Thermal flush of hot water inside the tent

Apples eat all you can

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 85 Mon 20/09 - Xin Ba Village to Guesthouse 5km from Chu Xiong

Today Distance : 86.9 km        Total : 4340.2 km
Today Weather : 21 - 30C      Sunny Blue Sky
Time On Bike : 5 hr 37 min
Ave Speed : 15.4 kmh             Max : 52.5 kmh
Ave Climb : 2%                       Max : 9%
Trip Altitude : 716 m                Max : 1954 m
Today Spend : 49.5 rmb          Total : 809.5 rmb

Very bumpy ride today on this rather deserted G320 road. Most of the traffics are now using the Expressway running along side to it. The drivers are more than willing to pay the toll fee than using this neglected old road, not only the expressway is smoother but also faster, I too would prefer if only bicycles are allowed. Tough no doubt on G320,but the plus side is riding on a very quiet environment,taking your own sweet time,stop whenever you want and clicking your camera on the beautiful scenery.Occasionally passing thru' small villages, had chat with the villagers, riding on expressway you tend to lose out all these "fun". My art of bike touring is not how fast or how many km you achieved to reach your destination, but the pleasure of the "things" that you see,you meet,you understand from point A to point B, simple, no pressure! No big climbs for today's ride but had the scary experience of riding the dark tunnels, luckily the longest one is only 150m with no lighting. When I came into the 1st tunnel, I didn't expect to be so dark, I had to make a U-turn 20m back to the entrance to mount my front torch and rear flashing red light, I feel more safe to push my bike thru' as the tunnel is very narrow and hardly enough shoulder space to ride even with my not so bright light "on" .Chu Xiong is a big city . No intention to ride into it at a late hour of 6 pm. So i stop at a roadside guesthouse for another cheap 10 yuan room that comes with a tv. I love to watch the many interesting channels of Chinese tv, lots of information on world news, keeps me updated while I am cycling months away from home.

 On a quiet, much neglected G320 road after the Kunming-Dali Expressway was built

               Approaching a scary tunnel with no lightings

                      My lunch. I had to teach them how to fry the egg , the Malaysian style

                                                 Advertising high quality coffin
                                                                     More paddie fields
                                             The look of 10 yuan roadside guesthouse
                                                               And the room inside

Day 84 Sun 19/09 - Kunming to Xin Ba Village

Today Distance : 89.1 km        Total : 4253.3 km
Today Weather : 21 - 35C      Sunny Blue Sky
Time On Bike : 5 hr 28 min
Ave Speed : 16.2 kmh             Max : 49.0 kmh
Ave Climb : 2%                       Max : 9%
Trip Altitude : 663 m                Max : 1974 m
Today Spend : 46.0 rmb          Total : 760 rmb

From Kunming I had decided to head west to Dali (320 km) and Lijiang ( 860 km), a very challenging route full of mountains, rivers , rocks. Of course I only heard  from friends and seen the pictures on books ,magazines, and also did the Goggle Earth search, personally never been there before.So I am really looking forward to it.With some advice from Mr Cheah, the Kunming bike shop owner who had  the riding experience on this mountainous route right up to Deqen close to the Tibetan border. The morning ride out of the city was smooth and easy. Following the Renmin Xi Lu on a wide special lane for motorbikes and bicycles, weather was perfect, cool and refreshing. The 1st big town is An Ning on national road G320, a very busy road with trucks carrying either sands,earths and rocks, making the road very dusty. Luckily the dust settled once you are out of the city, with less traffics on the outskirts, the air are cleaner and scenery better, Along the roads, paddies farmers were busy doing the harvesting, manually cutting the stems on one hand can grab, and another hand using a curve knife to cut( how to call it?), another person to collect to a machine with a rotating rod to separate the rice grains from the stems. Machinery no doubt can makes harvesting faster, easier, but many will be out of jobs then.So don't teach them how to modernise. My target for today is to reach Lu Feng town, 15 km before reaching Lu Feng at a village called Xin Ba, there were 2-3 roadside guesthouses, they were cheap,usually cater for drivers to stop for a night rest. I had many experiences staying at these cheap guesthouses during my Beijing2paris tour. The price is quite standard from 10-15 yuan. True enough it cost only 10 yuan when I stop to enquire one, the young owner also owns a tire repairing workshop. Self service, I was told to pay up and go up stair to choose which room you want.No room key to lock from outside but a latch to lock from inside. No problem after all I am the only guest around in one of the 4 empty rooms. Surprisingly with such low rate,the room is quite clean with double beds and a small tv. I might consider staying more of such guesthouses in the coming days.
                                                        Dusty ride out from the city
                                                       Fresh air and great scenery
                                                      Clean and quiet country road
                                                         River,mountain and rice field
              Road sign reminder on many steep,bent and narrow sections ahead
           The tree on the right - " I look skinny.... but I am one head taller!!"
                          The toll gate in China always looks very artistic
                                  Donkey cart transportation - Slow and steady
Golden paddies field
                                            Hard labour with a stress on the back
              Separating the rice grains from the stem with a motorised roller
                                              Many hands speed up the work
                                         Extracting " some mineral " from this special hill
                                          Recumbent taking a rest before a downhill
                                                       Attracted by the red earth
                                                  And a beautiful red earth corner
                                            One of my most satisfactory shots
                                        15 km short from the original target Lu Feng
Xin Ba Village

Roadside guesthouse 10 yuan