Gate crashing lunch... (again)

Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Yunnan,
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I get back to PanZhiHua after a really enjoyable few days and get organised once again to get back on the road cycling down to Kunming, I’m in no hurry and being on my own I can just enjoy the journey, the locals, the scenery which is what it’s all about, and why I’m cycling.  The road after a while is in terrible condition, the gradient isn’t too bad but it’s a really dirty and dusty old day, but I can’t get over the countryside I’m cycling through, it’s not what I’d expected in China but it continues to amaze me.  The people are friendly and kind and I enjoy the thumbs up and the smiles on the road which keep you going.  

I stop in at a village for lunch, double check my directions and sit in at a small place and order food, they all have tiny tables and chairs, it’s like sitting in a Primary One classroom but many places are like this.  The food is great as always, and the family sit and have their lunch of rice and various dishes beside me and it’s nice to see how eating with chopsticks is done properly.  

I continue on but the roads don’t get any better, at one point the road ahead is literally being built, two men, one in a digger and one in a roller are filling in a massive hole and flattening it while everyone turns off their engines, and stand around watching, waiting until we could pass.  I only cycled 55km before camping up for the night, crossing a narrow bridge and camping beside a small outhouse.  It was fairly discrete and no one bothered me, even though a few passed on motorbikes it was morning before anyone stopped by just having a nosey until it was time to leave.

My journey continues on through stunning scenery up and along the top of the mountain road for miles and miles, into new valleys and onto a lovely long gradual downhill which making the most enjoyable days cycling yet.  Before I set up camp for the night I come into a village which is amazing, I sit and watch all sorts of goings on, a big buffalo is coming up the road pulling an old wooden cart which had an old couple sitting in the back with their baskets, one guy saw me watching and was laughing at my expression.  I watched animals being herded back from work or from grazing, and it looks like school has just come out too as every motorbike that passes has at least a couple of kids on them, many have 3,4 or more on them, they’re sitting from the tank to the grab rail.

Everyone works in the fields, I love the flowery hats the women wear, the straw ones worn by the men, their baskets used for carrying veg or firewood or even children, the purple flowers, the haystacks, the gypsy carts, the goats and chickens running around, there’s just so much to see.  I must have looked a right picture to the locals sitting in all my cycling gear, but I was enjoying having a cuppa and just people watching (which is half the fun) before heading on to camp.  I sleep well although I’m a bit freaked out in the morning after breakfast when getting my gear together, a noise outside was becoming louder, it turns out that a couple of buffalo were grazing nearby but it was mother and calf so I didn’t plan on them getting to close.  It was the quickest pack up yet before heading off for another day cycling which once again turned out to be amazing, the fields I pass are full of tomato's, chilies, peppers and different vegetables to what I’ve seen which has been all rice and corn.

At the first village I stop for water, it’s strangely busy but looks like it’s market day, something certainly going on.  The main square is full to bursting with all sorts of people, vehicles, animals, foods, it’s got gypsy carts pulling 8-10 people in them, in fact it’s more a festival atmosphere than just a market, and maybe it is.  There’s a constant stream of traffic and jams with vehicles from articulated lorries to pony and trap, loads of the three wheelers carrying pigs or goats and some even buffalo and cows, there must be some sort of trading today because there’s too many animals being cargo’d around.  I buy oranges, bananas and hen eggs before moving on, the whole road out of town has a constant stream of weird and wonderful vehicles heading in, all loaded with animals or produce.

I meet mainly all women today with one in particular taking a real shine to me, she could speak a little English and I got a big thumbs up for cycling telling her I came from Xi’an.  I head for lunch and I’m taken into the kitchen where I point to what I want ending up with a delicious chicken and green peppers served with rice.  As I’m eating a crowd gathers round my bike, checking everything out, the locals just can’t believe that I’ve cycled all this way, they seem genuinely pleased at meeting me which is nice.  So you get the idea of what my cycling consists of, meeting lovely people on the road during the day, having my pit stops for tea or lunch and camping up in the evening, but I can be a pure eijit at times which I proved the next day.

It was really hot and I had covered a lot of miles and by the time I came on a wee village I was pretty beat, I parked up and headed into a wee shop for lunch asking the owner if they had food.  He seemed a bit unsure heading to get a piece of paper and writing something in Chinese for me, but of course I couldn’t understand.  He then sits me down at the table beside what turns out to be his father, before I know it, his wife, children and mother all come in and sit down, it dawns on me that I’ve just gate crashed this family's lunch time and instead of just sending me away they’ve invited me to stay.

Dad was funny, he’s big hands from working the land, sitting there smoking a cigarette in a fancy holder and sipping away on his Baijou (local brew), he’s not eating with us instead he’s in charge of the tea and keeps me topped up.  Mum and his wife both put food in my plate, encouraging me to eat and help myself and I’m pleased that I can actually manage eating with chopsticks now that I’ve been using them a couple of months.  Their son takes some pictures of us all, which opens the path up for me to do the same and I got some great shots of the family.  I’ve been overwhelmed by heir kindness and delighted by their antics sitting with them at the table being offer Baijou and smokes by the Dad who I think is a bit tipsy, the baby keeps reaching out for me so Aunty Clare takes over before helping with the clearing up, it was a nice family experience that I would never, ever experience if I wasn’t cycling, this is my motivation for keeping me going.

From my lunch stop the road onwards is tough going, I come across a mountain with countless switchbacks, although I’ve nothing to gauge height by I would estimate it as well over 1000m, Three oversized lorries are making their way up with parts of a wind turbine on the back, they have a really tricky job ahead of them get round the bends which was interesting to watch.  I was half way up when a truck driver offered me a lift and I’m so glad I took it, I guess he wouldn’t have offered me if it wasn’t still a long way to go.  Not only was there nowhere to camp on the mountain but the switchbacks went on much further than it first appeared,  I was dropped beyond the top at a small hotel, I think the truck driver was God sent.  

The next couple of days were tough going with more of the same, I came across what looked like instant cities' in the middle of nowhere being built to lovely wee hamlets.  I made a real push on the final day heading into Kunming covering around 80km however it must have taken me 2 hours to cover the first 12km because it was so steep that I thought it might take an extra day.  I was almost at Kunming with just a tunnel between us, above the entrance was a sign said no bicycles but as I couldn’t see any other route and because I was too tired to turn back, I just went for it..

Only around four car lengths into the tunnel and I almost turned back, the black fumes from the lorries hit me, ‘bang’ right in the chest and I couldn’t breathe.  It took me a minute to cover my mouth, control my breathing and not to panic, I had to focus but I could hardly see into the bargain and all these trucks were passing me at speed.  I can tell you I was never more relieved to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ literally, I gave myself a fright.  

Once through the tunnel I was in Kunming and I headed directly for the hostel not wasting any time although I had my first prang on the way in getting pulled off the bike by a passing scooter which caught one of my panniers.  I wasn’t hurt but it shook me up a wee bit though after the tunnel, thankfully I’ve rest days ahead of me which I plan on relaxing and enjoying.    
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diane on

well what can I say to that?! your really taking that bull my the horns.

new_lands on

I certainly don't do things by halves...

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