Back Amongst the Mad Mountain Folk

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of China  , Sichuan,
Friday, January 21, 2011

We managed to make breakfast this morning, but it turns out a Chinese breakfast is pretty punchy and only marginally more palatable than an Indian one. Meat dumplings, a hard boiled egg and steamed bread were ok, but huge pickled green chiliies, slimy mushroom/cabbage dish and some raw soapy meat stuff were vile. Mikey’s rice porridge looked disgusting but he said it was bearable.
We set off with no specific destination in mind, but hoping to get close to Yunnan province today. We both felt nervous that our map was running out, but towns had been frequent so far, so felt sure that we could find somewhere to stay.  The first 12 miles were ok, gentle climbs, but a good road. We stopped for a break and had the bikes pressure washed by a happy chap who obviously spends all day smoking and hosing. Winding through random towns, we stopped at one to watch the villagers barter for some kind of brown snake potion. We left just as they were getting stuck into purchasing and dissecting the actual snakes (Mikey was scared).
We stopped for lunch in MuChuan and sat on the pavement to eat a scrumptious street snack which was a bit like a Yorkshire pudding stuffed with pork and spring onions. Mikey made friends with a bike shop owner who invited us into his shop to warm up by the fire. Sitting by the street, we realised that while most people were looking/smiling/pointing at us, they weren’t all coming over and hassling us as had happened in India and it felt much more relaxed. 
After this stop however, the cycling got a lot less relaxed, lots of uphill, and it became much harder to follow the road and work out where we were. Road signs in Chinese are no help at all, and obviously most locals don’t know the English names. We kept going though, and the mountain farmland was pretty spectacular, although mist obscured a lot. By 5pm we had done at least 55 miles, and had no idea where we were except that it had mostly been up hill and we were exhausted. At least there was very little traffic on the road so that we knew if we needed to continue cycling in the dark, it wouldn’t be too dangerous. At that point we hit a 5km long tunnel, which actually turned out to be a cosy way to go back downhill. The 10k down after the tunnel were absolutely freezing and we had to stop at one point and warm our hands at a friendly family’s fire before carrying on.
In the valley, we found a tiny town where some excited men said yes when we pointed along the road and showed them the words town and hotel. Coming round a bend in the road 5k later we were happy to see a disgusting industrial blot on the otherwise serene empty mountain landscape. The town was completely nuts, and cycling in the smell was terrible and a big stretch of the river bank appeared to be on fire.  We caused a big stir as we arrived, with people very excited to see us – not surprised there is absolutely no way this place would ever be on the tourist trail. Finding the hotel, I went into investigate and the little girl in charge of the desk showed me some prices of rooms. I picked the most expensive at 7 and followed her up to have a look. Needless to say it was squalid, and annoyingly on the 5th floor but at least had a heater, and after 61miles we just wanted to stop and sleep!
When we went downstairs to go out and search for food we found the local policeman waiting to photograph our visas and fill out endless forms. He had sensible brought an English teacher from the local school with him, making this much easier. About 15 other people also came in off the street to help/have a look at us. At the end the policeman said he needed photos of us and took individual shots and then one of all three of us with him in the middle with his arms round us!
The teacher recommended a noodle shack to us and after walking to the end of the street to have a look at what the town had to offer (nothing, it really was a filthy dump) we went back and sat down. The owner of the noodle shop was very excited to have us, and made us delicious noodles and even had beer. Another English teacher turned up with her 6 year old daughter and a bag of barbequed meat for us. She sat down and interrogated us while we were trying to eat with chopsticks and making a mess. She was so happy to see us. She thought we might stay until Chinese New Year, but we explained about having to get to Kunming before our visas run out. Another 20 people came into the shop to have a look and say ‘Hallo!’ and laugh at us struggling with chopsticks. More nervous people just dragged their children past the outside and pointed out the funny white people to them.
Saying goodbye to our new friends, we remembered to buy cake for breakfast on the way home (breakfast definitely NOT included at this place) and quickly fell asleep, without showering ( see photo for why!) after watching yet more tennis. Four days back in the saddle and we were feeling it in our muscles and 8pm felt like midnight.

A muscle stretching 61 miles
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