The Road to Chengdu...

Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Sichuan,
Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cycling notes mainly for reference…

From HanZhong it’s a fantastic journey, firstly we cycle into Da’an 85 km away which was mainly downhill but through a beautiful valley, it makes all the hard work of going up mountains worthwhile when you get to go down them.  The valley is just breathtaking and I could take a million photographs, it really is picturesque.  Unfortunately the downhill doesn’t last and it’s a steep switchback next day however more back tyre trouble, this time I was almost at the top of the mountain when I heard a bang a thought was a shotgun and jumped out of my skin!  It turns out it I had a blow out in my back tyre, the whole side wall of had ripped which gave me the fright of my life.  I gave Jane a call and she waited for me however despite our endeavors we couldn’t fix it, so I ended up walking down the other side of the mountain until I eventually came on a village but no-one could help me there either.  I ended up putting the bike on a bus to the next town about 20 km away to try and get something sorted, and I did.

I got off the bus and tried several bike shops but no-one had my size of tyre, it wasn’t long before Jane was due in town so when I met her we checked into a hotel.  After some enquiries the owner took us to another local bike shop, but once again they didn’t have a spare tyre my size, so in order to help me out I was asked to leave the bike and come back later, they would try and sort something for me. Meanwhile the Police had been at the hotel looking for us and our passports and on our return we were told to wait on them coming back before heading out again, it can be very frustrating.

The guy from the bike shop ended up taking my bike to a street cobbler who sewed another piece of rubber into place on the side wall of my tyre, producing a real quality finish that was not going to tear or burst anytime soon.  In the inside, he had wrapped a piece of silk around the tubing to protect it from pinching, and I was delighted with the result.  You could tell it was a real quality job, whereas someone else would just have binned it, when you find someone skilled it makes all the difference.  This gave me real peace of mind for riding on it, even if I had to wait until Chengdu now before getting a new tyre I’m confident it’ll be ok.

So needless to say the tyre holds up and we cycle 50 km the next day with a mix of up and downhill, the scenery is amazing however we come into one valley which is full of brand new roads, I mean expressways built over and through each other, it’s a real eyesore, straight through the length of the valley.  Near the end of the day we come into another valley and its instant city with skyscraper’s galore in the middle of no-where.  It looks like it’s been thrown up in no time and most of it is completely empty so it’s a bit eerie, we end up staying in a brand new hotel (again a big fancy one) which has no atmosphere at all.

The next day I manage to get three of my tubes fixed and I manage to get a new tyre in one of the bike shops however it does take the best part of 2 hours as someone was away to get it for me after a phone call.  In the time we hang around quite the crowd gathers and although I stay in the background Jane must have hundreds of photos taken with many of the locals.  Eventually the new tyre arrives (by car) and I pay 200yuen (20) and it’s put on.  I refuse to bin my old tyre instead folding it over and securing it onto the bike; I might need it yet until I can get some spares to carry.  Thankfully having a new tyre makes riding much more pleasurable, I had realised but I’d been watching every bump in the road and trying to avoid another blow out which zaps your energy having to watch so intently.  We head off to waves and cheers and shouts of good luck to the next town and check into another hotel, although I was extremely grumpy when Police started banging on the door at 10pm looking for our passports once again… grr.

As our visas are almost expired and we wouldn’t make Chengdu in time, we head to the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in the town to get them renewed.  It’s the same Police on the desk that woke us up last night so I’m a bit sheepish now that we’re looking for help.  To their credit, they couldn’t extend our visa on site and instead put us in the back of the Police car and took us around 25km back to Guangyuan where I got my tyre yesterday.  They took our tourist registration forms to the main Police Station and then took us to the PSB for our visas.  They waited with us until our applications were submitted however we were told to return at 4pm which is hours away, the Police dropped us back at our hotel but to my delight they told us just to come over to the station in the evening to collect our passports which meant they were going to collect the passports for us, this was above and beyond the call of duty.  In the evening when we collected our passports with new visas and we tried to gift them a few packs of decent cigarettes but they wouldn’t take anything from us, one again I was really impressed with their conduct, it made up for waking us up the night before.

From the hotel room we are woken up in the morning with dancing outside in the square, this is a regular occurence in China whether it’s morning or evening, open air dance classes are everywhere even the smallest of villages.  There’s also a great market here which has all sorts of fruit and veg, so much of it I don’t recognise and wouldn’t know what to do with them, but look amazing.  We’ve passed through so many villages and town that you lose track but one tiny village had the best market I’d seen but the place was oddly full of only older people, not a youngster in sight.  They talked away amazed by our cycling plans and wished us well on our travels, the scenery around this area is wonderful and makes it all worthwhile, the paddy fields, corn and other crops being grown everywhere and the stunning mountains.  At one point we come across a viewpoint for the ‘72 peaks’ however the actual platform for viewing is all overgrown with big trees directly in front of your line of vision, so we go back a short distance and the skyline is impressive with loads of the rounded mountain peaks (well 72 of them I guess) it’s very unique and an impressive sight. 

The next few days on the bike were really trying, 60 km all up and downhill followed by more than 70 km the next day climbing over 1000m again and we didn’t get booked into hotel until after sunset and I’m absolutely done in.  Thankfully this is followed by 50 km mainly downhill and a wee early day but it was more KFC for lunch and disgusting to look back on it, Pizza Hut for dinner, I don’t know why I’m joining Jane in these places as I would never go near them at home.

So the weather turns miserable but thankfully next day is mainly flat, couple of ups and downs but it’s another long tiring day as we want to get to Chengdu which is around 130 km away, well if nothing else it’s a challenge.  I start off though just with no energy (KFC and Pizza Hut quality food intake?) but I manage to play about with the gears and I start to gain speed with only a little more effort and I try to keep my speed up for the duration of the day.  Lunch though is only a quick pot noodle stop in a main road junction shop (again no proper energy foods) and we head off again.  It’s a long, long day but I’m delighted at one point when it meet up with Jane and tells me that’s the 100 km mark, my first ever so a proud photo is taken before jumping back on the bike. 

As we’re now on the main roads into Chengdu they are quite difficult to navigate and by the time we get into the centre it’s dark and dangerous to be out on the roads.  It’s 8pm when we arrive in the hostel but I’m delighted with my achievement of 128 km for the day, sometimes I’ve no idea where the energy comes from, just when you think you’ve done, nothing left you can still push on for more.  

I’m really proud of myself having cycled over the mountains to Chengdu, approx 750 km and up to great heights… time to relax now and have a few days off.
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